essay philosophy

Empathy and Equality

The concept of social justice, coupled with widening awareness of the egregious injustice that often exists in the world, occupies our public discourse more and more; the proposition that all of us deserve equity in treatment, opportunity, and rights simply by virtue of being human, and that a fair and just society is laudable and desirable, seems intuitive and natural – after all, you’d find very few people, particularly in democratic societies, who would openly disagree with these sentiments. But far from being “natural”, fairness is radical, and distinctly human.

We are fundamentally creatures of biology, which is to say, our genes are generally a major determinant of the life we end up living. Evolution drives the natural world, which is mercilessly efficient in preserving only the best-adapted genes: survival of the fittest directs life, not morality or justice. In spite of this, one could argue that a trend we see in our millennia-long history is an escape from genetic destiny – humans have flourished because of many non-hereditary factors, including technology and culture, and we have gradually minimized the importance of our genes to survival.