The Equality Myth, a Founding Legend

The Equality Myth, a Founding LegendAll epochs have a founding legend, a myth that reflects the underlying zeitgeist, which is the spirit of those particular times. We, who live in the contemporary West, are living in the shadow of the equality myth. Our political and social institutions operate on the premise that all human beings are fundamentally equal and that any inequalities in the real world are aberrant as such and require coercive correction. Hiring and firing, admissions into scholarly academies, our language patterns and everything else are dictated by egalitarian principles. The champions of equality are divinized as saints of rationality and their opponents demonized as ignorant provincial hicks and rowdy troublemakers. In the end, some however, are always more equal than others.

Inequality, a Good in Itself

Saint Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) explains that there are profoundly wise reasons why God created all things with inequality. Here is a basic outline of his argument.

I — Inequality in Creation Is a Good Because it Makes the Universe a Mirror Image of the Creator.

Every craftsman needs to have before him a model, which constitutes an exemplary cause. This can be extrinsic such as a person, object or landscape, or intrinsic, that is, conceived in the mind using a combination of colors, shapes, sounds, etc.

Inequality in Creation Is a Good Because it Makes the Universe a Mirror Image of the Creator

Every craftsman needs to have before him a model.

Before creation there was nothing. Therefore, God had no model from which to inspire Himself for the work of creation. So the divine Creator had to necessarily take Himself as the model. Given the general principle whereby the effect resembles its cause, and more precisely, a work resembles its author, we must conclude that that creation resembles the Creator.

However, since God is infinite, no created being however excellent, would be able to adequately reflect the infinite perfections of God by itself; for no creature can have a full resemblance of God, but only a partial one. Therefore, there had to necessarily exist many unequal creatures to mirror the infinite. Hence, the more species that are created, the greater the perfection of God reflected in them. Consequently, inequality in creation is necessary for the universe to be a mirror image of its Creator.

II — Inequality in Creation Is a Good Because the Universe Would not be Perfect if it Reflected Only one Degree of Perfection.

Saint Thomas teaches that Divine Wisdom established a distinction among things to enhance perfection in the universe so that each being reflects some degree or aspect of divine perfection. He also taught that Divine Wisdom established a distinction among things to enhance perfection in the universe so that each being reflects some degree or aspect of divine perfection.

For this reason, creatures are ordered according to degrees. In the hierarchical ladder of creation there are no sudden or disproportionate inequalities. Inequalities always occur in small degrees and it grows as beings become more perfect. The more perfect the being, the greater the inequality between them. The less perfect the being, the smaller the inequality.

Thus, composite bodies are more perfect than simple elements; plants are more perfect than minerals; animals are more perfect than plants; and men are more perfect than other animals. The angels are pure spiritual creatures and thus, are more perfect than men. Within each of these genres, some species are more perfect than others.

Inequality in Creation Is a Good Because the Universe Would not be Perfect if it Reflected Only one Degree of Perfection

The Angelic Doctor teaches that Divine Wisdom established a distinction among things to enhance perfection in the universe
so that each being reflects some degree or aspect of divine perfection.

Therefore, inequality is a good because the universe would not be perfect if it reflected only one degree of perfection.

III — Inequality in Creation Is a Good Because it Manifests the Power of the Creator.

An artist is as great as his creative power. Thus, for example, to sculpt twenty copies of the same statue of Julius Caesar reveals less creative power than sculpting twenty different statues of Julius Caesar. An even greater creativity would be shown if an artist were to sculpt twenty statues of entirely different people.

Therefore, the greater the inequality in created works, the more they manifest the creative power of their author. Thus, inequality in creation is necessary to make manifest the power of the Creator; therefore, the more varied the creation, the greater manifestation of God’s power.

IV — Inequality in Creation Is a Good Because, Through Order, it Makes the Universe an Image of God’s Wisdom.

Saint Thomas teaches that every intelligent being acts orderly. Now then, God is infinitely intelligent; therefore, God does everything infinitely ordered. That is why the Apostle says, “Quae a Deo sunt, ordinata sunt” − “Things that come from God are orderly” (Rom. 13:1).
If God made everything with order, He made everything with inequality because only unequal things can be ordered. For example, one cannot put 15 pennies minted on the same date in chronological order.

The degree of order reflects the degree of the ordering intelligence. Thus, a person with very little intelligence orders books on a shelf according to their size and color, whereas one with a normal intelligence orders them by subject. The order of the universe is an image of God’s infinite intelligence, that is, His infinite wisdom.

V — Inequality in Creation Is a Good Because it Makes Harmony Possible in the Universe.

God established creation as a cosmos, that is, an orderly or harmonious system, not a chaos, the initial shapeless state of the universe.

For this reason, He established that all its various parts be ordered among themselves rather than being alien or heterogeneous in relation to one another. They form an ensemble in which there is harmony. If God had created absolutely equal beings, they could not be ordered and thus there would be no harmony in the universe.

Contrast and gradation among beings enable one to form a closer idea of God’s perfections. Distinction among created beings has the same effect as the harmonious combinations of bass and treble notes, rests and sounds in music or shadows and colors in painting.

The beauty of the rainbow is possible only through the harmonious inequality of its colors and this harmony makes the rainbow more beautiful as a whole than in each color taken separately. This is true of all beings, from shapeless sands to the most complex organisms including man and all the way up to the angelic world.

Inequality in Creation Is a Good Because it Makes Harmony Possible in the Universe

The beauty of the rainbow is possible only through the harmonious inequality of its colors; and this harmony makes the rainbow more beautiful as a whole than in each color taken separately.

Saint Thomas explains in the Suma Contra Gentiles, Book 11, chap. XLV, that upon creating each thing, God said it was good; but looking at the ensemble of creation He said it was “very good,” that is, excellent. (Gen. 1:31)

The harmony of the ensemble gives the universe a goodness and beauty superior to those of each individual being. Therefore, inequality in creation is a good because it makes harmony possible in the universe.

Read Also:
Equestrian Inequality about inequality in nature.
Equality at the Starting Point – What an Injustice
The Dictatorship of Equality – A Catholic Perspective

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