Equality (AS Religious Studies - Ethics)

  • Created by: MattyLew
  • Created on: 28-04-18 11:34

Types of Equality

Fundamental Equality- treated equally by the government and legal systems

Social Equality - citizens have the right to vote and stand for public office (but may not have enough money/ have a good network)

Equal Treatment for Equals - people of the same group are treated the same way (able bodied treated the same, disabled people are treated the same = inferior treatment for disabled people). It is an elitist theory which does not regard human eqaulity as right for all

Treating People Unequally in Special Circumstances - we may need inequality to help a group of people e.g. a ramp for wheelchair users on a bus ("Equality must be something other than treating everyone in the same way, since everyone is different" - Augustine)

Equality of Opportunity - everyone should have the chance to become anything e.g. a dustbin man gets paid less than a doctor, which is morally fine as long as they both had the chance to become either --> this leads to ineqaulity of result

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John Rawls - 'A Theory of Justice' - 1971

Bio: grew up himself in a disadvantaged environment which influenced his interest in fairness and equality.

Hugely influential book and it has dominated the field of political philosophy and ethics (in the US particularly) since its publication. 

Theory: Justice as Fairness

1. There is a very apparent and extreme inequality in society 

2. In the USA there is a structure based on meritocracy (success is based on how smart you are)

3. The American Dream is used to make effort and ability seemingly create individual success

= people who suffer ineqaulity ignore it in modern society AND people who benefit from ineqaulity are unwilling to change

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John Rawls, Continued (S)

The Veil of Ignorance 

Rawls asks us to imagine you are a foetus and you don't know your future (who your parents are   or where you will be born). Ask yourself, where would you like to be born? If the answer is you would prefer one place over another, then it means there is some inequality which needs to be rectified e.g. prefer to be born in London than in an impoverished town in Malawi, being born as a man or a woman, being born black or white

The Thought experiment aims to get advantaged people to understand what it is like to be disadvantaged as one is forced to be neutral --> what do we want society to look like when we look down on Earth?

What we need to: ensure that schools, hospitals/health, housing and the legal system are good and in turn we will have much better equality.

Rawls argues we must think about what is fair every time we come across an ethical dilemma - we know what’s fair, but the veil of ignorance helps us to realise it.

"The principles of justice are chosen behind a veil of ignorance" 

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Secular Views on Equality

David Hume - 'Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals' - 1751

·       argued there could never be 'justice of equality' since people are unequal in what they have. Some people are by nature unequal in their abilities and therefore some will prosper more than others.

·       We can never achieve a justice system based on what people deserve, since its impossible to agree what each individual deserves. 

Thomas Nagel - 'What does it all mean?' - 1987

·       despite our concern for equality as the basis for a just society, many inequalities are deliberately imposed (racial/ sexual discrimination)

·       only overcome with a radical overhaul of the political system and would limit human freedom as society would prevent its citizens from making the most of their abilities 

= justice is difficult to achieve because the system is unfair and limits people’s freedom by helping those that are born with advantages (rich family, better education = greater opportunity to develop talent/ skills) 

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Secular Views on Equality

Karl Marx - 

  • greater equality and justice will be achieved if the state attempted to balance the inequalities e.g. taxing the wealthy heavily (the bourgeoisie). and using the money to provide better educational facilities for the less well-off (the proletariat)
  •  this is ethically justifiable as though it limits their freedom, it does not revoke it completely. Redistributive taxation allows the government to interfere but within reasonable limits and contributes to overall equality 

Jeremy Bentham - Act Utilitarianism

  • "everybody is to count for one, nobody for more than one"
  • everyone is worth an equal amount - when doing a Utilitarian calculation nobodies pleasure or pain counts more than anyone else’s 

-Supports democracy 

-does not support populism (trying to appeal to popular opinions e.g. blaming things on minorities) 

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Human Rights

  • they are a legal basis for equality
  • universal (the same for everyone all over the world, from birth until death)
  • unconditional (regardless of circumstance)
  • inalienable (can't be removed) + fundamental 
  • requires campaigners to maintain pressure for human rights --> in reality these rights are not fulfilled, if they were properly enforced the world would be a utopia but this is easier in theory  (nominal?) and not realistic?

The Human Rights Act 1998 sets out the fundamental rights and freedoms that everyone in the UK is entitled to (came into practise in 2000) e.g. freedom of thought, belief and religion, the right to life, right to fair trial 

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Martin Luther King Jr - Biography part 1

  • Born in 1929, Atlanta Georgia
  • Son of a Baptist minister. Was inspired by his father's opposition to discrimination and segregation. His mother taught him he was as good as anyone.
  • 1935 - First experience of discrimination was him and his white friend were sent to different schools
  • 1943 - forced to give up his bus seat for a white passenger on a ride home from Georgia, he has just won a competition with a speech about equal rights (age 14)
  • 1948 - ordained as a minister into the Baptist Church (age 19)
  • The Montgomery Bus Boycott 1955-1956: Rosa Parks inspired him. This lead to segregation on buses being ruled as un-constituional by the supreme court. MLK became a household name and this showed his status within his community. Proved that non-violent methods could achieve something!
  • Established The Southern Christian Leadership Conference to help de-segregate buses in the south, important part of the civil rights movement. Created a community and movement.
  • 1963 - King put into prison after non-violent protests. The police retaliated violently, ad this led to public support for King and his movement. --> invited to the White House and thus became an Icon 
  • "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." Lincoln memorial to over 250,000 supporters
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Martin Luther King Jr - Biography Part 2

  • 1963 - White supremacists bombed a Birmingham Church killing four young black girls - this led to public outcry and MLK addressed more than 8,000 at the funeral
  • 1964 - Won the Nobel Peace Prize 
  • 1964 - The Civil Rights act was passed that outlaws discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin.
  • Selma - 1965, led a march that went from 2,000 marchers to 30,000 from Selma to montgomary (peaceful protest - 3 day march) - campaign for voting rights for African-Americans
  • Later years he grew concerned with the governments lack of concern for poor people, involvement in the vietnam war and vowed to fight for the oppressed of ALL races (not just African - American
  • Struggled to unite the black community in Chicago and his philosophy of non-violence was being marginalised for a more extreme and violent approach (black panther party started in 1966, Malcolm X and the Nation of Islam movmeent which rejected the civil rights movement for attempted integration - promoted black supremacy) 
  • Assasinated in 1968 - now has his own public holiday (only POC to have one in the USA)
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MLK quotes

Non Violence Method: "This method is nonaggressive physically but storngly aggressive spiritually"

Goals of nonviolence: "The non violent resister does not seek to humiliate or defeat the opponent but to win his friendship and understanding"

"The end of violence is bitterness" "The end of nonvioelnce is reconciliation and the creation of a beloved community"

"The nonviolent resister seeks to attack the evil system rather than individuals who happen to be caught up in the system"

Agape love: "overflowing love which seeks nothing in return" - love for all races equally,

"we love the person who does the evil deed while hating the deed that the person does" should not villify white people, as the act is the problem not the person 

The universe supports justice, not just because God says so: "the belief that the universe is on the side of justice" - faith heavily interlinked with the nonviolent fight for civil rights 

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Aims of Non-Violence

to not obey unjust laws or submitting to unjust practise

direct action against injustice, despite the failure of governmental figures

start with words, always be willing to talk and seek fair compromise but then go onto non-violent action if necessary

be willing and ready to suffer and risk our own lives to become witness to the truth as we see it

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Gender Equality: Utilitarianism (secular view)

Act Util (Bentham): "everyone is to count as one" + the principle of utility "the good is which will bring about the greatest sum of pleasure, or the least amount of pain for the greatest number", women are not any different to men BUT e.g. if the majority of parliament are men and the members were happier without women, pleasure for the highest number is achieved. However if the suffering of women outside parliament was greater, and the majority wanted equality Bentham would support this 

Rule Util (Mill): 'The Subjection of Women' (1869) where he argued for a "prinicple of perfect equality" between the sexes. The obstacle between men and women was "one of the chief obstacles to human improvement". Equality would mean women would be able to pursure higher pleasures, generating happiness for them and for society overall. 

Negative (Popper): Reducing the suffering of women is more important than satisfying men who would prefer male dominance - "the least amount of avoidable suffering for all"

Preference (Singer): proposed the 'principle of the equal consideration of interests' meaning take into account everyone's interests equally, regardless of sex since pain + suffering is not affected by sex (the fact that men are proven to be more aggressive is not relevant to considering them differently)                --> Ideal: surely justice is best served by gender equality 

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Gender Equality: Christianity (religious view)

Supports: "So God created man in his own image, in the image he created him: male and female he created them" - Genesis - God gave dominion to both gender, then Jesus redeemed/saved them from original sin 

"You shall love your neighbour as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these"

"There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nore free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus" - Apostle Paul

Jesus treated women the same as his male disciples (though they had a different role), women discovered first that Jesus had ressurected.

Liberal protestant: men and women have equal roles, brand of modern Christianity which argues for gender equality. Roman Catholic: men + women are equal, but have different roles (man = breadwinner, to love their wife...women = bring up the children, submit to the husbands - "in perfect equality as human persons; on the other hand, in their respective beings as man and woman" 

Doesn't support: "Wives submit to your husbands. For your husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the Church" & "Women should keep silent in the churches./ For it is shameful for a woman to speak in Church"

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Disability: Utilitarianism (secular view)

Act (Bentham): "everyone is to count as one", disbaled people are equal to anyone in his calculation but if the majority are happy without making accessibility improvements then this would not be an issue (e.g. adapting stations to suit the disabled - only helps a minority, the majority may not want this)

Rule (Mill): may feel the intellectually disabled are less likely to achieve higher pleasures and thus may be lesser human beings - largely ignores them in his book 'Utilitarianism' (or assumes they are capable to pursue higher pleasures). No issue with physically disabled, as they can still help society develop.

Negative (Popper): would prioritise reducing suffering for the disabled by ensuring their needs are considered equal to able bodied people.

Preference (Singer): criticises the 'appalling conditions' in which disabled people have been forced to live in the past and argues that legislation must prohibit discrimination. However, defends abortion for foetuses who will be severely disabled to reduce unnecessary suffering. 

Ideal: surely justice is best served by improving rights of the disabled 

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Disability Equality: Christianity (religious view)

Support Equality: "For everything created by God is good.../for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer" 

"Then the Lord said to him "Who has made man's mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?"

  • "You shall not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block before the blind, but you shall fear your God: I am the Lord"
  • Joni and Friends: an organisation to "accelarate Christian ministry in the disability community" - Joni Erickson Tada is an evangelical Christian who started this movement

Does not support: "You shall do not injustice in court. You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but inrighteousness shall judge your neighbour" - does not support treating people unequally in special circumstances, treating everyone completely equaly, but perhaps does not acknowledge important differences?

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Racial Equality: Util (secular)

Bentham: "everyone is to count as one" no principled discrimination against different races - however his theory supports slavery: if black people are in the minority it would be morally acceptable for white people (majority) to act against them in a racist manner. Minority allowed to be exploited. --> Bentham as an individual campaigned against slavery!

Mill: The Harm Principle (aiming to protect from the 'Tyranny of the Majority' - actions of individuals should only be limited to prevent harm to others --> racism exacerbates this! It is discrimanatory therefore immoral. Mill criticised the massacre of Indians rebelling against the British Empire in 1857 as an act against humanity. 

Negative (Popper): would prioritise reducing suffering of racial minorities abve satisfying the white majority should there be a conflict.

Preference (Singer): suggested the 'prinicple of the equal consideration of interests' meaning take into account everyone's preferences regardless of race since pain and suffering is not affected by race. Says race is no better/worse a reason to discriminate than whether someone was born in a leap year! (BUT when racism was universally the norm, this would have been most people's preferences - morally acceptable?

Ideal: surely justice is best served by improving the rights of racial minorities 

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Racial Equality: Christianity (religious view)

Support: "Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgement"

MLK was a Christian and used his faith to fight for his cause of racial equality and social change; the Southern Christian Leadership Conference which held an important part in the civil rights movement. 

The Good Samaritan - supports racial eqaulity as it teaches you should help a person in need, regardless of race. Breaks the notion of prejudice and pre-conceived ideas as the priest (high in society, important figure) ignored the injured man but a samaritan aided him (even though at the time they were considered lesser than Jews, and were not allowed to interact). Shows selflessness and agape, and it is important to help all "brothers" regardless of race.

Does not support: 

----> Jesus argued for equality in the example of the pharises: his teachings were radical as in society at the time rabi's had a higher place but he argued everyone was "brothers" and criticised the rabi's luxurious lifestyle which revolved around obssession with power.

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UK Progress in Equality


  • Race Relations Act 1976 - illegal to discriminate on racial grounds
  • "Lets kick racism out of football" campaign 1993 - awareness f racism, positive attempt to change attitudes 
  • Equality Act 2010 - replaced previous anti-discrimination laws to be held within a single act 
  • Public outcry and disgust at hate crimes


  • law has changed, does not mean social attitudes have changed (progress since the 40's but racism still exists e.g. being called 'racist' is now an insult but hate crime increased after the EU referendum, peoples racist views are now 'legitamised')
  • Stop and Search - study shows in some areas black people were 29 times more likely to be stopped, in general 6x
  • Black people are more likely to be put in prison --> instituional racism + discrimination within the police force e.g. Mark Duggan was shot and killed in 2011 by police, but the circumstances and police story constantly changed leading to riots and protests 
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Sanah Iqbal


is this the new spec or old

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