What is the human condition? This is the crux of the questions like ‘What is normality?’ and ‘What does it mean to be human? There are two ways to answer these questions, each answer takes a different tack and thus sees only PART of the solution. The first kind of answer is one that takes as its reference point the individual: human life is subjective, separated, interior (Levinas’ argument for life as separation.) This argument begins with the individual and applies its’ findings to society. Starting with presumed commonalities of all human beings (analyzed as a collection of individuals, NOT as a collective–the difference is subtle but crucial) like consciousness, freedom of will, creativity/imagination, use of language and symbols, spirituality (possession of a human soul,) etc. All of these kind of analyses have egalitarian motivations: all human beings are assumed to have characteristics x, y, z; characteristics x, y and z are necessary and sufficient conditions for humanity; all humans possessing these characterstics are equally human; therefore, it is a moral imperative to treat all humans equally.
Equal treatment for equal humanity is a cornerstone of absolutist, univeralist political ideology. Western liberalism traces nearly all the evils of the world to ignorance or abusal of this basic human right to equal treatment; accordingly, all the so-called progress of modern society in terms of the material conditions and civil rights (actually deriving liberty FROM equality) of individuals are traced to enacting such ideologies. This is only half of the story, unfortunately. Firstly, it is not yet clear that equal treatment is logical; secondly, it is not yet clear that these kind of ideologies have been or can be effectively put into practive; thirdly, the increased palpability of equality combined with the reality of increased oppression serves as at least a stumbling block for many of these claims.
(perhaps more on this later…)