Equal in Ability vs. Equal in Being

So there’s a sad trend that I’ve noticed that occurs both in neo-reactionary circles as well as on Jared Taylor’s American Renaissance and that is to conflate equal in ability to equal in being. Specifically, the argument that is often touted is that “well some people are stronger than others and some races are smarter than others etc. so you can’t say humans are equal!”.  (an example is this article)

But to say this is to commit a fallacy. It assumes that the argument egalitarians make is that true human equality means that humans are all the same, when in actuality the argument is not that all humans are exactly the same, rather, that there is some common standard amongst humans and this standard (which I’ll talk about later) is constant. And if this standard is constant, it is a baseline for what it means to be human and thus, on the most rudimentary level, creates possessing this standard or characteristic (humans) would be ontologically equal – that is, equal in being.

This would be, for the most part, a species classification. For example: some breeds of dogs are smarter than others, some are more aggressive than others, and some are just down right cute. [fig 1.] But at the end of the day, they are all still dogs and thus, if one assigns moral judgements based on species, they would be ontologically equal while not being physically equal.

[fig 1. – My little baby in a cowboy hat for New Years!]

Now humans are an interesting bunch (one that I don’t care for all too much) in that there is debate over whether there is a unifying standard, that is, something that every human has and is something that makes us human. Theists would argue a soul, Kantian’s would argue rationality (haha), and others would argue nothing. I honestly have no idea. I have no idea if such a standard exists. So I will leave with a comment and a few residual questions. I don’t know if there is some unifying feature in humanity and to be honest, I don’t care a huge amount. But I do care when people falsely conflate equal in ability to equal in being. They are not one in the same – someone can be one but not the other (much like a square is a rectangle but not vice versa per se).

So readers: is there a unifying human standard? I would love to hear what you think.

But in your analyses please consider the following questions:

  • is the standard inherent to what it means to be human – that is, do all humans meet it?
  • if some don’t meet it, are they not human?
  • and if so, how should one evaluate them?


  1. I definitely see the arguments behind a theistic soul or Kantian rationality. Originally, I saw the human standard as that we all have the intellectual capacity for using tools…but then again you could argue that for birds or chimpanzees so it doesn’t really “set” us apart. Maybe the human standard is something along the lines of having a profound self-awareness, which isn’t far-fetched from the “soul”. I feel that every human does meet that criteria, even those with severe mental disabilities. In general though, I hold the argument for equal in being to a high regard and tends to have a deeper “truth” than equal in ability. In the Washington Post article, I see what Williams is saying but I think we all have generally have the same intellectual/physical capacity and even though probability tends to inflate or deflate the capacities for some, the being is an important component all throughout. Fig. 1 is such a cute picture haha.

    1. I see what you’re saying and you could very well be correct. I would argue that tool use is not a good standard, but I do ask this in regards to self-awareness:
      1) What about infants or people with extreme personality disorders where they don’t know if they exist or think they’re multiple people? And what of severely disabled people? You think they still are self aware?
      2) Additionally, what of the fact that elephants have shown self-awareness akin to humans? (http://www.livescience.com/4272-elephant-awareness-mirrors-humans.html)

      I would argue that there are some genetic differences between the races that are expressed via. intellectual ability, strength, etc. but there are obviously other factors that contribute. I don’t know, however, if all humans generally have the same capacities. What makes you say they do?

      (Thank you 🙂 I love my little baby Max!)

      And thank you for commenting, it’s always great to hear from readers!

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