Title: “What Was the Point of Equality?”
Description: As the defining commitment of modern political philosophy, equality has been spared genealogical scrutiny. Recently, theorists of relational equality like Elizabeth Anderson have returned to the Levellers and other so-called ‘early modern egalitarians’ for contemporary inspiration. Left unexplored is why, in 17th-century England, a centuries-old common piety—that human beings are ‘equal’ by nature—should suddenly became an effective premise of political argument. This lecture explores what the Levellers and their contemporaries meant by ‘equality’ and what the point, as they saw it, was.
Teresa M. Bejan is Associate Professor of Political Theory and Fellow of Oriel College at the University of Oxford. Before coming to Oxford, she taught at the University of Toronto and as a Fellow in the Society of Fellows in the Humanities at Columbia University. She received her Ph.D. with distinction from Yale in 2013, and her dissertation was awarded the American Political Science Association's Leo Strauss Award for the best dissertation in political philosophy in 2015. In 2016, she was elected as the final Balzan-Skinner Fellow in Modern Intellectual History at Cambridge.
This is the keynote lecture for the 13th Annual Graduate Conference on Political Theory, and is co-sponsored by the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics and the Department of Government.