Equality & Equal Outcome is a Myth

‪Equality between people is a myth; those who want to feel equal actually want to feel special, to feel that their uniqueness can contribute and add value in some way. Those who don’t feel special feel inferior, and they try to find ways to compensate for their feelings of inferiority by trying to feel equal, but one cannot reach equality from inferiority, one can only flip into its dualistic counterpart of superiority and arrogance. This, for example, is why modern feminists tend to behave arrogantly towards men, and see themselves as superior to men—they just flipped from inferior to superior, while claiming the entire time that they were (and are) oppressed, shamed, and being treated unfairly compared to men. Maybe at one time women were considered inferior to men, at least in some circles, if the men in those circles were polarized into feeling superior over women, but for obvious reasons, just flipping who is inferior and who is superior is hardly the answer to solving any so-called inequality between men and women.

The actual answer to the problem of superiority and inferiority lies in the development of the character traits of intellectual humility and intellectual empathy, as humility is the ability to open up to one’s own ignorance and potential for bias, which makes one more curious, while empathy is the desire to understand the viewpoints of others, which adds breadth to one’s own understanding.

Intellectual Humility is “having a consciousness of the limits of one’s knowledge, including a sensitivity to circumstances in which one’s native egocentrism is likely to function self-deceptively; sensitivity to bias, prejudice and limitations of one’s viewpoint. Intellectual humility depends on recognizing that one should not claim more than one actually knows. It does not imply spinelessness or submissiveness. It implies the lack of intellectual pretentiousness, boastfulness, or conceit, combined with insight into the logical foundations, or lack of such foundations, of one’s beliefs.”

Intellectual Empathy is ”having a consciousness of the need to imaginatively put oneself in the place of others in order to genuinely understand them, which requires the consciousness of our egocentric tendency to identify truth with our immediate perceptions of long-standing thought or belief. This trait correlates with the ability to reconstruct accurately the viewpoints and reasoning of others and to reason from premises, assumptions, and ideas other than our own. This trait also correlates with the willingness to remember occasions when we were wrong in the past despite an intense conviction that we were right, and with the ability to imagine our being similarly deceived in a case-at-hand.”

~Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking Concepts and Tools (Thinker’s Guide Library), by Richard Paul & Linda Elder

It takes humility to be able to see how special other people are, and to see their uniqueness and the potential value they might bring into the equation regardless of their level of personal competency and development, while it takes empathy to be able to seek out other viewpoints and angles, and to better understand why others think, feel, and behave as they do.

While being wiser than another most certainly means that one has superior knowledge, understanding, and wisdom, it doesn’t make one superior over another, but it is the wiser person’s responsibility to exercise humility and empathy towards those who’s wisdom is inferior to their own. This is where intellectual humility and intellectual empathy comes into the equation, and recognizing each person’s potential value and contributions goes a long way to making any inequality in wisdom (or other resources) seem irrelevant. Rather than another person’s superior wisdom being felt as a threat to the one with less wisdom, the inequality in wisdom, or other resources and/or forms of currency, will be felt as a beneficial way to improve their own knowledge, understanding, and wisdom. In a competence hierarchy, each person’s gifts and areas of competence has the potential to uplift those around them, but only if humility and empathy are valued character traits in the individual, family, community, and society, otherwise their gifts and areas of competence are a means of controlling and exploiting one another, and used as a means of gaining personal advantage over others in a control hierarchy.

In conclusion, it is my reasoned viewpoint that the solution to inequality is not found in making everyone’s outcomes equal, whether it is through taxation, legislation, or sensitivity training, but by focusing on developing intellectual humility and intellectual empathy as core character traits within individuals, households, communities, and society. To do this, we must learn and internalize the lessons of the wisest person in Greece at the time, Socrates, who “knew that he knew nothing”, and who sought out the viewpoints of others, all of whom were less learned than he, and systematically asked them questions to understand them and their viewpoints every single day. Armed with humility and empathy, we’ll value each other’s skills, gifts, and competencies, and respect each other’s worth as unique and special individuals.

About Nathan Martin