The worst form of inequality is to try to make unequal things equal

The worst form of inequality is to try to make unequal things equal.Aristotle

All over the world, girls chat and boys play in mud. Didn't you?

What does that mean?
For those who never had two or more dogs, this might not make much sense. But if you ever had more than one dog at the same time, you know that there is no such thing as equal dogs. One is always first. If you try to greet any other dog first, there will be trouble. You cannot make unequal things equal no matter how much you might want the to be.

While humans have this idea of equality, in the real world, equality is rare. Have you ever found two rocks that were the same size? Same weight? Same composition? Not all that common, is it? While it’s in our best nature to try to make people equal, they are all unique and, by definition, unequal.

Why is inequality important?  
While the thought of inequality may cause us some emotional discomfort, it is true. How would you make a professional athlete and a couch potato equal in sports? You can only try to pull the athlete down to the level of the weakest person. This is the basis of the Kurt Vonnegut short story “Harrison Bergeron“. Even the cursory synopsis on the Wikipedia page can make you revile the idea of forcing everyone down to the same level, just to make them all equal.

There is beauty in symmetry, and we use it in art and buildings. We try to make things equal, but it doesn’t always work. Especially not with living things in general, and humans in particular. We can all start from an equal starting point, but some will work harder, some will work smarter, others will find short cuts, or just get lucky.

Equality of opportunity is difficult to achieve, but it is (in my belief) a worthy goal. Equality of outcome is impossible to achieve without reducing everyone to the level of the least successful person. Equality of misery is all that will be achieved in this manner. Inequality is a necessary part of life.

Where can I apply this in my life?
In the past week or two, there have been a number of stories about how the holiday season toy sales have prompted a number of manufacturers and sales organizations to adjust their methods. Some are trying to make gender neutral toys and toy areas, while others are working on separate lines for boys and girls.

I don’t know about you, but to me, there’s not much in the world that is as different as little boys and little girls. When my brother and I were young, my parents got concerned about all the ‘Cowboys and Indians’ games we were playing. So they got us a farm set, complete with cows, horses, fences, and buildings. Before the day was out, the cows had declared war on the horses and the fight was on!

While my daughter is quite the tomboy, there are things that are too ‘boy’ for her to be interested in. There are factual and documented differences between the male and female of the human species. Trying to make them equal, well that’s just not going to work. Each of us is an individual, each with different wants and needs.

For those who have kids, do all your kids have the same bedtime? The same chores? The same privileges? If you don’t have kids, apply the same questions to when you were a kid. How unequal was that? Even kids that are the same age can have unequal levels of responsibility. What is the proper way to deal with that inequality?

Where in your life to you try to make unequal things equal, and how can you best deal with the inequality? That’s the hard part, at least with people. You will have to try to balance the needs of each person with your abilities. It sounds difficult, especially with children, but you probably already do it quite well.

Consider your friends. Are they all equal, or do you have a best friend, some almost best friends and other friends? How do you treat them when you are together? Are they equal, or do you treat them unequally? You give each the attention the relationship requires, and you give what you can to each in an unequal manner. Somehow, it works, as they are still all friends, right?

There isn’t any exercise with this post, but there is time for plenty of introspection. That is the true purpose of this blog, to get you thinking, to examine how you live your life. To consider what you think is best for you and for those around you, then live the best life you can.

From: Twitter, @AncientProverbs
confirmed at :
Photo by  ePi.Longo

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23 Responses to The worst form of inequality is to try to make unequal things equal

  1. Emerson 12 November 2016 at 6:18 am #

    While equality doesn’t exist a lot in nature or in day to day lives I believe we should strive for equality with people and our government. Big moments in history (women or African Americans not being allowed to vote) they want to be treated as equals and they should. You can’t say “inequality is a part of life” and that’s the end of it. Sorry you can’t vote. We should strive to live our life to help everyone. Of course we treat everyone differently. You treat each commenter differently. But you still show them with the same amount of respect. You are treating them as equals (or trying your absolute best to).

    You wrote this article to educate. I’m sure you want the message to get out there. But say the people that run this website don’t like that you’re (gay, Asian, a woman) and therefore forbid you from posting it. Would you feel that that’s more than just unjust but wrong and needs fixed?


    • philosiblog 28 December 2016 at 7:36 pm #

      Thanks for stopping by and for leaving a comment.

      Let’s start by realizing there is a difference between opportunity and outcome. Two people can be given equal opportunity, but no two people can be forced to an equal outcome. You can give all people the right to vote, but not all of them do, and demographics can determine who is least likely to vote. Equality in opportunity, but not in outcome. The forcing of unequal things would be to rig the system with incentives to get equal proportions of all groups to vote. Hopefully that makes more sense.

      As for fixing injustice, that has nothing to do with this post or quote. We must fight (loosely using the word) for that in which we believe. That said, I own this corner of the internet, and I choose the content, both in creation and in what comments I allow. If you don’t like it, feel free to complain, and I will feel free to ignore. Or you could do something creative and start your own blog and do a better job at it than I do. Your choice.

      Even then, we would have two blogs (presuming you chose to make a competitor, and that you chose to engage in similar content), we have equality in opportunity, but how would you feel about being forced to share users with me, once your site was doing better, for equality of outcome?

      While that was a rather contrived example, I hope it helps clarify for you what I meant by equality and inequality in this post.

  2. Econ 001 17 February 2016 at 6:16 pm #

    I believe you hit the nail on the head when you commented “Please explain what you mean by ‘equal,’ as that seems to be the intellectual sticking point between us.” Historically, “equal” was a more strictly defined concept as used in the sciences and maths. Over the centuries the term has been subsumed by the bodies politic which, of course, prefer more malleable definitions to suit the vagaries of societal winds. The question revolves around whether the use of the term “unequal” is intended to be hierarchical or absolute. I wonder if substituting “indistinguishable” for “equal” would assuage the critics of your comments?

    Regardless, thank you for your insightful and measured commentary.

    • philosiblog 29 February 2016 at 4:23 am #

      Thanks for your comment. The whole point of the blog is to discuss these ideas. Thank you for bring your viewpoint. Hope to hear from you again.

  3. z. f. 30 August 2015 at 11:59 pm #

    while i can respect your freedom of opinion, i’ve gotta say that this is some of the most stupid, essentialist, ignorant bullshit i’ve ever read. and boy oh boy, have i read a bunch of stupid, essentialist, ignorant bullshit for the sake of well-rounded discourse (see: any philosophy 101 class, for example–fundamentals like aristotle are extremely important as just that, sure, but that doesn’t make them legitimately viable within most contexts of the real world). there are a lot of entry-level logical fallacies crammed into this short piece, and if i’m being completely honest it kind of concerns me that you would be a parent with sort of mentality. “children aren’t equal” my ass! if you wanna go around allowing fundamentally unjust sociocultural structures to become the arbitrators of your own value as a human being, go right ahead, but leave children–who don’t yet have the necessary tools to understand the gravity of such a situation–the /fuck/ out of it.

    i have to agree with “Lrn2Equality” on this one; you don’t actually know the functional /meaning/ of equality–insofar as it transcends your 101 conceptualizations (does anyone actually agree with aristotle’s structural and ethical analyses anymore. because if so, ohhhh man…)–at least not in the context you’re discussing it. equality ≠ homogeneity or similarity, nor are the two similar in the schemata of their execution within a given society. how you could possibly confound the two to the degree that you have is beyond me, but it is quite clear that, for someone who considers themselves a “thinker”, there is a great deal of substance regarding the topic of equality which has entirely escaped your consideration.

    • philosiblog 31 August 2015 at 11:53 pm #

      Your condescending attitude and snide prose are great ways to influence someone, and to help them understand. It’s also very hard to read what you wrote, when you can’t be bothered to use standard language rules. Your run-on sentences are spectacular.

      Please explain what you mean by ‘equal,’ as that seems to be the intellectual sticking point between us. Perhaps if I could better understand your definition in this application, the rest of your post might be more easily understood.

      • Simon 10 September 2015 at 4:56 am #

        Judging by his English grammar, he’s probably far too lazy to reply. That, or he doesn’t even understand English, in the same way that he’ll never understand what you are talking about. Typical ‘wanna-be’ philosopher/entitled child.. Took a couple Philosophy classes and thinks he is beyond any of the great minds he misinterpreted.. Good luck flippin’ that coin. I thought it was nice. I had fun reading it. Thank you.

      • philosiblog 13 September 2015 at 11:01 pm #

        While I get responses from people all over the world, some of the worst with English are fellow Americans. The time and day of the week of their initial posting (as opposed to when I approve the post, sometimes days later, depending on my schedule) may also be part of the problem.

        Thanks for the kind words, glad you enjoyed it.

  4. Littlejerry 9 July 2015 at 7:02 pm #

    Agree with this. How can an authoratative entity create (the mentioned) equality among it’s stewardship without willfully oppressing one side? THAT is true inequality.

    • philosiblog 10 July 2015 at 2:08 am #

      Thanks for the comment and the thought which went into it. Hope to hear from you again.

  5. Chris 2 June 2015 at 1:48 pm #

    Hey thank you so much! This has been an amazing eye opener. bless

    • philosiblog 9 June 2015 at 5:24 pm #

      Thanks for stopping by, and for leaving such a kind comment. I’m glad the post was of some use to you.

  6. T 12 October 2014 at 1:15 am #

    Your explanation is interesting. I believe just because all things can never be equal, it does not mean that we should stop trying to make some things equal. For example basic human rights should apply to all people, access to clean water, food and the right to feel safe. Equality regardless of sexual orientation, gender, or disability. These are things that, although it seems unlikely that there will equality, it does not mean it is impossible. Equality should never be achieved by someone else being dragged down, but by educating, training, or otherwise aiding a person who needs help to be brought up to the same level. Humans that accept a challenge can achieve amazing feats in the face of diversity. I have probably veered from the initial topic or point of view, there is always one idealist.

    • philosiblog 14 October 2014 at 5:40 am #

      Exactly. One cannot make all pets equal. At least I wouldn’t want to try to put a fish on a leash. Yet governments keep trying to make everything equal, despite the impossibility of doing so in this reality.

      That said, I believe in idealism. The quote, and I believe both of our points, is that there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Theory and reality often do not coexist in our world. We must do our best to stop injustice, but not by making more injustice.

      Thanks for stopping by and for leaving such a thoughtful comment. It’s even better that we agree (although agreement is not required for a comment to be either thoughtful or interesting).

      • T 15 October 2014 at 12:13 am #

        That really sums it up, “we must do our best to stop injustice, but not by making more injustice.”
        Thank you for your post. It was thought provoking.

      • philosiblog 15 October 2014 at 6:30 am #

        Thanks for such a kind comment. I am glad you found it to be of some use. I hope to hear from you again.

        In the mean time, I hope that you take the time to search through the 1200 older posts on this site, for your favorite author or favorite quote.

  7. bhagat singh 20 June 2014 at 10:45 pm #

    As far I understand this statement,
    What is inequality ,it is not having equal things at the same time.
    There can be many types of inequality, social ,economic,physical ,psychological.
    Its natural to have inequality ,even if u take one person ,he will be having different types of characters or qualities in different proportion,that means inequality within himself.

    Now can I make my all character equal in proportion????
    Is it possible????what can be the side effects of it???

    Can I do equal anger ,equal empathy,equl honest ,equally corrupt????equally good and equally bad???
    Ni ,no way,it is simply not possible to have all trait existing equally in a person , then how can we talk of establishing equality in different human being???

    Let’s say government want to treat weaker section differently, but have u ever considered on what grounds they different from upper section????
    Mostly we take one criteria for all person and apply it to all,like they are economically weak,so we try to establish economic equality.
    Now what about physical inequality???? Psychological aspect??? What about health???what about life expectancy ??? What about other many aspects ???? Will they be equal if you establish economic equality???religious aspects ??
    What about the way they taken into account , are they equally represented ???
    Are rich people treated like poor people when they go to poor’s house,why are they treated unequally ???
    So it is very difficult to even come to an equally good conclusion about what is inequality to be taken care off,?
    It is natural to have inequality, if we want to balance it,we are doing inequal treatment to inequality, how will you justify it???

    • philosiblog 22 June 2014 at 7:23 pm #

      Your post is a bit hard to follow, but starting at the beginning, I would say that the flaw is in your premise. You have only addressed the first part, but not the second. The first part of the quote says that the worst way to screw up equality… The second part finishes the sentence. How do you get things that messed up? By declaring things which are not equal to be equal, a grave injustice is done.

      To the lesser, made mighty by decree, the injustice is twofold: first, they have not had the opportunity to enjoy the triumph of their efforts; and secondly, they don’t have the ability, and will fail when called on to do what the others can do.

      To those whom the lesser have been made equal, the injustice is also twofold: first, they have their joy of triumph reduced by having others declared their equal who have not worked to earn that designation; secondly, they see things they could accomplish handed to those who cannot, and are made to feel like they are failures by association when the lesser are unable to accomplish the task.

      It is rare that anything is equal. Even the world’s Kilograms are not equal: see LeGrand K (

      Anyone who has worked with children, or even animals, know that they are not equal, and trying to treat them as equals has repercussions.

      Did that help? If I misunderstood your point (almost guaranteed), please write back, so that I might better understand.

  8. Lrn2Equality 9 November 2013 at 8:13 am #

    This is the stupidest shit I’ve ever read. I don’t think you know what people mean by equality.

    • philosiblog 10 November 2013 at 1:19 am #

      An interesting, if vulgar, comment.

      I think I stated what I believe. What is it you believe? What is it that I don’t get about equality?

  9. philosiblog 8 July 2013 at 4:49 am #

    Turns out this is another misattributed quote. See 3rd entry at for details.


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