Are human beings equal (irrespective of race/ethnic background and sex)?

Equality:

noun

  • 1 [mass noun] the state of being equal, especially in status, rights, or opportunities.

Equal:

noun

  •  person or thing that is the same as another in status or quality.

Same:

  • identical; not different.


Equal consideration of interests

Are all humans equal(irrespective of race/ethnic background and sex)?

  • Yes, all humans are equal because all humans are beings capable of reasoning and abstract thought, in other words, all humans are intelligent. The basis of human equality is intelligence.

The closest science has got to the ambiguous concept of intelligent is ‘IQ’ or Intelligence Quotient. There is an ongoing dispute over whether or not IQ tests measure the ill-defined idea called intelligence. But the important thing for us is that IQ might not measure intelligence but it does measure certain capabilities that are thought to be related to intelligence. The relevant point here is that IQ tests measure some areas of cognition. And some people perform better than others in IQ tests. So even if we assume that performance levels on other aspects of intelligence are the same in all humans, the areas measured by IQ differ among individuals. So it does not seem like all human beings are equally intelligent if we are to look at empirical evidence. Apart from people with lower scores in IQ tests, intellectually disabled humans might not qualify as ‘equal’ under this explanation of equality.

  • Yes, all humans are equal because all humans possess a property called ‘moral responsibility’. This term is used to refer to the person with a sense of justice and to whom (as opposed to an amoral person) moral appeals can be made. The basis of human equality is moral responsibility.

There are several problems with this definition of equality that prevent it from including or/and considering all humans equally. Firstly, morals are more like a spectrum of persons some of whom are more sensitive to moral issues (as in justice and ethics) and thus more moral responsible than others. Secondly, infants and intellectually disabled humans do not qualify as being equal under this definition due to their low levels/lack of intelligence which implies a lack of sense of justice.

Utilitarianism

The utilitarian stance considers that the characteristic shared by all humans is sentience. Here, ‘sentience’ means simply the capacity to feel pain. Half of the interests of all human beings can be said to be founded on this capacity. Utilitarianism proposes two things:

– Equal Consideration of Interests (ECI)

– Carrying out the actions that will result in the Greatest Reduction of Pain Overall (GRPO)

The principle of equal consideration of interests serves as the grounds of human equality. Let us consider this situation:

Situation: Earthquake. Two victims. Human A with a crushed leg in agony. Human B with a gashed thigh and moderate pain. Two shots of morphine left.

Equal treatment implies giving one shot to each person. However, one shot would not bring as much relief to human A as it would to human B. So the reduction of overall levels of pain is not that significant. Utilitarianism is concerned with being as egalitarian as possible while producing the greatest reduction of overall levels of pain. So ECI leads to what some might argue is an in-egalitarian situation: giving two shots to human A and none to human B.

The important aspect of the modus operandi of this reasoning is that equal consideration sometimes leads to unequal treatment. However, this unequal treatment has invariably the consequence of producing a more egalitarian outcome overall. The heart of this unequal treatment is the DMU.

Declining Marginal Utility

Situation 1

Assume there is an Individual A living on 200 grams of rice per day. Assume there is an Individual B living on 1000 grams of rice per day.

Action 1: Individual A is provided with 50 grams extra of rice every day.

and

Action 1: Individual B is provided with 0 grams extra of rice every day.

or

Action 2: Individual B is provided with 50 grams extra of rice every day.

and

Action 2: Individual A is provided with 0 grams extra of rice every day.

or

Action 3: Individual A is provided with 25 grams extra of rice every day.

and

Action 3: Individual B is provided with 25 grams extra of rice every day.

Regarding Action 3, Individual A will benefit greatly but Action 2 won’t make any significant difference to Individual B as he already has a relatively decent amount of rice.

Regarding Action 1, Individual A is going to benefit more from Action 1 than Action 3 since Individual A does not have much rice so any addition however minimal will be significant while Action 3 won’t make any significant difference on Individual B’s situation as he already has relatively decent amount of rice. So, Action 2 and Action 3 don’t have a significant impact on Individual B’s situation but Action 1 has a greater impact on Individual A than Action 3.

Utilitarian choice: give 50 grams to Individual A and 0 grams to individual B.

In the context of the ECI, given a limited amount of resources, Marginal Utility brings about more equal levels of pain (more people suffering less). Note: I said ‘suffering less’ rather than ‘suffering nothing’ because in a realistic scenario the most you can do is reducing the pain rather than erasing it completely, nonetheless, the maximum possible reduction of overall levels of pain is always considered.

A final quote on pain:

People hurt others because they don’t understand their pain.

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