Monday, June 10, 2013

“Equality is the soul of equity”


A reader of this website kindly commented on the passage in my last blog that said that the quotation from Richardson (“killing one man is seen as wicked while killing ten thousand is seen as glorious”) points to a double morality. I thought that it would be a good idea to say something more on the idea of “double morality” and, of course, there is a lot to say about it but I didn’t find anything that was good enough to use for my blog or – from another point of view – I wasn’t inspired enough to use what I found on the Internet and in my books and what popped up in my mind. So, I did what I often do then: I took Montaigne’s Essays from my bookcase and I glanced through it. It was no surprise that I ended up in the essay titled “That to study philosophy is to learn to die”, since it is full of underlines in my paper edition, made when I read this essay (which I did several times). The essay is really a place where the reader can find many interesting and stimulating thoughts, and if you want to read at least one essay by Montaigne in your life before you die, this one is a good choice (another good choice is Montaigne’s essay on friendship). It’s almost sure that I’ll use this essay later again here in my blogs, but now my eye was immediately caught by a statement by Montaigne that seemed to apply exactly to the theme of double moral standards: “Equality is the soul of equity”. For isn’t equality the soul of a moral standard that is the same for all? So I thought that this quotation would be a good starting point for a blog on double morality and I still think it is, but then I realized that Montaigne’s statement is even more important in its historical context. For nowadays, more than two hundred years after the French Revolution and 65 years after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights the idea that rights are the same for everybody, which is what this statement implies, is something that goes without saying, albeit it so that often the practice is still different. But in the age of Montaigne justice wasn’t the same for all but it was based on the estate a person belonged to, although in his time the idea of justice based on estate begun to change, after it had reached its summit in the Middle Ages, namely the idea that there is a different kind of justice depending on whether you are a noble, a clergyman or a commoner. However, in this little remark by Montaigne it can be seen that then not everybody agreed with this idea and it shows that the medieval view already became discredited, although it would still last ages, before the idea had faded away, or at least almost…  

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