On Equality

One reality of life is that generalization is a necessity. If we cannot compare two things and talk about how they are alike and different, it becomes more than a little difficult to learn “new” things.

That having been said, an important realization is that, while two things may have similarities that make it possible for us to understand that which is new to us using those things about which we already have some knowledge, the old and new compared are pretty much by necessity not “the same.” Put another way, where some attribute or attributes of two persons, places, things or ideas may be the same or similar, that does not make the two “generally equal.”

In fact, even the attributes may not be equal, though they may be equivalent, or sufficiently similar for comparison’s sake.

As an example, are two apples actually equal? In that they are both apples, they can be consider so, but closer inspection and comparison may find them to be quite different. If, for example, one apple is a Jonathan, and one a Granny Smith, there’s actually quite a bit of difference there. If one weighs half what the other does, this likewise creates a great deal of difference in the mind of many.

The fact that two things that are intentionally grouped are different appears to become more significant depending on the complexity of the things compared. So for example, comparing two Hydrogen atoms will result in a great deal of similarity.

Nonetheless, even for Hydrogen atoms, there will be differences. Though knowing, by way of example, the location of the electron “orbiting” a given atom is a more than difficult task (particularly if Heisenberg is to be believed), it may safely be assumed that two Hydrogen atoms will not have their electrons in the same place with regard to the nucleus of the atom at the same time at all times.

Frankly, just the Galilean  coordinates of the two atoms provides significant difference between the two, without even the need to get into the specifics of the given atoms.

Again, the more complex the entities compared, the less the two can likely be considered “the same.” Whether your intent with the words “the same” amounts to equality of equivalence is somewhat irrelevant. This is because neither is likely true.

At about this point, you may well be saying something like, “Well duh! Who thinks such comparisons reasonable for much of anything but gaining an understanding of those things upon which we currently don’t have a sufficient grasp?”

You might be saying that, but the problem is, we have a tendency to try to make things equal that in very few ways, actually are. Don’t believe me? Consider the tendency to make humans equal. Better yet, consider the (obviously incorrect) idea that men and women are equal.

I know what you’re likely to be thinking—granted, one can never speak for all others—you’re probably internally voicing that nobody expects two people to be exactly equal. Allow me to add the proverbial fly to the ointment.

The problem with expressions of equality is, unless you define in what ways things are equal, you will pretty much always have issues with peoples’ expectations. Put another way, if you say something like, “Yep, men and women are equal,” without qualifiers, people will assume you mean they are or are not equal in the ways they account them so, not in the ways you do. Sometimes those expectations will be entirely reasonable, sometimes, not so much.

Regardless their reasonability though, if you mean something different than do I when you make such a statement, the value of the statement is at best questionable. Further, such comparisons are of questionable value.

I can think of no other person who is my equal. And before you assume an inflated ego, know that there is likely no way in which I am the “best” at anything. Further, you should know that for just about everyone I have ever met, in some ways a given person is my superior, in others similar or the same and in yet others, my inferior.

To add “insult to injury,” if you will, not only am I not better than my fellows in every way, but some of the considerations surrounding my superiority are virtually worthless, in that they have at best, questionable value or use.

The point I’m trying to make is really rather simple. Assuming non-specific equality is generally a bad idea but for certain pursuits (like learning about things unknown). Rather, evaluating others, and other things to determine their properties and come to conclusions about their fitness for a given situation, circumstance or activity needs must be the “way of things.”

Sometimes, the answer of whether or not some thing or one fits a given need might be easy to come by. At other times, it may be a substantially more complicated process.

The one thing that is crystal clear, is that two things—regardless how much they appear alike—can pretty much always be assumed to be unique, and maybe in more ways than are readily or easily observable.

In order to determine “fitness,” there is a need for “standards.” Standards essentially being, “A set of criteria used to determine such fitness, based on what appears to be needful for a given situation, circumstance or activity.”

It should be understood that standards change based on a variety of factors. The factors can include things like an improved understanding of the thing for which standards were created, or a recognition that where a particular criterion seemed necessary or unnecessary, the converse proved to be true.

Does the above mean comparison should cease? Obviously not. What it does mean though, is that comparison on a general basis often does more harm than good. Put differently, as a rule, comparison should largely be specific in nature. Vaguely comparing one thing to another, that said, is generally a vain pursuit that typically lacks good purpose and utility.

As such, making generic statements like, “Men and women are equals.” Is not just just unrealistic, it tends in actuality to be harmful.

Okay, at my “limit” so I’ll let this be for the time being.

Have a good day and, as usual, thanks for reading.

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