Published on May 18, 2012 By lulapilgrim In Current Events

The Equality Myth, a Founding Legend

JANUARY 26, 2012

by Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira

All epochs have a founding legend, a myth that reflects the underlying zeitgeist [spirit of the times]. Those, who like us, 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, even 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 or rowdy troublemakers. Some, however, are always more equal than others.

Inequality, a Good in Itself

St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) explains that there are profoundly wise reasons why God created all things with inequality. Here we will basically follow 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 [exemplary cause]. The latter can be outside (e.g. a person, object or landscape) or internally conceived in the mind (e.g. a combination of colors, shapes, sounds, etc.).

Painting by Toby Edward Rosenthal

Every craftsman needs to have before him a model

Well then, 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 necessarily to take Himself as 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, by itself, the infinite perfections of God; for no creature can have a full resemblance of God, but only a partial one.

Therefore, there had to exist many creatures and not only many but also necessarily unequal. Hence, the more species 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.

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.

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.

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. Inequality grows as beings become more perfect. The more perfect the being, the greater the inequality. 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, pure spiritual creatures, are more perfect than men. And in each of these genres, some species are more perfect than others.

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

Painted by Bl. Fra Angelico, detail of the Linaioli Tabernacle

The angels, pure spiritual creatures, are more perfect than men. And in each of these genres, some species are more perfect than others.

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 statues 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 very 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. And the more perfect the Creation, the more the power of God manifests itself by creating different beings.

Twelve Prophets sculpted by Aleijadinho in front of the Sanctuary of Bom Jesus of Matosinhos at Congonhas, Minas Gerais, Brazil. Aleijadinho who was disfigured and crippled by leprosy, created these masterpieces with his chisel and hammer, tied to his fingerless hands.

An even greater creativity would be shown if an artist were to sculpt twenty statues of very different people. Therefore, the greater the inequality in created works, the more they manifest the creative power of their author.

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 with immense order. 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 (one cannot put 15 one-penny coins minted on the same date in order).

The degree of order reflects the degree of the ordering intelligence. (Thus, a not very intelligent person orders books on a shelf according to their size and color, whereas one with a normal intelligence orders them by subject.)

Thus, a not very intelligent person 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.

Therefore, inequality is a good because, through order, it makes the universe mirror the wisdom of God.

V – Inequality in Creation is a good because it makes harmony possible in the universe.

God established a Creation which is a cosmos (that is, an “orderly or harmonious system”), and not a chaos (in Greek mythology, “the initial, shapeless state of the universe”).

For that 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 harmonious combinations of bass and treble, silences and sounds in music or shadows and colors in a 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.

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. Likewise, proportional inequality among musical notes is what makes music and gives it its beauty.

This is true of all beings, from shapeless sands to the most complex organisms, including man, all the way to the angelic world.

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

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.


Comments
on May 18, 2012

I put this article in the philosophy category, but given the first paragraph, welcome discussion on the political, social and ethical aspect as well. 

 

 

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