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By Nature Equal:
The Anatomy of a Western Insight
John E. Coons & Patrick M. Brennan
With a foreword by John Witte, Jr.

Hardcover | 1999 | $99.95 | £83.95 | ISBN: 9780691059228
360 pp. | 7 3/4 x 10 | 1 line illus.
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What do we mean when we refer to people as being equal by nature? In the first book devoted to human equality as a fact rather than as a social goal or a legal claim, John Coons and Patrick Brennan argue that even if people possess unequal talents or are born into unequal circumstances, all may still be equal if it is true that human nature provides them the same access to moral self-perfection. Plausibly, in the authors' view, such access stems from the power of individuals to achieve goodness simply by doing the best they can to discover and perform correct actions. If people enjoy the same degree of natural capacity to try, all of us are offered the same opportunities for moral self-fulfillment. To believe this is to believe in equality.

This truly interdisciplinary work not only proposes the authors' own rationale but also provides an effective deconstruction of several other contemporary theories of equality, while it engages historical, philosophical, and Christian accounts as well. Furthermore, by divorcing the "best" from the "brightest," it shows how descriptive equality acquires practical significance. Among other accomplishments, By Nature Equal offers communitarians a core principle that has until now eluded them, rescues human dignity from the hierarchy of intellect, identifies racism in a new way, and shows how justice can be freshly grounded in the conviction that every rational person has the same capacity for moral excellence.


"The authors make a grand tour of Western philosophy, theology, and ethics. They provide brilliant analyses of pertinent thinkers, including Aristotle, Aquinas, Hobbes, Kant, Rousseau. . . . The writing is fluid and engaging."--Library Journal


"A profound and highly original contribution to the literature of philosophy, ethics, theology, and law. . . . By Nature Equal is sagely worded, soundly argued, and written in a clear and accessible style. I read it with great enthusiasm."--John Witte, Jr., Emory University

Table of Contents:

Acknowledgment and Apology
Introduction: In Search of a Descriptive Human Equality 3
Pt. I Human Equality: What does it Mean? 17
1 What Has Been Said? 22
2 The Host Property 39
3 Making the Host Property Uniform 66
Pt. II Could the Philosophers Believe in Human Equality? 91
4 Could the Enlightenment Believe? Individualism, Kant, and Equality 101
5 Nature, Natural Law, and Equality 123
Pt. III Could the Christians Believe in Human Equality? 145
6 The Framework for a Christian Obtensionalism 148
7 Repaving the Road to Hell: The Pelagian Issues 164
8 The Repaving Project, Part II: An Equal-Opportunity Creator 191
Pt. IV Good Persons and the Common Good 215
9 Harmonies of the Moral Spheres 218
10 Harvests of Equality 232
Notes 261
Index 349


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