In this thread I will not argue that there is an absolute objective basis for morality, as I don’t think that there is. But the concept that “all men are created equal” is about as close as we could come to such an objective basis. I would modify this quote from the Declaration of Independence somewhat as follows: “all persons are equal regarding human rights, dignity, and worth.” I think I can justify this statement based on the following analysis. We can’t really say that any person objectively has any actual rights, dignity or worth, but we can say that every person has as much of those qualities as the next person as a person. Perhaps none of us has any actual objective right, dignity or worth, but whatever we have by virtue of being human, we all have the same - either equally much or equally little or equally nothing.
Given that we are equal in this regard, there is some rational basis to reason, beginning with the fact of equality on these levels, that the Golden Rule, mercy, compassion, understanding, and equal treatment before the law and in morality have a rational basis. I’m not writing all the steps in this reasoning process, but suffice it to say that the foundation would be equality, and that’s about as far down as we can go. Treatment of our fellow humans can be founded on that premise.
That’s a brief outline of my thoughts. I open the discussion up for criticism.
As dysfunctional as my hometown is, the equality thing is taken seriously around here. Whether or not it works or is given lip service is still up for debate, but in my experience I prefer the diversity because it keeps my head from getting too big and giving myself more credit than I deserve.
I’ve lately wondered what it is we want when we even seek a foundation for morality, the absolute foundation for an objective basis you acknowledge not asking after. It seems to me it’s less about truth than about justification, and less about justification for our beliefs than about justification for compelling others to act according to them. Imagine a world where everyone agreed on moral norms. No one would ever think to provide a rational foundation for them, one that justifies their objectivity. They would just be the universal consensus that is moral harmony, and since all shared a belief in the rightness of moral norms, no one would ask for justification for compelling compliance. Only when there is deviance in belief does the question of justification arise, both for belief itself and for compelling behavior. Why, then, in the absence of consensus do we not focus on consensus instead of justification? I really ask. Perhaps it is because we want to feel justified in compelling someone to act according to what we think is the proper moral norm. Perhaps we want a common basis for argument to persuade in order to achieve consensus. Either way, I think moral equality is structurally necessary to this process of persuasion, in this process of securing consensus, as is free speech. Without either one does not get the variation to try new things in order to discover what the morally “right”—whatever that means—action is. I’d say morality is a process of discovery just like science, and if we are going to explore our changing lives in order to find out what the right manner of acting is—and if we are going to develop a consensus on it, as we should—we need to presume everyone is equal before that consensus, and that everyone is heard, otherwise we diminish our chances of finding moral “truth”. And we certainly would apriori rule out consensus otherwise. This need for equality and diversity is clear in something like science, where all alternatives must be given their due, where nothing apriori can be excluded. I propose that equality, while not morally justifiable in the sense you raise, is never the less structurally necessary for the moral life to even emerge. That structural necessity—this ‘for our own best chance of success’ argument—may be the only foundation we need. With it we have the best chance of successfully securing the moral consensus where this very need of justified compulsion vanishes.
Back to the OP, I’d say that the devil is in the details, and that even more fundamental is a set of values. I value the Universal Declaration of Human rights. So an Orwellian, 1984, big-brother society in which everyone is equal, seems abhorrent to me.
Next, are you talking about equality of opportunity, equality of outcome, or both? While I value equality of opportunity, I’m skeptical when it comes to equality of outcome.
I like equality… or, rather I like my idealized imaginations about equality. Real equality would probably be terrifying given the privilege of my background.
I think it’s as good a basis as any so long as autonomy and agency are recognized. Specifically that people will differ in their personal preferences and because of that treating everyone equally isn’t actually just because not everyone wishes to be treated the same. Our consideration of our fellow creatures ought, I think be equal in attention to their respective needs and desires rather than equal in resources and desired outcome.
If that’s what we mean by equality than I agree.
In general, the Golden Rule – that combines compassion with the rational aim of creating the best possible society for everyone – should be our goal.
Keeping in mind that equal does not mean the same – that some people/groups need different treatment, additional help or resources.
For example, in regards to education (the same principle widely applies):