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Equality and Its Many Aspects

What is equality, and why should it have become a major norm in today's liberal societies? Dooyeweerd's aspects can help us separate out its various tangled threads.

We function in every aspect simultaneously, and our functioning in each aspect supports and nuances that in all others. That is why equality seems a complex tangle, but we can begin to understand each of the various threads of the rope that binds people. Click on each aspect to understand it in depth.

Those are only simplified examples, but they give a picture of the multiple aspects of equality. All of them are important, and in different contexts one might stand out above the others.

So, when we - and especially politicians and the media - talk of equality, what do we mean? Let us be clear. Which of these is important to us? And why (understand the various aspects in more detail to answer that one!)?


Note on Ethical aspect. I refrained from assigning a kind of equality to the ethical aspect, because it could be seen as completely at right angles to equality. The ethical aspect is that of self-giving love, love that shifts the attention from self to others, not just in an altruistic way but in a sacrificial way. It is sometimes manifested in generosity when that is genuine. Its opposite is selfishness, and self-protection. (It is not the same as love of family, where we treat our family as our favourites - and which often is a form of selfishness and can lead to gross injustices. The NT Greek word for this is different, philio for love of a thing or family or some other worthy object, versus agape for self-giving love, which is given sacrificially regardless of the worth of the object.) Equality in its juridical aspect is about rights, but self-giving love goes beyond rights. It can sometimes seem almost the opposite of equality, such as Jesus' parable of the workers [Matthew 20:1-16], which, when I first encountered it, seemed so grossly unfair. I was thinking, as most of us Westerners do, in terms of equality of reward per hour worked, whereas the generous employer was thinking more in terms of equality of need and decided to be generous.

This page, "", is part of a collection that discusses application of Herman Dooyeweerd's ideas, within The Dooyeweerd Pages, which explain, explore and discuss Dooyeweerd's interesting philosophy. Email questions or comments are welcome.

Written on the Amiga and Protext in the style of classic HTML.

You may use this material subject to conditions. Compiled by Andrew Basden.

Created: 22 August 2022 Last updated: