Moral status

Essay by slimdd405College, UndergraduateA, September 2012

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To say that humans are equal is not to say that they are identical. Equality represents a correspondence between a group of different objects, persons, processes and circumstances that have the same qualities in at least one respect, but not all respects. [Gosepath] Specifically, moral equality deals with treating people as equals, in terms of concern and respect. Underneath the apparent differences in humans there lies one aspect that everyone possesses making us all equal: the capacity to reason.

Moral equality is a concept that came about in the Eighteenth century. Before then, many people believed that human beings were unequal by nature; thus there existed a natural human hierarchy. This idea was overridden by the introduction of the idea of natural right and its assumption of an equality of natural order among all human beings. The fact that everyone deserved the same dignity and same respect lead to this ideal of a substantiated, universal moral equality which is an accepted view in modern Western cultures.


The idea that all humans are created equal can be derived from an ethics of dignity. In the words of Immanuel Kant, "So act as to treat humanity, whether in thine own person or in that of any other, always as an end, never merely as a means"; the categorical imperative here views humanity as an end, not as a measure of one's abilities and merits. [Saastamoinen, p49] People have different levels of abilities and may have accomplished more or less than the average person, but if you look at dignity this way, we are all equal because we merely possess these abilities. It is not a matter of better or worse, or more or less, rather a matter of equality in that we all possess these common entities like intelligence or...