A central methodological tool in political theory is conceptual analysis which involves defining political terms and critically assessing alternative definitions. A conceptual definition on the meaning of equality proposed by Derek Parfit over twenty years ago has exerted a significant influence over the trajectory of egalitarian discussions to this day. The equality-priority debate, and the emergence of the distinct view of prioritarianism, has characterised theoretical discussions on egalitarianism since. I contend that this influence was due to a misleading step in the conceptual analysis where an overly weak version of ‘equality’ was defined and became the most accepted version for much of the debate since. Although the equality-priority debate as normally portrayed seems the dominant framework to discuss the nature and value of equality, I argue that it is so misguided, it loses normative relevance.
Keywords: egalitarianism | prioritarianism | Derek Parfit | political theory