The Concept of Equality
About the Author:
Susmita Bhattacharya was born in Calcutta in 1947. She received a Ph.D. in Philosophy from Poona University in 1975. Her thesis, ‘A Critical Study of the Concept of Equality’ was awarded the university’s Gurudev Ranade Damle Prize. With a scholarship from AJC Bose College in Calcutta, she passed her B. Ed. in 1989.
Dr. Bhattacharya combines her academic and social interests with poetry and literature. Her Bengali poetry volumes include Karir Pahar Harer Pahar (second edition 1989) and Purushottamer Sange Pancham Sakshatkar (1992). Her English volumes, in translation, comprise Lost Atlantis and Other Poems (Writers Workshop, India, 1995) and Dark (Sanbun, Delhi, 2004). She has two bilingual collections to her credit, Selected Poems (Writers Workshop, India, third edition 2017) and Selected Fifty Five Poems (2006). Her poems in Bengali, translated into English, Hindi, Marathi, Assamese and Telugu have been published in magazines and anthologies in India, Sweden and the United Kingdom. Apart from this book, she has written two other works of research: An Aesthetic Assessment of Bihu Songs (2004) and How Different is the Damned Gender? (2009).
Dr. Bhattacharya is actively involved in women’s rights projects and is associated with Maitree – a network that campaigns for the rights of women. She is a member of the Institute of Social Work and teaches community children at its centre in Calcutta.
In her introduction to the book, Dr. Bhattacharya writes:
“Each of the human values poses a problem to the philosopher. These values are both universal and individualistic – they appeal to almost all the members of the human community, yet they do not mean the same thing to everybody like the visible and tangible objects. So far as the values are concerned, the vision of the layman is almost always coloured and distorted by his particular environment and early training. As a result different individuals look at the same value in different ways, and very often fight over it more zealously and more fanatically than they do on any other issue. Moreover, for the same reason, people differ about the relative worth of the different values, too. It is the task of the philosopher to examine and interpret the values in a clear-sighted and rational way, and thereby bring some order in such chaotic situations.
These problems are more acute in the modern age than they ever were. We are now witnessing what is possibly the greatest event in the history of mankind – social and political consciousness, instead of being restricted to the elite, is spreading through the mass. At the same time, the old way of thinking is changing to make way for what is called the “new morality”. And in this changing situation, the value which is emerging as of paramount importance is that of equality. The new morality put it in a very high place, and its appeal to the mass is definitely greater than that of any other value. As a result wars are being fought and revolutions are being brought about in its name. Yet, even the leaders and thinkers are scarcely clear and never unanimous about what this value really means, let alone the common men.
As the bibliography attached to the end of this work indicates, philosophers are and were fully conscious of this situation, and many works have been published which discuss various problems concerning the concept of equality. Yet scarcely any of these works tries to examine this concept from all the aspects of it. The concept of equality has many aspects – it is a socio-political, a legal, an ethico-religious and a metaphysical and spiritual concept. In the present work, I have tried to analyse this concept from all these aspects and to show what it really means in each of these spheres. I have also tried to meet the chief arguments offered by some philosophers against the maxim of human equality – arguments such as that this maxim ignores the facts of fundamental individual inequalities, and that it clashes with our other cherished values, like liberty and security. I have tried to show that individual inequalities do not stand in the way of a proper application of this maxim, and that the other values are actually not contrary but allied to it.”
I. What we mean by the maxim “All Men are Equal” / 11
II. The Relation of the Concept of Equality with that of Uniformity and Liberty / 33
III. Biological Inequalities and their Social Implications / 43
i) Heredity and Environment
ii) Race Inequalities
iii) Gender Inequalities
IV. Social, Political and Economic Aspects of the Concept of Equality / 89
V. Implications of the Maxim of Legal Equality / 127
VI. The Ethical and Religious Basis of the Ideal of Equality / 163
i) The Ethical Basis
ii) The Religious Basis
VII. Man as in Constant Progress through Transitory Inequalities / 209
VIII. Conclusion: A Summary Survey / 217
IX. Bibliography / 227
Review of First Edition / 242