Orlando Hawkins


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Is it possible to have a sense of justice without governments or religions telling us right from wrong

Perhaps a better way to ask this question is do we have an innate sense of justice or injustice?

Let's pretend that we are living in the state of nature or some sort of stateless society that does not rely on some sort of centralized power. Would it be possible to have a sense of justice? Can we trust people to come up with rational decisions w/o a system of government? Or would it be imperative that a system of government be established to tell us right from wrong?

Another aspect to this question would be the issue of relativism and absolutism. Let's pretend that there is a culture who's cultural norm is that "every 2nd child upon the age of 12 must have one arm chopped off". If we are a relativist how do we respond to such an issue? WE all know the dangers of absolutism (i.e. the Gulag) but if someone was to point out the injustice that such a culture is practicing a typical relativist response is "who are you to say that such cultural practices are wrong and a product of injustice"? How do we deal with this issue? Would it be imperialistic to take action?

The second paragraph may have digressed a bit from my original question but the point is, do we have an innate sense of justice (or right or wrong) and if so would we really need governments or God to tell us right from wrong or what constitutes as Justice? If it is the case that we do not have an innate sense of justice, what is the best way to establish our sense of Justice? Religion? Government? Society? What would be the middle ground?

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    Jan 6 2014: I believe that the answer depends on who you are. I have known people that couldn't distinguish right from wrong without having something else to base it on. For them, right is conformance to a law or principle, and wrong is violation of same. Without such a framework, they are at a loss as to how to distinguish between the two. They are easily persuaded by authority or the loudest voice, whichever makes the greatest appearance. And when the pressures of survival are concerned, survival of their own kind gets the greatest attention; the end justifies the means.
    I know adults that believe that you could go to jail for cutting off the tags on mattresses and pillows because that is what the tag says, even when it is their own, bought and paid for. For them, they need a reference to guide them. That is why religions and governments are so popular. They set the guidelines for righteous living by their followers.

    That being said, religions and governments which are corrupt are also very dangerous, since they can persuade others to commit acts, which by nature are evil, but seen as righteous by those who are dependent on leadership. Hitler's reign of terror, and the militant Muslims of the modern world are examples of follow the leader without personal convictions. They believe that they are innocent because they only did what they were told. They do not claim responsibility for their own actions because the decision wasn't theirs.

    By definition, it would be imperialistic to take action against a cultural standard, but that doesn't make it wrong. Many cultural standards are based on old ideologies, which may have been necessary at the time that they were adopted. Those that see the light must not hide it .

    Those who have a moral compass are not the majority. They base their moral convictions on a higher law. Some call it God, some call it the laws of nature. For me, these two are inseparable.
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      Jan 7 2014: Roy, if you've not heard of it before, you might be interested in Kohlberg's Stages of Moral Development. Lots of results if you Google it. The psychologist Lawrence Kohlberg theorised about 3 levels of moral development that we all progress through, but not necessarily through all of them (if that makes sense - I should be in bed :)). It's interesting how closely his descriptions tie in with the observations in your first paragraph. Kohlberg might say that the people you describe hadn't moved past the 2nd level of moral development (the Conventional Level), which is kind of rules-focussed, and onto the 3rd level (the Post-Conventional Level) which is more abstract.
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        Jan 7 2014: Sara,
        I have not heard of it, thanks for the info, I will look it up when I get a chance.
  • Jan 6 2014: I think we all possess a sense of justice but I think its tied to our ego and unfortunately, more often than not, it tends to be limited in scope and related to selfishness. Maybe all structures thatseek to enforce a sense of justice have never been more than a striving for power over others, but to know that we would have to know the minds of the people that formed them and that is impossible. It is hard enough knowing our own minds. We have the potential to be a savage species, but we also have the potential for compassion (which I think is a requisite of true justice) and I think there are countless examples of both through the ages. I have hope for the future because it seems that we are headed towards an understanding that the boundaries that separate us as humans are mostly in our heads. I hope we come to toleration of other cultures and then move past it to acceptance and appreciation of other cultures and ideas. What knowledge has been eternal? What social, philosophical, or scientific idea has remained unchanged through the course of human evolution? None. As we grow we change and I think its a healthy practice to acknowledge to ourselves that none of has the whole picture so none ofus are "absolutely" right about anything.
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      Jan 6 2014: Hi Jacob,

      I like your last point when you said "what Knowledge has been eternal? what social, philosophical or scientific idea has remained unchanged through the course of human evolution"?

      I agree with you on that account but could this be the result of us continually learning? And could it be the case that some of what we know socially, philosophically and scientifically is indeed true? Could possibly be absolutely right?
      • Jan 6 2014: Id say yes to all. Ideas are fleshed out and reformed as we learn more, yes some of our ideas may be completely true but it seem limiting if not dangerous to assume so. We stop questioning and seeking when we assume we "know". Great topic, sir. You sure got the blood pumping for a lot of us!
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    Jan 8 2014: Apparently, I've come a little late to this debate, but felt like pitching in.

    Yes, it is possible to have a sense of justice without government and certainly without religion. We have to learn from others how to be a just person, given that the very definition of justice is absolute bounded by our culture and environment.

    If we did all have born with moral values there would be no difference between all of us on that matter. We would all agree what's right or wrong: just as we all have two lungs we would all think alike.

    That said, government is still the best way to assure an acceptable level of justice. As pointed out in some comments, what is considered just today was not in the past and probably won't be in the future. So, to have a society that live by the same values, it's necessary to have someone providing balance.

    Now, what really amazes me is how some people are still trying to make justice and moral behavior an exclusively religious feature. That is highly offensive, as pointed out by some fellows below and a proof that religious indoctrination is a powerful tool to control narrow-minded people.
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      Jan 13 2014: It's an interesting paradox that we are capable of being moral individuals that can be guided by reason without the constraints of government but yet we still need government to keep us in check.
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        Jan 14 2014: I don't see it as a paradox, but as the consequence of two separate issues that the proposed question raises.

        The first one is that, as a society, we have differences amongst individuals, each one with a certain educational level, a different background, a unique cultural environment and so on. It's in that sense that I put that government is still the best way to provide balance to this inequalities. It works as a safety net so to speak, to guarantee at least some justice.

        The second point is that as individuals we are capable of developing our sense of justice without the influence of that same government, just by the means of education and social improvement. In this level any kind of imposed moral values should be irrelevant.

        So what that means is that we don't get our moral values from the government, on the contrary, society provides the acceptable behaviour and the government makes laws to provide that common ground to everybody. Of course that in such a rich and diverse social structure as we had throughout time, find this common ground has been a constant and difficult struggle, specially to minorities of all kind.

        Maybe my first answer should have been more elaborate from the beginning and go something like this:
        • It's possible as an individual to have a sense of justice without government;
        • It's not possible, for now, as a society to have a sense of justice without government;
        • In both cases, religion is unnecessary.
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    Jan 4 2014: Not sure whether this point has already been raised somewhere and I've missed it, but Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism and Buddhism all have some form of the Golden Rule in their holy writings i.e. treat others as you'd want to be treated yourself. I'd be surprised if that were limited to these religions. So, one of the things I get from that is the Golden Rule is either innate or it's an adaptive philosophy that naturally evolves within societies. Alternatively, you could argue that it's the development process of a religion that frequently gives rise to the Golden Rule as, perhaps, a result of deep reflection - but I think that still points to it being something innate.

    Having said that, we go awry, of course. Our fundamental sense of right and wrong is far from being the only influence on our opinions and behaviours. And the Golden Rule may be simple, but applying it may be complicated. That's where I think religions and good governments come into it. (Good govts = govts whose laws reinforce and don’t massively contradict that universal moral). Every now and then we need a compassionate, deep-thinking Siddhartha Gautama or Jesus or Muhammad to come along and give us guidance and nudge us back on track for a while (or a Gandhi or a ... Geldof? But, without founding a religion, their moral influences are probably less enduring). And good governments also give us a consistent and stable set of rules to deal with moral quandaries and deter more extreme violations of the Golden Rule when we need it.

    So, conclusion: we have an innate sense of right and wrong - or something like it - but as a species we still need religion, governments or some external force to counteract other influences and guide our moral application.
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      E G

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      Dec 30 2013: why don't you answer directly ? I'm not that sensitive or is because you are that sensitive ?
      Look , if you don't want talk with me , it's fine , no problem , you're free to talk with anybody you want to , but do not comment about what I wrote here because in that case I'll interfere .

      Yes, an avocado could come from an apple tree , if the laws that make the apple tree to give apples stop existing for a moment , an avocado could come from the apple tree . A miracle if you want . Nobody can prove miracles don't happen , therefore logically there is a tiny possibility they might happen .

      What about lion is the supreme king of the jungle (this being the hierachy established by nature) ? Should I say 'kill me now' , too ?
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          Dec 30 2013: For those wondering what Chris linked to here's an abstract from the summary on Wikipedia:

          "Dominance hierarchy arises when members of a social group interact, often aggressively, to create a ranking system. In social living groups, members are likely to compete for access to limited resources and mating opportunities. Rather than fight each time they meet, relative relationships are formed between members of the same sex. These repetitive interactions lead to the creation of a social order that is subject to change each time a dominant animal is challenged by a subordinate one."

          And here's from Encyclopedia Britannica:

          "dominance hierarchy, a form of animal social structure in which a linear or nearly linear ranking exists, with each animal dominant over those below it and submissive to those above it in the hierarchy. Dominance hierarchies are best known in social mammals, such as baboons and wolves, and in birds, notably chickens (in which the term peck order or peck right is often applied).

          In most cases the dominance hierarchy is relatively stable from day to day. Direct conflict is rare; an animal usually steps aside when confronted by one of higher rank. Temporary shifts occur; for instance, a female baboon ..."

          It's completely out of context when speaking of TED Conversations, only that the name sounds good when claiming that he's being dominated by group mentality....
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          E G

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          Dec 30 2013: I looked upon your links , the main thing it's said there is about animal social structure , I never denied it exists . I denied there is an hierarchy in the sense of 'lion being the king of the other animals ' or to be more clear in the sense of some animal is more superior than the others BECAUSE the laws of nature established that . The laws of nature are neutral , they do not establish anything like that , they just make the reality possible . Everything else are our constructs . The nature with its laws is like a brute force which doesn't take into account anything , it does not establish hierarchies on this planet , it just exists .
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          E G

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          Dec 30 2013: Why the laws of nature cannot stop exist ? what about a miraculous castastrophe ?
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          E G

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          Dec 30 2013: I said no hierarchy established by the laws of nature . It is different of 'no hierarchy in nature' , there is hierarchy in nature ; social structures creats them ; the laws of nature do not create them .

          It's quite easy : the crocodile .
        • Jan 1 2014: Hyena regularly attack lions, usually as a group attacking lone lions (so usually lone, adolescent males not in a pride) and take the kill from the lion. Lions statistically lose more kills to hyenas than they keep for themselves.

          Not what most people would probably expect, but there you go. Hyena are pretty nasty in a fight. Lions tend to back down unless there are a number of them to be able to face a group of hyena off with little risk of injury.
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          E G

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          Dec 31 2013: Well , that's it then .
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          Dec 31 2013: Chris Kelly,
          If one believes in a god, which I believe E G does, his statement is not a contradiction of terms, as you say.

          Miraculous: "of the nature of a miracle; supernatural; working or able to work miracles"

          Catastrophe: "the final event of the dramatic action esp. of a tragedy; momentous tragic event ranging from extreme misfortune to utter overthrow or ruin; a violent and sudden change in a feature of the earth"

          If one believes in the god of the bible, the god has been responsible for lots of miraculous catastrophes.
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      Dec 30 2013: Well, apples did not come avocados, that's true. However I do believe that you are basing this comment on your ignorance about evolution.

      So here's the scientific classification of both apples and avocados, if we compare them it's quite easy to see that they have a common ancestry.

      Kingdom: Plantae
      Phylum: Magnoliophyta
      Class: Magnoliopsida
      Order: Rosales
      Family: Rosaceae
      Genus: Malus
      Species: M. domestica

      Kingdom: Plantae
      Phylum: Angiosperms
      Class: Magnoliids
      Order: Laurales
      Family: Lauraceae
      Genus: Persea
      Species: P. americana

      So while one belongs to the phylum of Magnoliophyta the other belongs to Angiosperms.

      Their ancestry went apart very long ago.

      So even though you are right Chris, I'm most certain that you are so on the wrong grounds.
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        Dec 30 2013: That's interesting Jimmy thanks. I'm not very scientific, but I AM a gardener, and as such, I am very aware of lots of mixes and cross matches with fruits and vegetables, so to see it described scientifically is interesting. It appears that EG was simply using it as an example (a miracle as he says), and I didn't think the argument against it had much purpose. Now that I see the science behind it, I find it very interesting....thanks:>)
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          Dec 30 2013: I'm glad that you find it interesting Colleen.

          A rule of thumb for cross species hybridization is that they have to at least be in the same Family, if they are also in the same Genus hybridization is way more likely to occur then simply belonging to the same family.

          So if you are doing cross breeding of plats yourself and don't want to rely simply on luck, using Google to check the scientific classification of the plats that you are trying to cross-breed will be really helpful. :)
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        E G

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        Dec 30 2013: That's right Colleen , Jimmy's argument against what I said had no purpose . I was rather talking about the logical possibilities of the miracle .

        Jimmy Strobl :
        I was basing my comment on simple logic , if the way you understand science is in contradiction with logic , then you got a big problem , no offense !!
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          Dec 30 2013: Read Jimmy's comment again E G...it appears to me that he is supporting your argument:>)
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        E G

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        Dec 30 2013: It appears wrong to you he's supporting my argument , no offense . He said that apples and avocados have common ancestry , but he also said that right now is impossible to come an avocado from an apple tree .

        Logically , it's not impossible but possible . The possiblity of a miracle .
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          Dec 30 2013: OK E G, I guess we are interpreting it differently:>)

          In my perception, as a simple gardener, if plants had the same ancestry at one time, and then parted, there is still the possibility for the plants to be reconnected, because each of them may retain a trace of the original ancestry. It could be a miracle, or it could simply be how things in nature work....just my simple interpretation:>)
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          Dec 30 2013: E G,

          I was supporting you... please read the scientific classifications and compare them.

          You see, they have the common ancestry that they both belong to Plantae kingdom (meaning that they are both plants), but they went apart at the Phylum (which is hard for me to summarize what it is in basic English, I guess biology studies would be required).

          As you say you are using simple logic, but I can assure you that using simple logic without the understanding of evolution and the origins of life will get you far astray from what is actually true.

          Nothing can ever "de-evolve" and since they have different ancestry *EDIT from the phylum and onward* it is impossible for an avocado to turn into an apple.

          However there is a term that would describe what you might be thinking about and that is "Convergent evolution" meaning that things that have very different ancestry might (and will often) develop similar traits. Almost making them the same to the naked eye. And that is something that is often mistaken for de-evolution or that evolution can turn anything into anything, however when you look through the microscope you will find that even though they may look the same they are not.
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        Dec 30 2013: Jimmy, I thought you were supporting E G.....thanks for confirming:>)

        For clarity, E G's original comment was NOT that an avocado could "turn into an apple".

        His original comment is: "There is no logical relation that would lead you to the idea that an apple tree never produces an avocado".

        Jimmy, you write..."You see, they have the common ancestry".
        You also write..."Nothing can ever "de-evolve" and since they have different ancestry it is impossible for an avocado to turn into an apple".

        The apple and avocado DO have a common ancestry, which you confirm, and E G simply stated that "There is no logical relation that would lead you to the idea that an apple tree never produces an avocado".

        I suggest that with the common ancestry, and what we know about cross pollination, there is nothing to lead ME to the idea that a cross pollinated tree could not produce a cross pollinated apple/avocado.
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          Dec 30 2013: Colleen,

          Please see my comment above to you. However I think that we should perhaps stop the in-depth conversation about this as it isn't the right Conversation to discuss this topic. I will however be glad to further inform you about how it works if you can find or create a suitable conversation.
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        Dec 30 2013: I saw your comment above....thanks Jimmy:>)
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          Dec 30 2013: I wrote a long response then I realized that I was taking up space on Orlandos' conversation to no use.
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        E G

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        Dec 30 2013: Colleen , you basically synthesized everything . Thanks .

        Jimmy Strobl :

        I see I misunderstood you first time , I was thinking your comment had something to do with mine (and such minded I read your comment) , it hadn't much , but thanks for clarification .
        Nothing can de-evolve and the convergent evolution do not leads to the identity between two organisms . What results is , obviously , that by the way of evolution an apple tree doesn't make avocados . I guess I agree .
        However , logically there is still the possibility an apple tree could make avocados --- and that is the possibility of a miracle .

        I don't agree that when I use simple logic I get far astray from the truth if I don't know much about evolution . It isn't possible as long as the theory of evolution is based on logic . On the contrary , if I go far enough , I might rediscover the theory of evolution .
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          Dec 31 2013: Well I guess that if you believe in miracles anything is possible...

          Logic is very useful but it must be accompanied by knowledge to be useful. Say that you didn't know about the universe, our galaxy or what stars were. What would be your logical conclusion when looking up into the night sky? I doubt that you'd think that those white dots were just a fragment of what was really out there and you would not think that they are many times bigger then the earth is.

          "On the contrary , if I go far enough , I might rediscover the theory of evolution ."

          I really like that comment, you are absolutely right. That was Charles Darwin did so now you don't have to spend your entire life gathering evidence for it, you can just order The Origin of Species. :)
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          Dec 31 2013: Thanks for the feedback E G:>)
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        E G

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        Dec 31 2013: For a moment yes , I would not think those things , but in 2000 years I would probably get to the same conclusions modern science did .
        I ordered The Origins of Species quite a bit of time ago , I didn't read it all , there were a lot of stories about pigeons , and other domestic animals in the first chapters ......... it wasn't really what interested me . What interested me was the principle of evolution and guess what , I found it in the first chapters too --- natural selection with the survival of the fittest and something about different types of variations which occur in organisms .
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      Dec 30 2013: Hang in there Chris.... I did hear of a fellow who cut in an avocado branch into an apple tree trunk to see if it would grow... I don't know how it turned out... if it worked you could make the claim that avocados grow on apple trees... I have said more with less....
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      Dec 30 2013: For people who claim to not be scientists and wondering about evolution this picture might help you get a grasp on how the classification of species work. There are better pictures but then I'd have to either search longer or provide download links that nobody will use.

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          Dec 30 2013: This comment that you made was both passive aggressive and arrogant Chris Kelly. Even if you read my comment as such it was not my intention to be either.
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    Dec 29 2013: I think that humans do have a basic sense of justice. But since we do have an animal nature...ie, being alpha, being greedy and all the other more atrocious stuff we do to enhance our selves or act out anger, we do need a system of enforceable laws for protection from others who might not be as compassionate.
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      Dec 30 2013: HI Helen,

      well said! That was my one of main concerns about the question I was going to ask. If there was no system of government in place to keep conduct in order, what exactly could we do to serial killers and rapist? Is there a way in which we could tell if their actions are immoral and how would we come about this?
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        Dec 30 2013: I guess we would live like beasts and engage in vicious retribution. After all humans are or can be motivated by more than instinct. We can make choices based on reason.
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        Dec 30 2013: I might add that humans have a sense of self awareness that animals do not.
  • Dec 26 2013: Doesn't justice come from what the leader (or most powerful individual in a society) would like things to be? The populace ultimately want the survival of the group so that the leader is chosen because they can demonstrate that they have the power to ensure that food is shared, medicine administered, property divided fairly etc etc. This is to ensure the survival and health of the group. The leader is elected/endorsed because he or she can ensure the survival of the group by these methods.

    In animal groups too, the dominant male, has things the way he wants for the same able reason. He administers justice but only because the group want it.
    • Dec 26 2013: Yes, stripped of all complexities justice looks like the instinct of survival, individual or collective.
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      Dec 28 2013: In a state or government like system your analysis is correct. this is only the case when people believe that they are incapable of being reasonable with one another and therefore appoint a leader or ruler to tell them what to do.

      This can also be the case when you consider population and scarcity. Depending on the size of the population, there would need to be someone to keep count of the food source and make sure it is equally distributed.

      Personally i think all this can be done democratically or within the community. I personally believe that people can be reasonable in that way. You'll have your issues of course but for the most part I think it could work. How this would come about is something that I am not sure of.

      You are correct about what you said about the animal groups and the good thing about being human is that we have the capacity to not be all too human (or animalstic).
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    Dec 26 2013: An interesting topic Orlando. As thinking beings we are able to create logical justification for any action at all even for something that other people find absolutely heinous. So since we rely very heavily on thought processes to determine things such as justice, we tend to arrive at models of justice that fit a particular group's ideas around fairness. I would like to point out that thought itself is an an action we perform, a tool we use. Thought creates a false reality for each of us and ultimately dangerous unsatisfying societies. If anyone along this thread accepts this concept then it begs a question.what would a sense of justice look like among a group of people who did not overuse the 'thought' tool?. It would come from a feeling instead and that feeling is called compassion.
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      Dec 26 2013: Good points Joanne, and I accept the concept you offer. Do you think/feel those who push their beliefs onto others generally have a sense of compassion? It seems that they may be so engaged with their righteousness that they do not see or feel beyond it?
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        Dec 27 2013: Hi Colleen thanks :).To answer your question, righteousness and compassion are not really the same thing, would you agree Colleen? Someone acting from righteousness is attempting an act of dominance and so its about THEM not the other. I think you raise an interesting nuance into the talk as how do we tell the difference between righteousness and compassion even within ourselves? I think most mothers and many fathers can answer that question for us as its a kind of feeling that stems from selflessness when confounded by love.
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          Dec 27 2013: Joanne,
          I absolutely agree that righteousness and compassion are not at all the same thing, and I did not suggest that at all. In fact, I perceive righteousness, when used to control and dominate others, totally lacks compassion. That is why I asked the question, because I agree with your idea that a feeling of justice may come from a sense of compassion.

          The challenge seems to be that some who try to control and dominate others by pushing their own beliefs onto others, sometimes think they are being compassionate. It seems to go back to another part of this discussion.....what is reasonable? A person who is reasonable may have a sense of justice and a sense of compassion. My perception, is that different people use a different compass to decide what is reasonable, compassionate or just.

          As I said, it seems that those who want to control and dominate with their own beliefs, may be so engaged with their righteousness that they fail to see or feel beyond it. Everyone can create an argument that supports their own personal beliefs.
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        Dec 27 2013: Hi Colleen, I think ethics is a difficult topic to discuss at the best of times. A sense of righteousness is the most common and convenient justification for any action trivial or otherwise . Hitler and Stalin felt extremely righteous no doubt, and I have listened to horrible criminals take a righteous stance too , when asked about their crimes. I think that goes with the territory. In other words its part of the mind and the way it works to use a sense of righteousness to justify actions we, deep down, know are wrong. In this sense, righteousness is the very antithesis of compassion .

        This is because we are not just our mind. Our mind is something we have evolved to assist us to work and collaborate in larger societies. Our unique mental tool actually creates a kind of false reality for us most of the time. If we are to be free, our mind should be our servant and not our master. When it becomes our master we are a slave to IDEAS and illusory consequences . When the mind is only our servant, we do not need governance.
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          Dec 28 2013: Hmm, this is an interesting conversation that is going on here for you both bring up excellent points

          There is obviously an issue here in regards to the relationship between one's motives and one's actions. Personally I do not buy into the righteousness argument too much. There could perhaps be people that are completely ignorant or unaware of their wrongdoing. When we are talking about extremely heinous crimes and just pure human cruelty, could it really be argued that some of these individuals were acting because they thought they were doing the right thing? It is true that both Hitler and Stalin justified their actions by invoking some sort of higher principle but I believe they were well aware of the suffering that was involved.

          I believe at some point, when you see another individual(s) suffer at your hands and see first hand the pain that they are experiencing, you know that what your doing could perhaps be wrong for the person who is suffering.

          Interesting comments though. Wish I would of jumped in much sooner.
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          Dec 28 2013: Hi Joanne,
          I don't agree that ethics is a difficult topic to "discuss"....we've seen quite a few conversations on that topic here on TED. It does however, seem like it is difficult for some people to apply to the life experience.

          I agree that "a sense of righteousness is the most common and convenient justification for any action". That is why I continue to express the idea that one's perception of justice/injustice may be relative, depending on an individual's personal beliefs. I too have heard offenders try to justify their crimes using their own "logic" and "reason".

          That was the reason for the "cognitive self change" sessions I co-facilitated with incarcerated offenders. We simply asked "how would you feel if someone did to you, what you did to that person"? We tried to light a little spark of compassion, and tried to get the offenders to question their actions/reactions which usually put them behind bars. We tried to get them to see and feel that the logic and reason they were using was not really very logical, reasonable or practical.

          I agree that the mind has evolved to assist us to work and collaborate in societies, and the stories we tell ourselves with mind chatter, can indeed create a false reality. Until we change those stories, we continue to function with a story that supports behaviors, and behaviors that supports our story as we have accepted it.

          If we are to be free, I suggest that it is important to KNOW THYSELF.
    • Dec 29 2013: "what would a sense of justice look like among a group of people who did not overuse the 'thought' tool?."

      What about a group of indigenous hunter- gatherers who obviously don't overuse the ' thought ' tool ? Most likely they wouldn't understand what justice means. They have the sense ( a sense not a notion ) of of interconnectedness of all things instead. Everything is happening here and now, condensed at the present moment ; what is , simply is, it can't be unjust because it can't be otherwise. If it is the case the notion of justice has no meaning.

      But the truth is, i don't have a clue how they perceive reality, alas !
    • Dec 29 2013: I would say we misuse the ' thought' tool. We use it to think our problems into existence and when we face them we perceive them as an 'objective reality' and start to think how to solve them inevitably creating new thought-hurdles to overcome.
      It's misuse. Would you agree ?
      ' Thinking' is a precious commodity and we don't have enough of it to answer the question
      " Who am I ? "

      What would a sense of justice look like for a person who knows ?
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        Dec 30 2013: I agree Natasha and I think you have picked up on the point I was trying to make. Unless we learn this lesson we are forever caught on the mind's treadmill and are lost from our own humanity.
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        Dec 30 2013: I agree with your ideas Natasha and Joanne,
        Joanne, you mentioned compassion in a previous comment as part of a sense of justice. Natasha mentions a sense of interconnectedness of all things, and I believe these concepts to all fit together. When we have a sense of interconnectedness, there tends to be more compassion, which contributes to a sense of justice?

        I agree that the thought process in relationship to justice/injustice can be overused, because with thoughts, people can justify almost anything. So perhaps with certain thoughts, some folks may not have a sense of justice/ interconnectedness/compassion? It is very difficult to feel compassionate if one is focusing on his/her own personal gain, and I believe that what we focus on expands. As you insightfully say Joanne...."unless we learn this lesson we are forever caught on the mind's treadmill and are lost from our own humanity".

        How do we apply this information in the daily life? What is the practical use for this information? Back to Joanne's original question...""what would a sense of justice look like among a group of people who did not overuse the 'thought' tool?."

        I suggest that people are NOT going to stop thinking. Who decides, or how is it decided, that the "thought tool" is overused or underused?
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          Dec 31 2013: Hi Colleen, the mind evolves an endless array of scenarios, rules and expectations that are increasingly complex and compelling. A lot of it is quite useful stuff that we need to participate in, in order to run our encreasingly complex daily lives. A lot of stuff we think and believe and worry about is just useless delusion that wears us down and uses up our precious life force for no purpose. However it IS a relatively simple learning experience to begin to connect with ourselves without the monkey chatter. It is very fulfilling and satisfyimg to live like this, not as a slave, but as a free human. I think when people practice this and understand it they usually want to continue like that. I cannot predict whether or not people will begin to try to find this path but I hope they do.
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        Dec 31 2013: Natasha, I think people have an inner guide that is compassionate. At the moment,, as our world is currently, most of us rarely connect with it.
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          Dec 31 2013: I agree with what you said in your previous comment Joanne...."a lot of stuff we think and believe and worry about is just useless delusion that wears us down and uses up our precious life force...."

          I believe it is MUCH MORE simple and useful to genuinely connect with ourselves without the mind chatter (monkey chatter as you call it) because, as you insightfully say, the mind chatter is often delusional....either rehashing the past, or projecting the future....neither of which is the reality in the moment. I agree that it is fulfilling and peaceful to live like this.....in the moment. One of the first steps, is to recognize it for what it is, then there is a possibility of changing the pattern.

          I also agree that people have an inner guide that may be compassionate, and I believe the majority of people DO connect with it. Although I am very aware of injustice in our world, I am also very aware of all those who demonstrate compassion, a feeling of interconnectedness and justice in every single moment. What we focus on expands.....in my humble perception:>)
        • Jan 2 2014: Probably, this inner guide is the sense of interconnectedness, which is the precondition for love, compassion. We have lost touch with this sense, because of intellect, thinking . I don't see another way to bring it back, but through thinking intellect....i think :)
          Happy New Year !
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        Jan 3 2014: Hi Natasha....Happy New Year!
        You say...."probably, this inner guide is the sense of interconnectedness, which is the precondition for love, compassion".

        This stimulates the question for me.....which comes first? Is the sense of interconnectedness a precondition for love and compassion? Or is compassion a first step toward feeling interconnectedness?

        I feel that we cannot give something out to others, that we do not have in ourselves. So, it seems that a sense of compassion and justice (love) in and for ourselves might be needed before we can feel interconnections with others? What do you think?
  • Dec 25 2013: Humans, even animals, certainly have some innate sense of justice. But because humans have the ability to think intelligently or have the individual judgment, so that they may develop certain additional concept of justice or injustice either by themselves while getting older, or by the teaching of past philosophers.
    At least in my opinion, the government "law" as well as religious doctrine are not very reliable, because they are made BY MAN. Occasionally, certain government or religion are led by people who are almost absolutely immoral, so how could they make (religious or governmental) "laws" for justice?
    In history, there have been few people who became hermits to be isolated from the religion or government. There have also been people who declared themselves as free from government taxes or citizen obligations (conscientious objectors, etc.) ,but they were far and few who could survive for long!
  • Timo X

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    Jan 19 2014: In the beginning there was nothing. Then the government created God, who shaped man in his likeness, and woman from his likeness's rib. Adam and Eve, as they were called, soon fell for a reverse timeshare scam in which they traded their access to paradise for the knowledge of morality. How outrageous they now felt about this grave injustice! Regardless, it was a good day for God, for he had two followers now. And he Tweeteth: 'Go forth and multiply, so sayeth your LORD YAHWEH.’ Adam and Eve felt much happier after this commandment and kept themselves quite busy. So much, in fact, that God decided to add: ‘Do not unfollow if you want back in paradise. Oh and all my pics are (c), so don't you jelly bitches dare steal!' Perhaps he was a tad jelly himself. Either way, all were happy and obedient, and the government saw that it was good and that none suspected anything about 9/11.

    Thus proving the divine origin of copyright and all lesser issues of morality.

    EDIT: The point, of course, being that neither God nor the government could be the source of people's ideas because they are merely institutionalized forms of people's ideas. As for your question regarding moral relativism, the relativist will certainly answer: 'It depends' . But if you ask me, I answer: there is only one reality, there is only one humanity, and therefore only one morality. The specifics of this morality may be fuzzy sometimes, but the Gulag is not moral institution in anyone's book.
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    Jan 6 2014: I think trying to define what is right and what is wrong is the first problem. Just look at our own country and how divided it is on politics. Each party believes they are right. I think that right or wrong can boil down to what is considered human or conversely inhuman. This can vary greatly depending upon situational circumstances of the human(s) in question. I believe that humans living in conditions that are difficult for survival will ultimately make choices and decisions based on their own survival needs. A person in this case will often make decisions that are considered wrong in our society, such as lie, steal, or even kill. To this person, showing empathy or compassion may even be detrimental to their own survival, in fact, these natural and best of our human emotions may have left the person entirely. Humans living in prospering communities that support and rely on each other for survival may have a tendency to develop more of those "caring" emotions, and because the pressure for survival is minimal, the mind can suppress the more animalistic, archaic survival emotions. So I think right and wrong is a social viewpoint, not one that is innately human. We learn from a young age what is socially right and wrong. We learn from our environment, friends, school, parents, television, etc. So I think that what is considered just will vary greatly from person to person. Possessing a bottle of alcohol during the prohibition would see you jail time, but now it's ok to purchase a barrel. I live in Colorado and a year ago to possess marijuana would get you in jail, now you can purchase/possess it legally. So ultimately we have to do as our laws dictate, but that doesn't mean that they are always correct. Every person has their own moral compass. Just go with what it's telling you, because it's most likely just a product of the sum of your life experiences anyhow.
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    Jan 6 2014: Ok Thanks to Colleen Steen I was able to extend the time for the conversation!!!! Never knew you can do that, so if you did read my previous post disregard it please.
  • Jan 6 2014: I meant no disrespect when I said that you had made me chuckle.

    To me it's pretty clear that even when/where stoning, etc. takes place, it does not occur in every instance where a law is broken and a crime committed. It seems to me that to enforce the letter of the law completely would leave large swathes of the population without hands, or dead. To disable your workforce in such a way is In practice severely disabling to your whole community, not just individuals. This seems to be clear even to the most fanatical believers. They choose not to enforce the letter of the law in every instance. That's where the religious morals and laws stand.

    Then we see religious laws that don't stand. It seems clear that, for instance, Christians have turned their backs on what the Old and New Testaments both say about slavery. I personally believe that religions are products of their time. We live in a world now vastly different to the Bronze Age or Iron Age. Most people, in the Western World at least, have rejected the barbarism of the old religions. In Britain we see the church having to make some stark choices. Either accept that women will be able to become priests, or see large numbers of people leave the church. Either ignore Paul's instructions about the roles of women and men in the church, or face bankruptcy (of a sort). It appears that churches in general have chosen to ignore certain rules, laws, and instructions rather than have large parts of their congregations leave.

    Man-made religions, with man-made laws that do not stand the test of time. Where people try to enforce ancient laws and morality, it usually is leads to unpleasantness. It would seem illogical to imagine that 'God' changed his mind and didn't bother to turn up and tell anyone!

    Have I answered the question? Maybe not, so ask away if you have more questions.
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      Jan 6 2014: Hi Dave,

      No offense taken and yes you have answered my question in saying that we are the one's who decide what right and wrong is. It was a great post to read
      • Jan 6 2014: And there was me wondering for a few hours whether I'd offended you in some way. I think that you're too kind.

        Was there a purpose to the original post? Was this for any academic purpose? Was it just for personal interest?

        If you don't want to reply publicly, I understand. Just drop me a line privately if you'd prefer. (I'm just curious.)
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          Jan 8 2014: Hi Dave,

          Well you did mention that you meant no offense and I take you for your word so there was no need for me to be offended but I was not offended in the first place and I do appreciate your apology.

          To answer your questions, I'm just a natural thinker (probably like everyone else here on TED). Most of my day is devoted to thinking about philosophical and scientific issues and if I'm not thinking about them I"m writing them down or reading books. As for this question, a friend of mine asked if it was possible to have a sense of justice without government and I didn't think the answer I provided was sufficient so I posted the question on TED to get a better idea of the issue (which worked out pretty well).

          I just graduated from my university last spring as a philosophy major and I didn't want to lose my philosophical touch so I'm looking for ways to keep my mind active.
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    Jan 3 2014: @Krisztian, go to India and ask them if they don't know about justice. How can you claim such a childish statement in a public forum? Quite embarrassing.
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      Jan 3 2014: Learn English.
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        Jan 3 2014: Join an English coaching academy instead of advising me that. You need it more.
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      Jan 3 2014: yeah, some people don't get sarcasm. i need to learn that. it was sarcasm, okay?

      help: you claimed that muhammad gave people the concept of justice. it means that hindus, christians, buddhists and followers of all other religions have no idea what justice is.

      this statement is so terribly wrong i can't wrap my head around it.
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        Jan 3 2014: read the few sentences in my comment before this statement which you quoted from my comment. That is the answer to your question.

        If you think it is wrong, then I can't help you in this regard.
  • Jan 1 2014: I believe that in general the term 'justice' is unhelpful. It brings to mind more the written law, rather than why we have those laws. However, it's still a great question!

    I believe that in general, we empathise with those around us. When we do, we feel their pain and don't want to feel that pain, even if it is vicariously. We also understand that, to some extent or other, what goes around comes around. One doesn't have to believe in reincarnation and Karma to understand that if you contribute to a society in a negative way, it can come around and bite you in the backside!

    There is no good and evil, other than what we decide, or what others would like to decide for us. What is evil is often negative for society as a whole, while what is good is often positive for a society. However, moral values are often a snap-shot of where a society is during any one period of time, and as circumstances change, so, often, do moral values.

    As we understand the intricacies of the brain more fully, we understand that the psychopath isn't evil... just doing what psychopaths do because his brain doesn't work like ours. Whether you want to conclude that the psychopath's brain is 'broken' in some way, or he's just got a different model of brain to those of us that aren't psychopaths is probably a more difficult question to answer.

    Good and evil are moral judgements largely based on religious terms. One could easily substitute the words holy and unholy instead. I'm not sure religion is at all helpful. The sick need understanding and humane treatment. They may need to be separated from the rest of society to keep the wider populace safe, but punishment, retribution, etc? It would be like beating a blind man to death because he bumped into someone on a train platform and they fell in front of a train and died (assuming this was not the intent of the blind man). Maybe not the best example, but hopefully you get the point!

    I could say a lot more, but...
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      Jan 5 2014: Hi Dave,

      I do agree with your statement about Justice being unhelpful and the more I've been interacting on this thread, the more I end up talking about morality instead of Justice (which I do believe have some aspect of morality and ethics).

      Ok so you mentioned that good and evil is what we decided that it is. I agree with that. But then you mentioned that it's based on religious terms, which for most people would be something that transcends this world....so are you essentially saying that religion is man-made and we decide what is good and bad in the so called "good-books"?
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    Jan 1 2014: Natasha Nikulina :

    I think we do have the innate knowledge of good and evil and I also think we're born with the sense of good and evil . When I say we have the innate knowledge of good and evil , I mean to say we are born with the knwoledge of what intrinsically good and evil are . When I say we're born with the sense of good/evil , I mean to say we have 'the innate ability to get to know what is good and evil' .
    One can't exist without the other .

    The sense of the notions of good/evil ==== an ability to get to know notions (in this case the notions of good and evil) . This specific sense is intellectual in nature .
    I don't see the game of sematics between notions and senses . What about you ? Do you still see it ?

    What you say intelligence is , looks a lot like what I say the sense of good and evil is . But why did you say there is no such thing as good/evil in nature ? I mean , how can your concept of 'intelligence' be effective without there being good and evil ?

    "How can we have an innate (natural ) sense of any of these abstract notions ?" (quoted)

    As I specified , the innate sense of the NOTIONS of good and evil is something different of the innate sense of good and evil . I'm sure you understand why .

    Am I specific enough ? If not , feel free to say because this is the single way to reach to certain conclusions .

    (you did not offend me at all , on the contrary I apologize if I let you with that impression) .

    Happy New Year , too !!!!!
    • Jan 2 2014: Hi, LG !
      You say :
      "One can't exist without the other ."
      I think, it's the way it is and it means that ONE IS THE OTHER simultaneously, but perceived as
      May i ask you to reconcile it with " the knowledge of what intrinsically good and evil . .." ?
      I have a problem with ' INTRINSICALLY ' here for it means that good/evil are fixed forever as good OR evil, hence independent from perception.

      BTW. being an ordinary human being i percieve in 'good OR evil' fashion, but i know that it's my mind/ego limitation not the intrinsic feature of nature. Is limitation good or bad ?
      Neither and both.:)

      "how can your concept of 'intelligence' be effective without there being good and evil"

      Intelligence doesn't judge/discriminate, intellect does. Imagine that you see all points of past and future with equal clarity, how good turns into evil and vice versa.
      What will you see ?
      - Change, Becoming , Existence. It's what nature is all about.

      Thanks for responding !
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        Jan 3 2014: Hi :

        I don't agree with your relativism , I think good and evil are intrinsic features of nature .

        1. I agree that we get to know things (good and evil in this case) by the way of perception but it still doesn't mean that good and evil are only perceptions and nothing more .

        2. You're saying that if our minds/egos weren't limited , good and evil would stop existing . How could you know this ? You can't know it from experience because you're a limited being ; as it seems from your comment you think you know it from your deductions ; doesn't seem peculiar to you to start from direct reality and to get to entirely opposite conclusions ?

        3. There are intellectual perceptions ; the way you got to know that the ''good and evil' fashion' is false was most likely by the way of intellectual perceptions . Why would you trust this perceptions and the others not ?

        4. I look in the past with as much clarity as I'm capable of and I don't see how good turns into evil and vice versa . In fact I think the lack of clarity make people see that good turns into evil and vice versa . And btw , I still see change , becoming , existence .

        5. When you say that nature is existence you actually say that things exists ; not everything is change , becoming .

        I also think we could percive good and evil as sense or knowledge but I don't see the need to reconcile it with the idea that good and evil are independent from perception . I gave you the 5 reasons above why I don't see the need to reconcile .

        ' Intelligence doesn't judge/discriminate ' , it just flows through us . There are problems with this view --- first of them is that science can't indetify this 'intelligence' . Secondly , it doesn't make any sense to appeal to concepts as 'intelligence' to explain reality when we could simply explain it by our experiences ..........

        I talked directly because it was easier , please do not feel offended .

        Thank you for responding too !!!
        • Jan 4 2014: Hi, LG, sorry for the delay with my response !
          We can discuss all your 5 points and beyond, but it won't lead us anywhere.:)
          May i suggest you to move to your home ground ? You are a christian , right ? Probably a practicing christian. You trust the Scriptures.
          If this is the case, could you please comment on this :
          ( I mean give me your own understanding )
          "...but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die."
          What happened there ? There was a shift of focus that brought death into the picture. Why is the knowledge of good/evil coupled with death ?
          Or another quote from the Bible, that can illustrate my point :

          “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven "

          What is the special gift of infancy that is destroyed by the act of growing up ?

          Thank you !


          It's important to understand that by 'little children' Jesus meant new born babies. Here is the quote from the gospel of Thomas :

          Jesus said, "The person old in days won't hesitate to ask a little child seven days old about the place of life "
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        Jan 3 2014: The all debate above is between the concept of 'intelligence' you proposed as opposite to the view that good and evil are innate and exist . All we did by now was to get to understand eachother's position , so now we either move on or we stop ; there isn't much time left , I let it up to you .

        I think that the view that good and evil are innate and exist is compatible with the reality ; I can't say the same thing about yours but I can't say it isn't either .
        • Jan 4 2014: "The all debate above is between the concept of 'intelligence' you proposed as opposite to the view that good and evil are innate and exist ."
          I didn't question ' exist' , sure it does, but good/evil exist in our mind and materialised in reality we inhabit.
          OK, let's place the quotes in the context of our discussion.
          The ability to know good and evil is in place in seven days old baby ,( neural programming was written by natural selection...etc. or 'ancestral' sin, which is pretty much the same ) but hasn't been exercised yet. That's why little children are in heaven for absence of good/evil is heaven, it's intrinsic/timeless/eternal. The moment you start to separate good from evil ( you've gained the sense of separate self, ego is growing; the potential ability becomes actual ) you are in the game, in existence not in heaven and "you will surely die", your sense of self, ego will surely die. When/if your ego takes hold on you, you are ready to create your own personal hell here, there is no other place.
          By 'intelligence' i meant the manifestation of this absence of good/evil, image of heaven which goes through us undisturbed, when we are little (new born ) children, we are in heaven.
          What i am trying to say is that good/evil is perceptional and temporal, we don't inherit it from nature.Nature is governed by itelligence, it's all harmonising force, there is no death only life. " As above so below", but what we do take with birth is the ability to get to know good/evil to cretae experience, where good is not possible without evil.
          It's my understanding, nothing more :)

          Thanks for the conversation !
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        Jan 5 2014: It was interesting hearing it !!!

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    • Jan 1 2014: Carolyn,

      Could you give some examples of nature being mutually beneficial,collaborative,silly,and even seriously invested with goodwill?
  • Dec 31 2013: I imagine that the concept of justice has been around since humans became self aware. The feeling of being wronged and wanting to right that wrong has probably existed since we have been living in groups of 3 or more. I might go so far to say that the attempt to understand these feelings of right and wrong helped give birth to religion and that the first "governments" created werethere to protect this sense of justice. Unfortunately, I'm afraid that greed is probably not much, if any, younger than justice. I get the feeling that as humans became more "civilized" they felt less connected to the people around them and it was easier for them to "justify" being greedy.
    • Dec 31 2013: "... the concept of justice has been around since humans became self aware. "

      Maybe you are referring to a 'sense of self' ?
      A sense of self is a sense of separateness, when it came into being, there were no concepts as such.

      When we are self aware we don't need concept of justice we have love instead :)

      Happy New Year !
      • Dec 31 2013: I guess I don't really know which of those I meant. I was trying to imagine that point in time when human beings first started forming the ego. Whatever step it was that brought "I" into the picture. I don't figure they had or needed any concepts at that point. I was trying to refer to the "feeling" of justice, fairness, and rightness that was surely here before any concepts were built around it. I appreciate the sentiment of having love instead of justice, but most of us (myself included) are not that evolved. We still harm others, both directly and indirectly. There is a world full of people that have love in their hearts and still cry out for justice. Happy new year to you too, be safe out there tonight TED community. I look forward to more conversations in 2014.
        • Jan 2 2014: " I was trying to refer to the "feeling" of justice, fairness, and rightness that was surely here before any concepts were built around it."

          I wouldn't be that sure :) I think there is no priority here ( actually, anywhere ). We shape our concepts and they shape us. Chicken/egg issue is always in the menu, whatever we try to digest :)


          "There is a WORLD FULL of PEOPLE that have love in their hearts and still cry out for justice." ( the emphasis is mine :) )

          You've globalised it, put it on the world's scale ; scale creates the phenomenon - abstraction. It can be misleading. I think, everything must be tested against your own experience .
          What justice means to you when you are in love ? Does justice/injustice regulate your relationship with someone you love more then yourself ? Does your child's misbehaviour influence your attitude ? You love whatever , right ? I do !
          When there is love , there is no need for justice.
          How is love connected to self awareness ? Probably you know :)

          Thanks for responding !
      • Jan 3 2014: Once again I have mispoken, but I hope you can help me better understand. Wasthere a point in human eevolution when language was not developed enough to express concepts, especially abstract ones like justice? I have been working under a definition of justice I pulled from the internet: just behavior or treatment. I guess my question would be did early humans have internal feelings of being wronged before they had the cognitive ability to think abstractly, or did they become aware of there feelings of unfairness only after they were able to express this feeling to others. I kind of assumed the desire to express abstract thoughts was the drive behind the development of language.
        • Jan 4 2014: "did early humans have internal feelings of being wronged before they had the cognitive ability to think abstractly, or did they become aware of there feelings of unfairness only after they were able to express this feeling to others.'

          I've understood your question in the first version and have little to add : what comes first chicken or egg ?
          Language is a remembering device, it structures our human existence in time . How could we feel being wrong/wronged without a memory of the event when something something has been done ? Memory can't be organised without language, we can't enter the territory if we can't language it. That's why we don't have infant memories, because it's our before language state.
          On the other hand, language is a mirror of our Psyche and is developing in the attempt to create a word/concept that corresponds to what we have already, but not yet named.
          So.....? I can only tell, that language is in perfect congruence with perception and somehow they create each other simultaneously.
          If you are interested, i may suggest you to google Hopi or Piraha language, these languages have no Past Tenses in their grammar, you'll see how it influences the world view of the people whose mind was shaped by them. Piraha people live entirely in the Present ( at least they did until 2006 ) I don't think they have justice/injustice notion ; if everything happens now, it simply is, so justice makes no sense .
          Hope it helps :)
  • Dec 30 2013: "Justice lives in the halls of nature"- Keith W Henline
    I believe if you are seeking true justice you are most likely to find it in nature. When we are surrounded in it nature appears as chaos but when we look at nature from a broader perspective it appears more organized and all works together like a synchronized organization, only then can we see the real justice.
    Einstein said "I am satisfied with the mystery of life's eternity and with a knowledge, a sense, of the marvelous structure of existence -- as well as the humble attempt to understand even a tiny portion of the Reason that manifests itself in nature."
    If Einstein was humbled by even a tiny portion of the reason in nature, well that's good enough for me. I completely agree with Einstein's view and I believe justice and reason must go hand in hand. I also see our present day laws much like Aristotle did: “Law is mind without reason”
    Whenever I think of what is just, I constantly think of what happens in nature.
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    Dec 30 2013: well it's up to each personne to have a sense of hummanity bcz i think being a good humane been means a fair personne
    and if each one was fair to himeself and people = a society have sense of justice without governments or religions telling us right from wrong..or maybe i am wrong .
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      Dec 31 2013: Hi Don, and welcome to TED conversations!

      I agree with you Don.... a sense of humanity, compassion, and justice has to start with each of us as individuals....I think you are right:>)
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    Dec 30 2013: Governments don't tell us what's right or wrong. They tell us what we may or may not do. Our sense of right and wrong comes from empathy, not rule by a central power. That being said, if we wish for any kind of justice system, we need to establish a code of conduct. Though a justice system doesn't necessarily need to be a prison system, and a code of conduct doesn't necessarily need to be established or enforced by a central authority. That's just simply the implementation we find ourselves in at this time.

    Religion is a different animal, though the degree to which this is true can certainly vary. If we have a central religious authority - i.e. the Spanish Inquisition or a theocracy - then perhaps we again have a government. But if we can separate any pseudo-political-religious authority from scripture, then maybe scripture is worth reading. Even from an atheist's perspective, scripture (whether Judaic, Vedic or other) can be seen as the thoughts and insights of other humans, and can be read as suggestions rather than rules. The values and statements in scripture, if truth, stand on their own.

    I would agree that looking to government as an authority on what one should or shouldn't do is a huge mistake. A central authority will never succeed in raising empathetic citizens, but only prisoners of the mind. Also, raising empathetic citizens is hardly a goal for government. Few laws have to do with justice.
  • Dec 29 2013: Pardon me please of my being rude, my answer to the the original question would be, yes I think it's possible.
  • Dec 28 2013: I see a lot of pretending in your question so I'll go back to what my grandma's explanation to the word "scruples" when I asked her what the word means. Grandma said it was the code you form to run your life defining what's right and what's wrong, she further said, by the time you are twelve you know what it is.
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      Dec 29 2013: Jude, I see a lot of pretending in your comments... How did that feel?

      Now this is the second time that I've seen you criticizing the question asked by an author of a Conversation. When on TED you would do well to at least try to be polite and try to understand what the person is trying to convey even if you yourself do not understand that.

      If you have issues with the way a question is formulated it's better to ask about the authors intention rather then re-formulating the conversation to whatever suits you and then replying to that..
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      Dec 30 2013: Thank you Jimmy!

      As for the pretending aspect, it was my way of conveying the point i was making. I really hope there is not a culture out there that practice cutting off the arms of 12 year old's.

      the first point was my attempt to ask if it was possible to have innate morals or are we capable of coming up with a consensus of justice without the aid of government? Since we do not live in the state of nature (nor has it existed in the way that some philosophers mention) I had to make it up to get my point across.

      the second point was my way of showing issues of relativism. In it most extreme form I think it is incapable of being a tool for moral guidance. That is why I brought up the issue of 12 year olds getting their arms chopped. relativism, in its pure form has nothing to offer here because it would not allow for any judgement.

      I hope this clears up any confusion
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      Dec 29 2013: Actually I don't think that we are. This is a somewhat broken Wikipedia article but it takes on many aspects of what I'm trying to convey. However I don't think that you would ever change your mind about this Chris so I'll stop wasting my time arguing about this.

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          Dec 29 2013: Isn't that the point of debate, to reach conclusions? I think that I'm right so naturally I would like to teach you what is right so that you may gain further insight into this life.

          That's not the same Chris. There are 4 fundamental forces (weak and strong interaction, electromagnetism and gravitation) that govern everything in this universe, but when it comes to behavior in animals it's not the same "natural laws". I'm sure that you're aware that words have different meanings and that is also the case with the use of natural law. Mainly attributed to the kind of natural law you speak of, the four fundamental forces that I mentioned and "laws of science", statements that describe, and predict phenomena as they appear in nature.
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          Dec 29 2013: Chris, can I ask this: Do you ever read the links I provide? It's an honest question, if not I'll have to start to summarize stuff here instead which is bothersome.
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          Dec 29 2013: "have you ever considered that some people might find it 'bothersome' to be referred to links time and again?"

          Very good point! I guess we all have different tastes in our approach to learning.

          "How anyone attempts to debate such an obvious fact is beyond reason."

          You are basing your conclusions on old literature, since you learned this "fact" A LOT has changed, that is why I provide the links. It is not possible for me to convey the vast amount of new knowledge that has been gained in 2000 characters, without graphs and pictures.
          Therefore I think that it's going to be really hard for you to be convinced of anything that clashes with your world view by these back and forth comments...

          TED Conversations is not a very good source to learn new information that you disagree with if you are unwilling to go outside of this site.

          So you don't even watch the links that I post to relevant TED Talks?
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          Dec 29 2013: Yes, as I said, it has multiple issues, I couldn't be bothered to find a better one since I thought that it was in vain anyway.

          Would you be willing to read a thesis papers on how we are governed by culture, or perhaps watch a documentary?

          I'm asking because if you are then I will spend some time searching for the best ones and provide them, if you are unwilling then I see no reason to.
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          Dec 30 2013: Then the majority of my time spent debating with you is wasted on you. I hope that others instead gain knowledge from our conversations.
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          Dec 30 2013: I never provide dirty links, that is something that I do check very thoroughly. It is also the reason why I often post links to Wikipedia and not different blogs or such.
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    Dec 28 2013: Absolutely possible. One just has to be freethinking based on pure reason. This sense of right or wrong will not depend on the person's geographic location, religious back ground, race, financial status or anything. This is because reason is accessible to all, provided one is willing to access it.
    Cultures that has a norm of chopping of the right arm of the 2nd child at age 12 may continue under religious morality and under governments based on religious morals. It, however, stands no chance under reason based morality of a progressive liberal society and a secular government because it serves no purpose of either diminishing common suffering or increasing common good.
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    Dec 28 2013: Hi Everyone,

    I apologize for my lack of activity. I do appreciate the comments and have read through most of the comments so I'll try my best to respond to your comments the best I can.
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    Dec 25 2013: question: if justice comes from the government, it is impossible to question the justness of a government's actions? or else if it is possible to question whether an action of a government is just, where this sense of justice comes from? certainly not the government, if we oppose it.

    digging deeper: not a single thing comes from the government. the government is created by the people, and therefore everything comes from the people.
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    Dec 25 2013: There are some situations people typically have no difficulty judging without reference to official positions and teachings. There are scholars experimenting by observing babies reactions to situations in which one person hurts another or in which someone who hurts another is rewarded or punished. In research done this far, babies seem to respond naturally in a way that suggests they gravitate to good behavior and away from bad. The reason they study babies is that in studies of children and adults, one might argue that exposure to social norms and teachings influenced behaviors even while the person may believe he is driven only by his own sense of justice.

    If you want details, Edge.com has online a symposium called The New Science of Morality in which scholars share their research in this area.
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      Dec 25 2013: I have seen some of the studies with babies and very small children Fritzie, which support what you are saying. My own observation of children is that they generally gravitate toward good behavior, and when that is reinforced, it encourages continuation of those behaviors.

      I also agree that at some point, children can be more influenced by social norms, modeling of behaviors by those close to them, and teachings which influence behaviors.
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      Jan 3 2014: This site looks really interesting - thanks for sharing it, Fritzie. If anyone else has difficulty, it's not edge.com but edge.org.
  • Jan 8 2014: I'm glad the conversation here went well for you. Do you still have questions, or has the question now been answered for you?
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      Jan 11 2014: what are your thought's on relativism and absolutism?
      • Jan 11 2014: Well, it's a fairly vague question, but let's see what I can do and see where it leads.

        I think that absolutism is too rigid to be much use in real life. In the are of morals it seems particularly unhelpful.

        Relativism seems much more plastic. It describes the world as it is, not as we would sometimes it, takes different circumstances into account and makes judgements accordingly.

        However, sometimes absolutism is useful. For instance, the following phrase was said by a Nobel Prize winning physicist...

        Good people do good thing, bad people do bad things, but for good people to do bad things takes religion.

        If you take a relativist view of this statement one can find all sorts of faults with it. If I trick someone who's good then I can get them to do bad things. If I hold a gun to the head of a good person, I could maybe get them to do a bad thing. However, this wouldn't really be addressing the original point fairly, in my view.

        In discussions I've come across people with pretty absolutist views on moral points. When engaging with them though, they've been extremely relativist when arguing against people with a contrary opinion to them. Absolutism seems to be generally helpful when talking with others about general points. Relativism might be helpful too, in certain circumstances. Having someone arguing against you though, being very vague and general, but extremely relativist in their arguments against you, never wanting to concede a single point you make... well, it can be like trying to nail sand to the wall. It's not exactly playing the game, in my opinion. It also doesn't make for good relations with other people. It strikes me as a mild form of Trolling.

        It was an interesting question, though I'm not sure that my answer is of much help or interest, so please feel free to ask more questions, either new, or expanding on anything that I've written.

        Have a good weekend!
  • Jan 5 2014: Oh, you made me laugh. No... seriously... I did actually laugh out loud. Well more of a snigger actually

    I think it's funny. You're putting words in my mouth... things that I don't think that I actually said. However, I think that you read between the lines, so to speak, and I'd have to agree with your analysis. I do think that the 'Good Books' (and there are many) give us a set of rules. Whether you want to say that all those 'rules' are 'moral' is something else. Is it moral to condone slavery? Is it moral to treat women differently to men and free male slaves after a set period of time, but say that female slaves are, well, once a slave, always a slave!?

    There are many examples. I picked a couple out of thin air for no particular reason other than that they seem quite clearly wrong to the modern eyes of most people. Should we be rereading 'Holy Scripture' and re-evaluating our morals? Should we be willing to bring back slavery? Were we wrong to legislate against slavery (and there are many kinds)?

    Do governments always lead the way on moral issues, or do they protect the interests of the powerful? Who is powerful, and what Is the power that they wield? Do they always do right, or do they follow the popular vote?

    Britain got rid of the death penalty many years ago. Surveys suggest that the majority of the population would see it reinstated if it were put to the vote. Many people have been locked up for many years, sometimes decades, only to be found innocent later and freed, where once they would have been executed. Parliament went in the face of popular opinion on this matter. It is unfortunately an uncommon occurrence. I'm digressing, and I apologise!

    Logic can give us the best morality maybe, but only if we dispense with prejudice, irrational (emotional) decision-making, and yes, Bronze and Iron Age moral values that cannot possibly truly have come from an enlightened being that understands, let alone created either us or the universe!
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      Jan 6 2014: Well Dave,

      I am glad you were able to get a laugh from the comments but the question was simple. I was just trying to understand your train of thought. All i wanted to know is if you thought religion was man-made and if the ethics/morals that people get from the "Good-Book" is decided by us (humans) or what most other religious people believe (God or some sort of thing that transcends physicality)?

      So in other words why is it that we do not, as it states in the first 5 gospels, stone those who reject god or worship other gods? Is it because God has changed his mind about this or did we humans decide this is a principle that should not be followed?
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    Jan 4 2014: "Would it be imperialistic to take action?" Yes. But the next question is, is that wrong? Does the extreme relativist position rely on an absolute judgement? Or am I not quite getting it?
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      Jan 5 2014: Hi Sara,

      My example is extreme yes but not the response that I normally get . When you constantly hear people say "who are you to say X,Y and Z is wrong" it gets irritating sometimes because I feel like it spells the end of any sort of meaningful discourse. My point is not "who here can claim to be a moral elitist with all the answers" but more of how can we best address such issues without being on either end of the spectrum (relativism and absolutism). Personally I have no clue.

      We know the dangers of absolutism but I think the dangers of relativism is rarely addressed as well. I'm neither an absolutist or a relativist. I simply just want to know how certain issues can be addressed that do not rely on both principles.

      So I guess the answer to your third question would be no.

      I always thought imperialism was a matter of a countries intention for going into another country. If your reasons were simply to take over and dominate the world that would be imperialistic. But if you really see, in this case, the arms being chopped off, and you go over to help, then how would that be imperialistic? Is it because of the fact that we hold the view that no one individual or country holds moral authority?
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        Jan 5 2014: Mm, yes. I was working with a different interpretation of 'imperialistic' - that sort of 'we know best' ... arrogance, I suppose. More about the exercise of power and resources than simply the grabbing of power and resources. Which can be well-meaning, and can have positive results, and can sometimes, according to my views, be right - although it can obviously have very negative results, too.

        I agree with you that relativism is also potentially dangerous, since it can lead to inaction. Inaction is as much a moral choice as action. Of course you're right - the best place to stand is on some middle ground.

        I agree with the view that none of us, as individuals or societies, has a monopoly on morality. However, I feel like if there is to be any meaning to any morality, there must be some underlying absolute and, intuitively and for the reasons outlined in my other post, the Golden Rule works for me. Psychological evidence for emotional well-being fostered by 'helping' behaviours also supports this, to my mind.

        So, when answering questions of whether or not to intervene in, say, your arm-chopping scenario, my thoughts would be to try to hack (inappropriate word?) culturally and personally formed ethics away from that core, underlying one, and make a decision from there. First seeking to understand, of course, the reasons behind the practice we object to (who knows - perhaps there's some inexplicable genetic thing going on where 2nd children get a malignant cancer in their elbow); then weighing the harms of action against the harms of inaction; then devising a plan whereby our method of intervention (if that's the decision) causes the least possible harm and the greatest possible benefit and chance of success. Perhaps not in that linear order.

        Maybe the answer to the question "who are you to say X,Y and Z is wrong" is "who am I to say it's not?"
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          Jan 6 2014: Hi Sara,

          I like the way you think. You made great points.

          You are correct about your analysis of imperialism and personally I think countries like the U.S. is looking for a chance to gain more resources at the expense of another country. I am always skeptical of American Foreign policy. Of course I'm not saying this is the case all the time but I do believe its about interest.

          Hmm, I agree with your statement about " I feel like if there is to be any meaning to any morality, there must be some underlying absolute and, intuitively".

          You are correct and that is essentially my main point. Obviously absolutism can lead to something like the Gulag. It also does not allow for exceptions or discourse. Relativism, which I believe does allow for conversation and understanding to take place and is obviously better than absolutism , still leads to, as you pointed out, stagnation in its most extreme forms....but like you I do believe that there are some things in this world that can be considered morally wrong (like throwing babies in the dumpster) and correct (like you mentioned with the Golden Rule) in spite of the nuances involved. and these principles can be known either through intuition or empiricism.

          Your last paragraph made me laugh (not out of disrespect or sarcasm) but just how you added the genetic disorder in the elbow. But you do bring up an interesting point: by invoking understanding we can really get a grip on all the nuances involved. It is really a matter of circumstance and instead of taking things at face value (the chopping of the arms of 12 year olds) we can understand the cultural practice and then take action from there. So if it is the case that the arms were for a religious sacrifice, then I believe you would think some sort of action would need to be taken place.
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        Jan 6 2014: Thanks, Orlando - appreciated (as is the laughter).

        "I am always skeptical of American Foreign policy" Mm, many outside the US are, too. Not that the policies of my govt are anything to brag about at the moment....

        "if it is the case that the arms were for a religious sacrifice...." My initial thought was "of course", but it's trickier than I first thought. In honesty, when I ask myself "would I rather keep my arm or act according to my belief system", I lean towards my belief system. The answer is different if I ask myself "would I rather keep my arm or act according to my parents'/culture's/govt's belief system". So, uncomfortably, I think the answer may still be, "it depends". Understanding the kids' views would be crucial. However, another question is, "Would I rather undertake an act that I dread and which would be permanently incapacitating but I believe is necessary, or be genuinely persuaded that it is not necessary?" Then I'd say the latter.

        So, maybe another step in deciding about intervention is deciding exactly what it is we think we want to take action against, and then we can make the action appropriate e.g. protecting those who don't want to be submitted to the practice, supporting divurgent religious leaders, maybe (at the risk of contradicting my Golden Rule argument) sending in missionaries of some more benign religion.
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          Jan 6 2014: Hi Sara, thanks to Colleen I've managed to extend the conversation for 18 more days...anyhow I'm sure the policies of your gov't are better than that of the U.S are they not?

          Ok, so your point about choosing your belief system in spite of the physical injury that it may cost you at first seemed a bit farfetched but then I realized the power of belief and the role that it play in our lives. Beliefs are so strong that many of us will do anything to maintain them. Your thought made me think of the suicide bombers of the Muslim world. To be able to live by one's convictions in such a way you would have to live by a principle that is more important than life itself....Even still it could be questioned if such actions are right, in spite of one's belief system. Excellent point you made about your own beliefs vs your parents beliefs....so maybe your correct, it does depend but I do think many people, rather or not its their beliefs or the ones' endowed on them by their parents or culture, would probably stick to the convictions they have.

          Ah, your last comment, is interesting....sending in missionaries. Historically I'd say this is a bad idea but I guess it depends on the religion. I guess the issue here is that we are changing one's cultural belief system with another one. I guess it's inevitable considering intervention...I always thought interventions were political as opposed to religious but I guess I could be wrong. Personally religious interventions would be scary for me because people in really bad situations could easily be persuaded and manipulated.
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        Jan 6 2014: Another thought... "these principles can be known either through intuition or empiricism." I value intuition, but I also distrust it. It can vary so much between and within an individual. It's subject to so many external influences. It's easily manipulated. Not that empiricism is invulnerable - of course it's not. And I'm not just being polite when I say I value intuition. Our unconscious processes are powerful, can and do save lives, they save cognitive effort, and they can provide us with the right answer when conscious reasoning provides us with the wrong one. So, given that empiricism and intuition can lead us to different conclusions, as perhaps they do for me in the above post, how do we reconcile these processes with respect to ethical decisions? Any thoughts, Orlando? Or is empiricism/intuition just another way of viewing absolutism/relativism?

        I see this conversation is coming to an end soon. Hope you have time to give me your views, but I understand if not.
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          Jan 6 2014: Hmm,

          Very interesting question. I've never thought about that before but I'm pretty excited in trying to answer it.

          On the surface it could appear to be relativist/absolutist argument but I don't really think it is. Although many people's ethical intuitions may vary I really don't think we are all that different as well.

          You are correct that "our unconscious processes are powerful, can and do save lives [and] cognitive effort" and your rightly pointed out that this of course is not enough but I think there is something much deeper here. I personally think (and this is open for debate) that our ethical intuitions are evidence that some moral truth's (absolutes) exist. In spite of our differences I really think that there are some things that we are intuitively indignant about in spite of the complexities involved. For example, if I created a thread on here arguing that we should all eat our newborn babies, I guarantee you that 100% of the people that respond will reject such a notion and call me a sadistic [fill in the blank] without invoking logic and reason. I'm sure the answer to this is just that it is plain wrong and I feel that many people will universally feel this way.

          But there is only so much that our intuitions can do for us. If asked, which system of government is best at promoting justice and well-being, there is little that our intuitions can do for us. I believe this would be a matter of philosophical reflection and empiricism. Personally if you ask me, I believe empiricism is a better tool for coming up with ethical decisions as opposed to our intuitions because it allows us to discuss things with other people and side with facts that we think are independent of ourselves.

          If you ask me, it's a matter of recognizing when we should trust our intuitions and when should we trust empirical facts: I'll give you another example on another post since I'm running out of space here.
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          Jan 6 2014: Ok, so I mentioned that we need to recognize when to trust our intuitions and empirical facts but this of course is not always easy so allow me to give you an example:

          I'm not sure if this story appears in New Zealand media but out here in California there is 13 year old girl who is on life support and is brain dead (perhaps the result of having her tonsils removed). All evidence suggest that the parents should pull the plug but being that its their daughter and the belief that it would be wrong to take her life, they are in a quarrel with hospitals about keeping her hooked up to the machine. Her father mentioned that her heart is still beating so he is convinced that she is still alive. Every ounce of her parents believe that she is still alive.

          the definition of death has changed throughout human history but since 1960 the definition of death is no longer limited to the heart not beating. The functionality of the brain is now included. Personally I think its all a matter of experience (or the possibility of having experience) that separates meaningful life experience and death. Of course there is no way of knowing rather or not someone is brain dead is capable of having "normal" experiences but there are reasons (and evidence) to suggest that her condition is irreversible.

          This is indeed an ethical issue because it involves the taking of a life but it is also a matter of intuition(belief) vs. empirical evidence...Now is it wrong for the parents to believe that their daughter is still alive? absolutely not. Anyone who has a child could only imagine how tough of a decision it is for the parents to make. But personally I don't believe in miracles. I believe that sometimes things happen that just do not seem to have an explanations but if 3 hospitals' told me that my child's condition are irreversible I might consider that they are correct and personally I do not want to ever be in that condition.

          So for me, its recognizing when to make the horrific choice
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        Jan 6 2014: Orlando,
        I hope you don't mind if I pop in here with a little information regarding the case you mention of the 13 year old girl who is brain dead and on life support systems.


        Life support systems can keep some of the body functions working for a certain amount of time even though brain activity has ceased. I believe at this time, it is the brain activity (or lack of) which determines death, since other functions can continue with support systems.

        I don't agree that the decision is about "taking a life", because what life there appears to be is dependent on support systems.

        According to a special I watched the other night, there is also a practical reason for the conundrum. The hospital does not want to keep a body that they have determined is dead, and other facilities(nursing homes, rehab centers, etc.) are unwilling to take a body which is determined to be dead.

        Although my heart goes out to the parents, who do not want to let their daughter go, it appears that the only thing that is keeping some functions working in the body are the external support systems.
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          Jan 6 2014: Hi Colleen,

          Thanks for your response. I agree with you completely and that's exactly how I see it as well. From the point of view of the parents it would seem as though they are taking their daughters life (not in the sense of murder) but because of what the dad mentioned about the heart still beating, therefore the are signs of life and reason to keep fighting for her (according to him). The source I got it from was from MSNBC but I have been unable to find the article that I read so I can only hope you can trust my word. I for one am one of those who believe that you need the functionality of your brain to live moreso than you heart, although both are important.

          The point I wanted to make was to show how our intuitions could sometimes be misinformed when we are presented with the evidence. As I stated 3 hospitals have determined that she was legally dead, with very good reason, so I would side with the hospitals on this one...of course if the girl somehow recovered everyone would question the hospitals, try to show the flaws of science and medicine and invoke the grace of God.

          I'm going to digress a bit but did you ever read the article of the neurosurgeon who said he went to heaven? This probably has nothing to do with the case we are talking about nor my thread but since we are talking about the brain, I just wanted to know your thoughts

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        Jan 6 2014: Hi Orlando,
        I've heard the parents speak as well, and it is SO heart wrenching. However, it appears that the heart is functioning because of support systems. Even sometimes when there is clear evidence, people may not accept it because of what they WANT to happen....huh?

        Yes, I've read a lot of what Dr. Alexander has written and I've heard him speak. I did quite a lot of research and read hundreds of cases of NDE/OBEs after my near death experience years ago. I was also kept alive with life support systems, and my family had some decisions to make that were difficult. BUT, there was some brain activity, and other bodily functions showed signs of working on their own, so they kept me plugged in, and here I am:>)

        EDIT regarding comment below:
        Thank you dear Pabitra. Forever is a very long time my friend, and hopefully we'll always be plugged in somewhere!!!
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          Jan 7 2014: XOXO. We will want you plugged in for ever.
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          Jan 7 2014: Colleen, thanks for the link.

          I agree - what we wish (or expect) to be true very much colours our perception of reality in so many situations in life, big and small.

          What a story you have! I don't quite know what to say, other than to echo Pabitra - glad you made it through, for you, for your family and, selfishly, for us. I've enjoyed reading many of your comments. I get the sense you've made your experience into something positive.

          If Orlando doesn't mind (I suspect he won't), I'm interested in what conclusions you drew from your research, if you're happy to share.
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          Jan 8 2014: Hi Colleen,

          That is a very interesting and as Sara mentioned(I don't mind Sara), I would be interested in the conclusions that you drew from your research and your experience but it is up to you if you want to share publicly.

          Edit: nevermind Colleen, all I had to do was scroll down and see that you responded. Thanks for Sharing
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        Jan 7 2014: Hi Orlando

        Great that you've extended the conversation (thanks Colleen!)

        "I'm sure the policies of your gov't..." NZ govt policies may be less damaging than US policies, but I'm not sure how much of that is just because we have less power and a shorter history of the sort of approach our current govt is taking. Unfortunately, there seems to be a theme of "profit at any cost".

        Beliefs systems - yes, so powerful, even when not religious. Another interesting related topic - what makes a robust belief system? If it's not codified and if individual beliefs and values are not closely interconnected, as they are in religions, I think there's probably a greater chance of intergenerational change. I think my main belief I had in mind was about gender equality and all its implications.

        Missionary intervention - I agree. Dangerous, and wider cultural loss is far from ideal. But sometimes results aren't all bad. In NZ, for example, the missionaries did an alright job overall, I think (the Crown was a different story). I'm a bit foggy, but I think it was mostly through their efforts canabalism and slavery ceased, and they also had an involvement in bringing inter-tribal warfare to a close. It seems to me most did actually seem to respect Māori. They even made sure indigenous religious beliefs were protected in NZ's founding document, which I think is impressive. Māori culture did suffer, but I think that was more to do with govt policy. But, yes, you'd have to weigh pros and cons, and change from within would be better in my mind.

        "Very interesting question..." Glad to return the favour :) Well answered.

        What a sad story about Jahi.

        So, other than whether or not to eat newborns, where do you think intuitive processes are more appropriate than empirical processes? Any examples? I'd guess the criteria isn't just about the level of conviction or moral outrage, as Jahi's story illustrates.
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          Jan 7 2014: Sara,
          This is a response to your comment which begins..."Colleen, thanks for the link."

          Thank you so much for your kind words and feedback Sara, which are very appreciated.

          Yes, I perceive the life adventure as an opportunity...as you insightfully say..."what we wish (or expect) to be true very much colours our perception of reality in so many situations in life....". My belief is that what we focus on expands:>)

          One of the conclusions I came to, with the research I mention, is that as multi dimensional, multi sensory, multi faceted intelligent human beings, we all have different thoughts, feelings, experiences, ideas, perceptions, perspectives and beliefs. We observe that right here in this conversation, and in almost every interaction in the life/death adventure.

          I realize that is very general, and I don't want to monopolize this conversation. I am glad to share information, which I have done in different TED conversations, and which I did as a guest lecturer at the university, speaking about the NDE for years. If you have specific questions, you can contact me through the TED e-mail system and we can chat:>)
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          Jan 8 2014: Hi Sara,

          You mentioned " there seems to be a theme of "profit at any cost"....that is essentially the lifestyle of America...I can't speak for all the U.S. citizens but affluence is highly celebrated (at least mainstream).

          As for the question in your second paragraph I think you hit the nail on the coffin. I really have nothing more to add to what you said other than I think another thing that makes beliefs systems strong is if it alleviates or extinguish your existential angst or despair. If it provides, meaning, stability and value to your life. I think you see this both in religion and politics.

          Hmm, that is interesting about the missionaries in NZ. I'm glad you brought that up because I was thinking of missionaries who went and colonized Africa. They overthrew many of the pagan and spiritual religions, would shave the scalps of the heads of the indigenous tribes and would condemn condom use (although aids would spread rapidly). This is not to say that all the indigenous tribes did not need an outside influence (twins in Africa for some tribes were thought to be demons) . I guess it depends on a lot of factors but I'm glad to know that not all missionaries are horrible.

          To answer your last question: It's pretty tough. I'm not too sure..I would have to say it depends on the circumstance. It depends on the issue and what is being talked about. there may be moments in which empiricism has no say on an issue. But I always thought that even trusting the facts and invoking reason was always a matter of eventually using our intuition so maybe they aren't so separate. I can provide you with another example but before I do I need to ask if you are familiar with the Trolley problem? (relating to ethical philosophy). There is a point I hope to make that may answer your question.

          I'm going to sleep on that question and I'll provide you with an answer. Hopefully
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          Jan 15 2014: Oh sorry Sara, I have to disagree about the missionaries doing 'an alright job' in New Zealand. I would be interested in hearing your thoughts on that one. I think, upon analysis, its difficult to defend colonialism or cultural imperialism in any country 'even' or especially Africa. I realise I have digressed from the topic, apologies Orlando
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        Jan 8 2014: Good points.

        "familiar with the Trolley problem?" If Wikipedia can be relied upon, I am now. Lots of food for thought, and a fresh burst of appreciation for the power of the internet. "I know kung fu."

        Look forward to your thoughts.
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          Jan 9 2014: Hi Sara,

          As a matter of fact I'm not sure if I can come up with an example using the trolly problem. I was typing it up to you and realized that it was going to be a weak point I was making but one of these days I'll have a better example for you...hopefully so my apologies
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        Jan 10 2014: No prob. The trolley problem was still helpful. Here are some of my thoughts which have been formulating over the past few days.

        There are times when intuition is best for practical reasons: when potential consequences of action or inaction are so trivial empirical decision-making is not worth the cognitive effort; and when a decision is urgent. An example: Philip Zimbardo, in his Psychology of Evil talk, tells a story about a father who endangers his own life to save a stranger on some subway tracks from an approaching train. Intuition would obviously be the best approach here.

        In other decisions, I'm thinking maybe it's always best to take an empirical or rational approach, but listen to intuition. If the decision we come to just doesn't feel right, it can be taken to mean that either we have some sort of bias or we're missing something. From there we can use introspection, intuition and reasoning to find why it doesn't feel right, and use empiricism/rationalism again to adapt the decision or not until both reason and intuition are satisfied.

        Applying that to the newborn example, we might initially say, "Well, the world is overpopulated, and we expend so much energy in growing these babies, so it makes sense to kill them and reabsorb that energy." Then, listening to intuition, we'd say, "That's repugnant." Why? "Parents love their babies, society loves babies, parents and society want to protect babies." Why? "Perhaps it's an adaptive evolutionary trait. We wouldn't have succeeded as a species without it. Desensitising ourselves would be a bad idea. Lets not eat our newborns."

        Of course, the risk is we might rationalise our less helpful biases. But what do you think?
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          Jan 12 2014: Hi Sara,

          I think you are on to something here. I would like to add that could it be the case that rationality and empiricism is intuitive at it's core? There would have to be a basis on which we judge if facts are correct. We would also have to trust that the facts that we acknowledge as facts are indeed correct and represents the way the world or universe really is. I think this is the case when we consider that scientific theories change in light of new evidence. Basically what I'm saying is on what basis do we accept facts to be true in light of the evidence? I don't think simple approval of evidence is enough. I think there is something deeper that is going on.

          As with the trolley problem I think it's similar to the subway example you provided. I believe its a matter of intuition as opposed to who is right and who is wrong. I doubt the trolley problem actually has one answer in which we can say "hey you should pull the lever and save 5 people because that is the morally correct thing to do". For me it would depend who is on the train and who is on sitting on the railroad tracks. For example:

          If the President of the U.S. and his family were on the train then we would say that the lever needs to be pulled (and there would be thousands of justifications for why we should do so). But if the president was the one sitting on the railroad tracks and 5 random people were on the train we would probably say we should not do anything. This situation really changes if we place Hitler, Mao, Stalin and Pol Pot, on the train. I think most people would say that in this circumstance the best choice would be do nothing since the tyranny they bestowed on the world would end with their deaths.

          Empiricism may help us understand this issue but I think the issue is a matter of intuition and philosophical reflection.

          Your thoughts?
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        Jan 13 2014: I do agree that you can't really have empiricism or rationality without intuition. One point that's raised repeatedly in my psych classes is that even quantitative research is conducted and interpreted through the lens of the researcher's values etc. Two people can start with the same data and come to different conclusions.

        I think the reverse is true, too - that you can't really make intuitive decisions without empirical/rational input (e.g. the President fulfils important roles). It makes me wonder whether a matrix of intuition vs empiricism/rationality would be a helpful model, where you can have high or low on either dimension, but not a true zero. Or maybe even a three dimensional matrix of intuition, empiricism and rationality.

        "Empiricism may help us understand this issue but I think the issue is a matter of intuition and philosophical reflection." Yes. I agree, and that's the sense I got from the trolley problem page on Wikipedia - that the approach to variations of the problem seemed to be to for the philosopher to understand what they felt the solution to be, then figure out why. I guess, then, for many problems it's more natural for people to go for the intuitive response first - perhaps it's impossible not to unless there's some sort of disorder. But, if there were time, do you think it would be helpful/wise to move past the intuitive response in the trolley problem?
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          Jan 15 2014: Hi Sara,

          Your first statement is true. You also saw the same thing in Physics when Einstein and Bohr were trying to figure out if light was particle or wave (which many people call the wave-particle duality). Einstein found light to be particle and Bohr found it to be a wave. the question can be raised if their findings and disagreement is a matter of science or philosophy?

          You second paragraph is interesting. This entire time I never thought about it the other way. I would love to see a matrix like that. I would be easier for me to convey what I actually am trying to say. When I was typing out my last response and mentioned the President being on the train I was thinking more in terms of empiricism than intuition for the reason that you mentioned (the president has a service to the world, the political system may collapse, etc). It wasn't really a matter of intuition. The same goes for when I put Stalin, Hitler and Pol Pot on the train. Their deaths would be better for the world (not that I wish bad things for people but I think it could be justified with these heinous men).

          Hmm, personally I hope so because I'm more of a naturalist and empiricist than I am a person of intuition. As we have mentioned, intuition can be helpful but I do not think it should be our only guide to moral progress and defiantly when we are deciding what is right and wrong (if right and wrong exist in moral terms). I believe that there is a right answer(s) to this question or a right way we should approach such a situation. But beyond that, there is also the issue of value and historically empiricism isn't accustomed to addressing issues of value (not that it is not capable of doing so). Nowadays we see an increase of empiricist/naturalist addressing issues of value so maybe this particular problem will eventually move pass intuition and philosophy.

          I have a question: a utilitarian would say save the people on the train in each case. If you disagree what would be the bases?
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        Jan 15 2014: @Joanne I'd love to discuss NZ missionaries and I'm completely open to persuasion. The bases for my opinion are mostly limited to a first-year paper on the Treaty/te Tiriti at uni and skimming accompanying texts (Ranginui Walker and Claudia Orange). Also based on a bit of research on our local missionary who, admittedly, acted rather shamefully at the time of the Waikato Land Wars. On the positive side, the Church Missionary Society was also disgusted by him and he completely lost favour. Before that time he appears to have been instrumental (or at least well utilised) in setting up local hapu/iwi (tribes, for non-Kiwis) for prosperity under the emerging anglicised economy, albeit with his own agenda. I realise my knowledge just scratches the surface so I'm really interested in your perspective.

        Re colonialism, I agree. Re cultural imperialism, I think there are limits. Anything can be attributed to culture, can't it? Infanticide, human sacrifice, war, slavery.... Should we never intervene? Would you say sati should never have been banned, for example? Even if the widow was unwilling? Or that the chocolate industry shouldn't put pressure on cocoa farmers to be transparent and free from slavery? Or are you thinking of a more ... total cultural imperialism, if that makes sense? In which case, I'd agree.

        I'm not sure about the etiquette or practicalities of continuing on the NZ missionaries theme, especially as it's likely to involve a framework of cultural and historical knowledge non-Kiwis don't share. I'll follow your lead. Happy to continue through the messaging system, if that's best.
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          Jan 15 2014: Hi Sara, I don't we will need to be so drastic as to leave the thread to continue to discuss ethics and colonialism. It seems quite relevant to Orlando's topic.

          Perhaps you could draw a distinction between colonialism and cultural imperialism? I do not see too big a difference.

          Sati is a good example to choose to demonstrate a benefit of colonialism and it is often the first example people give when justifying British dominance of India. In fact we can find examples of benefits in most acts of dominance or war. People against the abolition of slavery in the U.S had a long list of humanitarian reasons for keeping it. Hitler changed Germany forever when he built the autobahns, developed the volkswagon or peoples' car and instituted many social reforms we would consider progressive today. Josef Mengele's medical research, knowledge gleaned in brutal acts of abominal cruelty in the death camps, still saves lives to this day.

          So I hope these examples demonstrate that one does not justify the other and the original crime should not be whiteweashed or forgotten. This does beg some interesting 'big history' ethical questions however. If our human history looks in review like a dog eat dog bloodbath, why do we even feel the need to create ethical justifications, to feel that we are doing good? Why not instead simply accept the situation as it is? Technological, mucular and economic might must always win so why not simply accept this? After all is it not a very pure ethical standpoint?
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        Jan 18 2014: Joanne, what lovely dark questions.

        In my mind, colonialism is about a country taking over the resources and political power in another country. Cultural imperialism is more about a dominant culture, or group of cultures, pressing their cultural values/practices on a non-dominant culture. So, I would say the sati example was cultural imperialism (banning a cultural practice) which was enabled by colonialism (British rule). Taken independently, I see banning sati as a good thing. But I don't think it excuses colonialism, either. Yes, we are very good at justifying terrible things.

        So, do you have specific issues with NZ missionaries, or do you simply see them as part of the colonialist machine?

        To try to cast light into the gloom.... As long as we continue to want to see ourselves as noble creatures, there's hope for noble action. It's uncomfortable to view our actions honestly if they conflict with what we believe to be our values, and there are a number of ways we often find to deal with that discomfort, rationalising our actions being one of them. However, changing our actions and making amends are other ways. So we need to hang on to the belief in our own goodness.

        It's good to remember the abolitionists won in the end. Hitler was defeated (ok, perhaps that was due to self-interest). 'Rule of thumb' is no longer. Women got the vote (in most democracies, I guess?). By the time NZ was colonised British powers had developed enough of a conscience for us to have a treaty, imperfect as it is. I may be naïve and optimistic, but I'd like to think some metaphorical bloodbaths are becoming less bloody (actual bloodbaths more so, of course – not that optimistic).

        In defense of humanity, yes, we can be awful, but we can also be pretty amazing. How many of us give to charities to increase the well-being of people we've never met, never heard of, who will never thank us personally or do anything to benefit us? I think that's kind of magnificent.
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        Jan 18 2014: Hi Orlando

        It’s a matter of science, but do you think that a hard line can be drawn between science and philosophy? Do you think it could be loosely said science is applying the mind to understanding concrete phenomena, and philosophy, abstract phenomena (with overlap resulting from real world interconnection between abstract and concrete)? If so, perhaps it could assumed similar mental processes are present in each.

        Re the trolley problem, my response would of course be save the president, don’t save Hitler & co. All lives may have equal inherent value, but not so all existences, where an existence is defined as the totality of an individual’s internal and external acts and the impacts he or she has upon the world. The value of these acts and impacts increase or decrease the value of a person’s existence.

        From that point the questions get numerous and big enough for a book. How do we measure the values of acts and impacts? How is this affected by an individual’s circumstances? How does existence-value interact with life-value? Can the two combine and produce a net deficit? Do we measure existence-value by past, present or potential/probable future acts and impacts?

        My feeling is to measure the value of existences of the passengers based on probable future acts and impacts, because that’s when the consequences of intervention would occur. But if all involved were all about to retire to isolated mountain cabins, keep chickens, grow vegetables and never bother anyone again, I’d still favour the person on the tracks due to the others’ past misdeeds. Perhaps also measuring value of existence by past deeds is a kind of evolutionary incentive to maintain a positive balance sheet (tying back to your ‘justice’ question). Or maybe that’s me rationalising my bias. I think I’d have to write that book to figure it out.

        What would your approach be to addressing value? Appreciating the philosophy lesson :)
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          Jan 20 2014: Hi Sara, sorry for the late reply and hopefully this isn't too late to respond.

          I don't think there is a divide between philosophy and science. Science is a matter of philosophy and philosophy is a matter of science. You could start with particle physics and eventually end up with existential and metaphysical questions and vice versa. I think this divide between philosophy and science is caused by people who do not understand the history of philosophy and science and by religious people who are concerned about the value of subjectivity in the face of objectivity. It is true that since the 19th century science has become more specialized and has branched a bit farther than philosophy but philosophy will always be there in the background to say the least.

          As for your point about how do we measure the values of acts and impacts. To me this is fairly simple. We take into account how certain which actions promote peace, compassion and an overall sense of well-being and which actions don't. Of course there are many actions that would constitute well-being and many that would lead to misery. The trick is trying to figure out which. The way we measure this is by observation and experience and try to put it into practice as best as possible. When it comes to morality I believe it is a matter of circumstance. Since we cannot place life in a box, nor predict what will happen next, we have to live in the moment and assess from there. Everything we learn will perhaps make people's circumstance better or worse but we'll always learn.

          The last point is a bit complicated for me because I would like to believe that some people are capable of changing so I don't want to be to hasty to judge them but at the same time you have a point. Not only are we creatures of habit but we do have to take into account the misdeeds that were committed because they really do say something about a person and we could stop potential misdeeds in the future.
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          Jan 20 2014: My approach to the issue of value would have to be a similar approach to yours. I do believe that everyone starts off with the equal amount of value to their existence but depending on one's actions this value can change. I would love to say that everyone has the same amount of value in the world but I do know that the world would be better off if some people have not existed (such as the heinous men we mentioned earlier). As we mentioned the past deeds may help us determine how someone is going to in the future but at the same time we can and perhaps should judge this based off what one is doing (or intending to do) in the present.
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        Jan 21 2014: Science vs philosophy: "...by religious people who are concerned about the value of subjectivity in the face of objectivity." Nicely put. And perhaps the opposite, also? There seems to be a bit of dogma among many in the scientific community, as well - as though things must be measurable to be real/valid/worthy of notice.

        "...which actions promote peace, compassion and an overall sense of well-being..." Essentially, I agree. I think things get interesting when we think about different kinds of acts - internal and external - and the weight we give to impacts. By internal acts I mean things like general benevolence (or malevolence) and the motivations for our actions. Do these things have consequence? If so, how much in relation to external acts? How do we assign value to an act of well-meaning harm, for example? Or self-interested good? Does it depend on the level of benevolence/self-interest and the level of harm/good, or other factors? And if two people commit the same act - let's say, driving drunk - and chance has it that the act of one has a harmful impact, and the act of the other doesn't, how do we treat that? And, because nobody is ever only one thing, and we all have moments of inconsistency, how do we decide if a person's positive acts and impacts outweigh their negative ones, and how do we compare that to the net value of another person's existence in a trolley type situation? (Told you - a book!)

        Perhaps this last question would be made simpler by your thought that we should make judgements based on the present and intentions, and not an accumulation of rights and wrongs. I get that, and to a large extent agree. But, if Mother Theresa and Slobodan Milosevic had both retired, and Mother Theresa got hacked off and kicked a dog at the same time as Milosevic was feeding a stray cat.... Or, if while Mother Theresa was ill in bed, Jane Smith was delivering homemade soup to a friend with flu...
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        Jan 21 2014: I feel like past actions need to have some weight, recognising the good as well as the bad, and addressing the value of those who are in their final years or have been incapacitated somehow. I also feel like potential needs to have some weight, in order to address the value of children and the temporarily incapacitated. And also to address the President on the train scenario. My main motivation for saving him (aside from the 4:1 issue) would be the future repercussions of his death in terms of economic and political stability (although, from what I know of him, I rather like the chap for himself as well). Perhaps it’s a question of assigning different relative weight to past, present, potential/probable future (using intention as a major component of our … prediction, for want of a better word – I take your point that we can’t truly predict), and basing those weightings on personal circumstance and the situation – reflecting your “morality is a matter of circumstance” point.

        Lots of questions here, and not much time left. Feel free to take any or all as rhetorical.
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    Jan 3 2014: @Colleen, ok thanks for your time. Thanks for the suggestion :)
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    Jan 3 2014: @Krisztian, well your and mine notions don't match on any point at all. So therefore it is definitely useless to talk on it.
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    Jan 3 2014: @Colleen, if you don't agree then I can't do anything to make you agree. If I say right a thousand times, you won't agree too. So better leave it then.
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      Jan 3 2014: Correct Abdul, you cannot do anything to make me agree....better to leave it then....well said Abdul.
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        Jan 3 2014: Yes, that would be reliable for both of us. Thanks for understanding. Neither you aren't going to agree with me nor I am going to agree with you so the solution is to quit this topic with each other. :)
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          Jan 3 2014: Good idea Abdul,
          One more little question that I am curious about Abdul. What do you wish to accomplish with your participation on TED?
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        Jan 3 2014: Thank you Colleen. I seldom participate in TED conversations just like I participated today.
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          Jan 3 2014: What drew you to the conversations today Abdul?
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        Jan 3 2014: Nothing as such Colleen. I thought to utilize my TED account a little, that's why I peeped into my account today.
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          Jan 3 2014: I wonder how it might feel for you Abdul, to peep into your account and conversations with a little more of an open heart and open mind?
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        Jan 3 2014: Honorable Colleen, I already possess an open heart and an open mind. I do respect everyone's view as long as they are in limits. I respect you as my senior and you are a nice woman.
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          Jan 3 2014: Thank you Abdul. I respect the fact that you have certain beliefs, and I do not observe an open heart and mind in you.

          Some of your statements suggest that you are trying to convince us that your beliefs are "right", and they may be "right" for you Abdul, while other people have their/our own beliefs as well.

          You write...
          " @Colleen, if you don't agree then I can't do anything to make you agree. If I say right a thousand times, you won't agree too. So better leave it then."

          This statement of yours Abdul, says that you cannot do anything to make me agree, even if you say you are right a thousand times, and that is very insightful.

          That is why I asked you what you wish to accomplish with your participation on TED.

          Throughout your comments, you seem to want to insist that you and your beliefs are the only "right" beliefs, and for you they may be the only "right" beliefs Abdul. However, other human beings have different beliefs, and if you do not accept that fact, it appears that you are close minded to your own beliefs FOR EVERYONE.....do you see?

          That belief does not beneficially contribute to any discussion, as you probably have noticed.
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        Jan 3 2014: @Colleen, ok but I hope that you will observe an open heart & mind in me if you look carefully. Apparent look must never be the prime concern!!

        By the way I am sorry if I hurt you or your beliefs unexpectedly. I do agree that different people have different beliefs & believe me I have no aim of enforcing or preaching my belief here. I respect everyone's beliefs.

        Don't mind my words Colleen.
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          Jan 3 2014: I am looking carefully Abdul. You did not hurt me Abdul because what you express is a reflection of YOU.....not of ME.

          You say..."don't mind my words Colleen"

          It is the words we use that adequately (or not) demonstrate what we are trying to express. When you use words that express disrespect toward others, don't be surprised if that is what you get back. If you truly want people to understand you, I suggest that you stop the name calling and labeling, which you have done repeatedly.
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    Jan 3 2014: No, there couldn't be justice defined without religion. It is the religions actually from where the term justice is derived. Religion teaches us justice and therefore the world copied main points of how justice is defined from the religion to their constitutions.
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      Jan 3 2014: okay, so you say that since i'm not religious, i'm not just? seriously consider your answer, because you are getting borderline offensive here.
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        Jan 3 2014: I too would like to ask if I don't have any morals, which is where justice stems from...

        And as I said in my first comment to Orlando

        "This is a topic that I have debated many times and there's usually a lot of opinions that you need God to have morals, which is saying that I don't have any which is insulting."
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          Jan 3 2014: @Jimmy, first of all let me ask you that was there any justice during the days of stonage? I am sure there wasn't. If there was, then there hadn't been violent killing & engraving of alive girls born. When Prophet Muhammad [P.B.U.H] came to this world, he set up justice courts. So from those days onwards, justice was recognised. Do a little research before commenting.
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        Jan 3 2014: I agree with you Krisztián and Jimmy....it doesn't feel very good or "just" to me, to hear that one has to accept a certain religion, or a certain god, to be considered "just", or to have morals.

        In fact, it seems to be very unjust for any religion to say that THEY and their god are the one and only, when we know that there are several religions....each making the same claim! So, different religions tell us THEY are the one and only, and if we do not embrace that religion, we will be punished. That certainly is a conundrum.....which one "should" we follow to avoid punishment? It appears to be a contradiction, based on the teachings of those religions which demand acceptance.....or else!!!

        EDIT regarding comment below:
        I will do my best to learn and understand English Abdul:>)
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          Jan 3 2014: @Colleen, First of all try to understand my comment and then say something or blame me for being wrong. You people are talking prejudicially without understand the core meaning of my heart. Let me clear once again that I didn't said anywhere in my comment that you have to be religious for being just. Learn English if you can't understand it.
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          Jan 3 2014: @Colleen, it is you definitely. Who else.

          Now justice is defined, so now what else is left in the definition of it? Answer me this!!
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          Jan 3 2014: @Colleen, that would be certainly applauding if you learn English :)
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        Jan 3 2014: @Krisztian, what do you mean by not just? Try to understand my comment first and then say something. Your answer is completely prejudiced.
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          Jan 3 2014: Just a minute Abdul.....who is demonstrating prejudice?

          You say..."No, there couldn't be justice defined without religion".

          It looks like you are saying that those who do not practice a religion cannot define justice. Does that look like prejudice to you in any way?
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          Jan 3 2014: okay, so now you are adding stupid to unjust? maybe we can assume that the word "just" and "justice" is well known.

          to inform you: morals probably predate religions by a factor of ten (hundreds of thousands of years compared to tens of thousands for religion).

          also please note that i asked a question, and did not provide an answer, so it is unclear what is prejudiced here.
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        Jan 3 2014: @Krisztian, again you are contradicting with your own words stated before. It is really shocking to see that. Anyway, neither I am going to agree with you nor you are going to agree with me. So it's better to quit discussing with each other.
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          Jan 3 2014: to be honest, i don't believe that you are so shocked. but even if you are, it is not an excuse for the total lack of arguments. also, saying that whatever i tell you, you will never agree with me, is, well, not a very good mindset. accusing me of having the same mindset is not warranted. and assuming both pretty much makes your presence in a conversation meaningless, doesn't it? the very purpose of a conversation is to change each others' opinion. unless, of course, if you are here to preach.
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          Jan 5 2014: if nobody ever changes position, discussion is meaningless. you are doing nothing but twisting the meaning of words.

          be warned. discussion is a cooperative process. you need to understand the context, in this case, a forum. a nice afternoon chitchat to ease the mind is not on the table now. i'm not going to have a chitchat with neither mr muslim above, nor you. we are not besties, ok?
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          Jan 6 2014: either you are our home troll back again, or grabbing onto words, and completely missing what the discussion is about is quite widespread.

          in the former case, i'm converted. indeed, conversations can have other goals, not only convincing the other. for example it can serve ones internal urges, like in the trolling case.
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        Jan 6 2014: Krisztián,

        I agree with you on the purpose of conversations, well to some extent at least, there are also other reasons why people have conversations other than "change opinion".

        Here's what Wikipedia Says about the functions of conversations:

        "Most conversations may be classified by their goal. Conversational ends may, however, shift over the life of the conversation.

        Functional conversation is designed to convey information in order to help achieve an individual or group goal.

        Small talk is a type of conversation where the topic is less important than the social purpose of achieving bonding between people or managing personal distance.

        Banter is non-serious conversation, usually between friends, which may rely on humour or in-jokes at the expense of those taking part. The purpose of banter may at first appear to be an offensive affront to the other person's face. However, people engaging in such a conversation are often signaling that they are comfortable enough in each other's company to be able to say such things without causing harm. Banter is particularly difficult for those on the autism spectrum, those with love-shyness and those with semantic pragmatic disorder."

        Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conversation#Functions

        There is also the study of "conversation analysis" which is a science that analyses conversations in all manner of ways.


        But yeah, I think that what we should be looking for here on TED is the form of functional conversation, which is to help a group or individual reach a goal (aka change opinion or learn new stuff).
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      Jan 3 2014: Abdul,
      It does not appear that it was "the religions actually from where the term justice is derived". You might want to research that a little more. There certainly are however, quite a few religious people who probably agree with you.

      Some religious people may try to "teach us justice", and the justice taught by religions is often based on that religion's beliefs and what THEY determine is justice.

      Justice, according to the original meaning is...
      "the exercise of authority in vindication of right by assigning reward or punishment"

      As you probably know, some religions teach that one will be rewarded for embracing that particular religious belief and punished for NOT embracing that particular religion.

      Religions certainly have used the term "justice" to try to impose their beliefs onto others. However, the term and use of the word, seems to have evolved into something more like equality, rather than vindication, reward and punishment.

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        Jan 3 2014: @Colleen, first of all let me ask you that was there any justice during the days of stonage? I am sure there wasn't. If there was, then there hadn't been violent killing & engraving of alive girls born. When Prophet Muhammad [P.B.U.H] came to this world, he set up justice courts. So from those days onwards, justice was recognised. Do a little research before commenting.
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          Jan 3 2014: I've done quite a bit of research on the topic Abdul, and it appears that you are trying to promote your own personal beliefs, which as I recall, you have tried to do on TED in the past.
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          Jan 3 2014: yeah, and for example hindu people in india are stone aged, and have no idea of justice. it is an internal contradiction to present such a narrow, tunnel visioned worldview on the internet.
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        Jan 3 2014: I do believe that we have a zealot, here to proselytize. It's against the terms of use...
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      Jan 5 2014: Hi Abdul,

      You stated:

      "@Jimmy, first of all let me ask you that was there any justice during the days of stonage? I am sure there wasn't. If there was, then there hadn't been violent killing & engraving of alive girls born. When Prophet Muhammad [P.B.U.H] came to this world, he set up justice courts. So from those days onwards, justice was recognised. Do a little research before commenting."

      Ok, so you may be correct that our ancestors moral compass during the stone-age may not have been the very best or more developed but I still don't think this is a strong argument for two reasons (ok maybe more). For one evolutionary psychology would have stated that our sense of morality predated the stone age. It is stated that perhaps the moment one's moral community was growing larger, our concern for others (this is where empathy may come into play) began to be developed. The first sign of this may have been when a mother had to extend her concern now to her new born baby...the overall point I'm making is that if our primitive ancestors were just concerned about sacrificing their children or just pure barbarians, there would not be that many of us around.

      The second point is the statement about Muhammad. Can we really state that our sense of modern justice started with him? What about philosophers like Plato, Socrates, Aristotle and many others that were concerned about justice way before Muhammad came into this world? Plato went as far as to trying to establish the perfect society because according to him (technically Socrates) "there could be no justice until all needs are met". this was essentially the basis of Plato's Republic....and What about Jesus?
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        Jan 6 2014: @Orlando, I am not in a mood to comment more on this topic buddy. So I quit it. Thanks.
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      Jan 6 2014: Dear Abdul,

      I see that you concluded you and Colleen will never agree on the stand that justice started with Prophet Muhammad and there cannot be any sense of justice without religion telling us right from wrong. I also note that you may not be in a mood to stay in this thread, which is ok for me.

      I do not accept your stand as valid. However, you have a chance here with me. You can get me converted to your stand. But since there is no God acting here as arbiter, your only chance is logic. Will you be up to the challenge?

      If justice started with the Prophet decoding it first, and if it was Allah the almighty who so desired it at a particular point of history, does it not make him look strange as to why he had to wait for thousands of unjust years for his loving creation to suffer injustice? Of course God almighty choosing Moses to hand him over a stone tablet with 10 commandments written on it requires explanation in the same line.

      Please supply logical/reason based answer to my question. Also kindly keep in mind that we have evolved a lot from the Prophet’s time (or Moses’, if you like) and now justice means hearing both sides without getting personal.
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        Jan 7 2014: Not interested to comment on this topic anymore!
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          Jan 7 2014: I understand and shall not bother you again.
          I offer peace, respect and love to you as a human being does to another and have no intention of hurting your personally held belief friend. But it is your PERSONAL belief.
          Thank you for replying.
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        Jan 8 2014: thank you for understanding. Actually I am having my final exams, therefore I am busy in preparations and giving exams, that's why I ended this conversation from my side. Thanks a lot for your kind reply. We are equal humans. Yes, it is my personal belief. I never stated that it is a general belief.. :)
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      Jan 1 2014: Chris,

      Why don't you just go away from TED Conversations for a while? It would be greatly appreciated by many.
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          Jan 3 2014: Nah, that would be bullying... It's not very TEDish... I don't know how many... I've gotten email from two people that complain about you on this conversation so there is that, so I know of three... And no I wont give their names.

          You see, your "writing style" is your attitude, it really brings out the worst in me and not many people are able to do that. You're all about the petty personal attacks and you have one huge God complex. I'm not able to tell if you're a frustrated teenager or an old bigot, would guess the first but I'm not sure...

          Can't you just start a new conversation instead of blocking up Orlando's? And now you're going to say that they won't allow it, WELL THERE'S A REASON FOR THAT!

          Oh, so now I have menstrual cramping? You are the frustrated teenager (if even that old) aren't you!? Perhaps they should just ban you because you're breaking the Terms of Use #5

          Anyway, I sure hope that admin comes in and cleans this whole mess up soon (including my nonconstructive comments).

          But Chris, this will be the last response you'll ever get from me on this conversation.

          Congratulations, you have won and therefore everything you say must be true.
  • Jan 1 2014: First of all,let's not hinder that government and religions are coming out the Disneyland;they are physical representations of people's beliefs. The question is: Is justice inherent to human beings? History doesn't say so. Good values always come from different sources,they have to be taught,learned from someone or somewhere.
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  • Jan 1 2014: I do not believe humans have an innate goodness or sense of justice. Everything is based on the survival instinct drive to preserve the species, tribe, and/or individual.
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    Dec 31 2013: Hi Orlando

    Well I completely agree with you in that matter. As I already mentioned before, people do have an innate sense of justice, but I believe we need leaders to push us to act on them.
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    Dec 30 2013: There is only laws that you impose on others who allow it and some who don't want it, laws can be changed to suit the ones who have the most numbers. What is Justice if the laws can be changed to suit? There's Antarctica if one wants to roam around with their own personal sense of Justice without impinging on the local dominant group.
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    Dec 30 2013: Orlando,

    I'm really sorry about this obstruction of your Conversation, I just can't leave it alone...
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      Jan 5 2014: No worries Jimmy,

      I understand, I have just been reading all the comments but have taken no offense to anything that has been mentioned
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      Dec 30 2013: Well, your link was completely out of context, you were giving the illusion that it supported your argument in some way when it didn't. I thought that it was important to point that out.

      You know, I'm a proponent of truth and validity so I just can't help myself with exposing BS.

      Edit: You are of course welcome to do the same to the things I post, that is if you find that I'm trying to cheat people somehow...
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          Dec 31 2013: Throughout our history I've been able to prove you wrong on everything that I've disagreed with, but you refuse to recognize that.
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    Dec 30 2013: No, I don't think it is possible.
    Given the nature of the beast... mankind, there is too long a history of man's sense of justice from dictatorial state as in families and clans, through religious formations of tribes, to today's governmental formations with established laws.... not to say we still have dictators and religious orders establishing rules of justice.

    Having said this, I do believe that there is some sense in individuals of right and wrong. However, I think that sense is too defused among people. Historically, I have read of incidents, where people did atrocious things (in my sense of justice) and it was perfectly acceptable for that time and place by those present.

    So, the best way to establish a system of justice.... Dictatorial? Religious? Societal? Governmental?

    I don't like dictators. Never heard of one who was what I call just....

    Religions... most have a dogma that that seems to address the issues of right and wrong, so I can understand people who hold this system of justice.

    Societies and social orders.... these run the gamut of what I see as proponents of justice. So many societies, too many to address... but, also to easy change direction of morality.

    Governments. These are all over the place in morality. However, I can see a justice system of government based on a set of laws establishing right and wrong that the people have established as a group and all continue to support those laws. Of course, this may describe a perfect world existing only in my mind.
    There have been governments established in this manner, but societies have formed to change the laws of justice to enhance their positions....

    And it is for this reason I have answered no to this question...
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      Dec 30 2013: Mike!
      Those are the magic words..."societies have formed to change the laws of justice to ENHANCE THEIR POSITIONS".

      What if......some folks were not always trying to enhance their own positions? What if.....people recognized our interconnectedness and were willing to work together to enhance the positions of EVERYONE....together? I believe it is possible:>)

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        Dec 30 2013: Hi Colleen,
        There are good people out there. There are people who are trying to do their best for others... Who want a better world, a more just world.
        But, (you knew there would be a but...) as Thomas Aquinas said ( I believe it was him) man suffers from the seven deadly sins. Unfortunately too many men... greed, lust, envy, etc.
        So as an old beaten down pessimist, as I look out on the world, I see fields of weeds and so few flowers....
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          Dec 30 2013: BUT Mike........!!! :>)

          I see fields of flowers, and weeds which also produce flowers.....most flowers were thought of as weeds at one time my friend:>)
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        Dec 30 2013: Yeah, but you're not an old wizened pessimist...
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          Dec 30 2013: You're right Mike....I'm an old optimist:>)
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          Dec 30 2013: I think that this might in part be related to whether you watch the Talks or not..
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    Dec 29 2013: Before the religions came in to human society or much after when a form government came in , was not there any sense of justice in clans of human being ?

    There is no absolute form of 'sense of justice" so what make sense today will be proven completely non-sense. That's what happened many times in the history of mankind .....is not it?
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      Dec 30 2013: HI Salim,

      So your saying that whatever notions of justice that we come up with now, will only change in the future? This may not be a bad thing if we are continuing to learn more
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        Dec 30 2013: Good day Orlando
        We evolved and will continue to evolve further with our world view / morality / ethics as individual as society or culture once we are open to learning .....
        Say once it was completely fine to us to hunt animals just for our pleasure and it was symbol of heroism as well , it was no problem with our sense of justice to even other species .... Hasn't our that sense changed a lot by now ?
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          Jan 5 2014: Hi Salim,

          I would be inclined to agree with you. Good point about what you mentioned in regards to animal rights. At one point we were hunting them for survival but now we can develop our own food it is no longer right to do so. I get what you are saying and perhaps in that sense justice is indeed relative.
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    Dec 28 2013: Some people are just rotten , their moral compass points in the direction of , just whatever they want , it could be as simple as what time of day is it .Most psychopaths have a brain that has a smaller amygdala ( the seat of emotion ) (frontal region ) than normal humans . I guess I got off subject , sorry .
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      Dec 29 2013: Very few people are JUST rotten, it can all be altered by circumstance.

      Here's a TED Talk about psychopaths http://www.ted.com/talks/jon_ronson_strange_answers_to_the_psychopath_test.html

      And here's another http://www.ted.com/talks/jim_fallon_exploring_the_mind_of_a_killer.html
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        Dec 29 2013: I am not that worldly and certainly not educated in the any medical field, but in my life I have met some pretty rotten people ; that said , very capable of doing and did do, some pretty bad things without any visibly conscious or moral thoughts of the actions they committed . Im still off subject of the presented debate , again my apologies .
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        Dec 29 2013: I agree, Jimmy, but I would go a step further and proclaim that NO ONE is wholly "rotten", and that everything can be altered by circumstances (or my term of preference, the environment). I do believe that nature and nurture work together to form a complete human, but there is no hard evidence that anything genetic or biological is the cause of people committing amoral crimes, such as murder or rape. People behave in ways that function to get them what they want. People do things for attention or access to preferred items/activities, or to escape aversive circumstances. And if someone is never taught how to get what they want in adaptive and healthy ways, then they resort to what we call "crime". Acts are determined to be "right" or "wrong" based on a code of justice and ethics that looks at behavior in a vacuum-in the absence of all of the environmental variables which led to it.
        What is "a sense of justice"? It is a societal convention, which does, to some extent, function to maintain safety and order. BUT even with the legal system and this "sense of justice", people still act immorally, so the better question may be whether or not it is possible to have a sense of justice at all.
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          Dec 30 2013: Allison,

          I fully agree about going that step further! I guess I was trying to push the thought that "everyone has good in them" but I wanted to exclude the comments that would come about serial killers and such as I was not up for that debate right now.

          Thank you for your insightful comment!
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    Dec 28 2013: Gerald O'brian :

    I think I know where you're going :

    Some actions/solutions are good , at least we call them that way , but there will always be in the universe a better action that could've been done . Therefore the good and evil do not exist objectively , only the better and the worse exist objectively .
    That was what you said , correct ?

    The answer is simple : the conclusion do not follow from your premises or in other words because there will always be something better it doesn't mean the good doesn't exist right now .

    Let's split an action in parts . Let's suppose for simplification that some of them are totally good and the rest totally bad . A better action would be that one with more good parts and less bad parts than the initial one . You can go with this kind of operations to infinite in both directions the result is obvious: there can't be better without there being good first .

    I agree we need reason to help us find what are the better actions . But we need reason as a tool not as a judge .
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      Dec 29 2013: " we need reason as a tool not as a judge . "

      So what is the judge?
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        Dec 30 2013: The judge is a complex being , only it can determine what are the better actions ; the reason is just a tool in this process of determination .
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          Dec 30 2013: Please give me an example to illustrate this.
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        Dec 30 2013: Well , the humans . The humans are complex beings : they have reason , they have purposes , they have imagination , they have power to change the way the things are in the present time ......... etc . Giving all these , they can determine what are the better actions to be done . Reason only cannot determine the better actions , reason is an ability , a tool ; an ability don't tell anybody anything unless it is used by somebody , so we need a 'somebody' first . Also , a 'somebody' who has only the ability of reason cannot determine the better actions , it needs imagination or the power to change things in order to know its limits .......... and so on .
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    Dec 28 2013: Orlando Hawkins :

    (couldn't find a way to answer down there)

    I don't think we need to get to any natural state of making decisions , we make decisions every day in our lives anyway --- the innate sense of justice/injustice or right/wrong is in us , using it properly we will manage to make the right decisions . When I said we do have a natural sense of justce/injustice I didn't mean to say there is a natural state of making decisions , I just meant to say we are born with the power of knowing what's right and wrong .
    We don't need goverment and God to tell us what's right and wrong because we already know it . But I think we need the aid of the goverment in order to survive and as a tool of spreading and maintaining justice in our society and around the world . I also think we need the help of God ---- we are tiny creatures who can't change much the state of existence we found when we were born , injustice (as well as justice) is a fundamental pillar upon which our wolrd is built , we can't change this but God can .
    As to Rousseau remark ''unsee what we have seen'' , I can tell you we don't need to ; if we move forward adjusting what there is already we will be just fine .

    Yes , that people you talked about are absolutist relativists , they are a nonsense . May we not know how's that like to be in certain circumstances but bottom line is that we know what's right and wrong ; to use that type of excuses to avoid a reasonable disscusion is stupid . That's what we should tell them , I guess .
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      Dec 28 2013: Are you from a country with a dynasty governing ?

      How do you know there is no exception to the laws which rule the universe ?
      The all structure and laws are our creation , they are somehow even my creation when I comprehend them ; if there is an hierarchy based on this laws and structures then I create and destroy them any time I want .

      In my opinion , this all thing with hierarchy is a heritage of slavery .
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          Dec 28 2013: Everything you said that I disagree with put aside.

          We are not governed by natural law, we are governed by "cultural law".
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          Dec 28 2013: I didn't mean to offense you , my apologize if that happened . You can't know if there are exceptions to the natural laws or not , simply because you don't know everything that happens .
          And unlike what you think , the natural laws do not reveal any hierachy , they are mostly just a description of how the nature works ........... it's much beyond anything scientific to say there is a hierachy in nature . An example would suffice but there isn't .
          More than this , we describe the nature as we percieve it , we interacting with the nature create the laws of nature , they are the products of our mind ; how do you know a different mind will not describe the nature differently ?
          Anyway , even if anything behaves how the laws of nature describe , it doesn't mean there is a natural hierachy created by this laws -- e.g. a particle doesn't know about gravity but it still falls , it is just part of nature ; to follow nature doesn't mean to be governed by nature , it doesn't mean a hierachy , it just means we behave such and such because we're part of nature .
          Hierarchy is mind concept created by us , that's it . (and sometimes by people with not quite righteous intentions ) .
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          Dec 29 2013: There is no logical relation that would lead you to the idea that an apple tree never produces an avocado ; and if you can't bear witness to everything that happens you simply can't know there are no exceptions to the natural laws . There is no proof(hence logical relation) whatsoever that the laws that govern the Earth's orbit would not stop to describe the movement of Earth for a moment and then start again .
          Yes, you can trust or have faith there are no exceptions to the natural laws but that's just faith .
          Seriously ? are you really telling that the lions are the king of the jungle ? No offense again , but this are kids stories ; 'The Lion King' was the most wonderful animation I ever seen but that's just an animation . Why isn't the crocodile the king of jungle ?
          The animals live by their instincts , no animal cares of any hierachy . They are instinctual machines ; would you say that in a factory exists a hierarchy ? some machines are the kings and queens of the others ? If not , why in the animal kingdom would be a hierarchy?
          All the machines in a factory obey the natural laws in the same way humans do , does it mean that a hammer is the king of a nut ?
          Lions do not reign supreme in the jungle , they just live their lives like any other animal , it is our mind's construct to say they reign .
          I don't say there isn't order in nature , I'm just against the idea that nature establish hierarchy for itself . Order is different of hierarchy , order means a logical chain while hierarachy is about the idea of inferior , superior ........... a part of nature is not more inferior than another part of it , the pure natural laws describe the nature hence they don't reveal any hierarchy .
          I googled ' hierarchy in nature ' and I found for exampple on wikipedia at the 'scientific hierarchy' something about the location of Earth in Universe ---- this has nothing to do with the idea of reigning , ruling or whatever else of this kind .
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    Dec 27 2013: I would be interested to know if there is a correlation between peoples' perspective on this and where they were born and brought up. Any thoughts?
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      Dec 27 2013: Speaking generally, since many might feel offended by this.

      I think that if you're brought up religious it's very likely that you will think that morals come from religion, that is also the reason why Atheists are stigmatized in the US for example. Most religions teach that morals come from their religion, and they'll accept that others who also believe in god may have morals, they simply got it wrong.

      The more secular and educated you are the less will be the likelihood for this thinking. If you've studied animal behavior for example you will see that some have a clear sense of right and wrong. Or if you've studied philosophy you will likely come to the conclusion that ethics is a way of thinking and you will gain great ethical insight from pondering questions of right and wrong.

      If you on the other hand are taught that morals is something that you can gain from scriptures it does not make you wish to think about ethical dilemmas, you need only look it up what is right and not.
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          Dec 29 2013: Yeah I know, it's horrible... Hopefully it will improve with the new website, that is IF they decide to keep Conversations on TED...
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      Dec 28 2013: Hi Joanne,

      I do believe that upbringing has a lot to do with the responses. If you are someone is born in what some people call "failed states" in which the government is tyrannical, corrupted are just have a lust for war and violence, I think not only would you be a relativist (because you see the dangers of an all powerful government) but also someone who may think that human nature is innately cruel.

      Of course I am not saying that everyone born in such countries do not have a sense of hope and are just flat out nihilistic but this is something that Thomas Hobbes experienced. Much of his political philosophy had to do with his upbringing. He grew up during a time of civil war and has mentioned that "[he] and fear were born twins". If you take this into account you will understand why he advocates for an all-powerful sovereign.. I'm sure many have experienced something similar and this may have an impact on their political views and theories of justice.
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      Dec 28 2013: Joanne, Jimmy, and Orlando,
      I believe that the culture we are born into definitely influences our perspectives, because the information provided by parents, the society, government, traditions of a culture and/or religion, is some of the first information we live with and are taught as children.

      Perhaps it is a sense of hope for, and belief in, the possibility of something different that causes some people to explore further than the beliefs they were born into? There have been people throughout history who have NOT simply accepted the circumstances of their birth and have moved beyond. I think in order to move in another direction, one has to be aware of a desire to do so, in spite of the challenges involved.

      Frederick Douglass comes to mind....born into slavery....escaped....flogged/whipped....escaped again....punished over and over again and experienced EXTREME hardships. He never lost hope for something different, and eventually escaped for good, and became a leader for the anti-slavery movement.

      We've seen this kind of determination and dedication from others....Gandhi....Martin Luther King.....etc. These people were born into certain conditions which they believed to be unjust, and working within those systems, they held onto a sense of justice for themselves, and everyone who was challenged by the conditions which were accepted by the society at the time.
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        Dec 30 2013: Hi Colleen,

        It is great to hear back from you as well. I do apologize for not responding to you last post. I was trying it out before my laptop died and I was never able to get back to it before more people responded.

        What you said is very true and I hope my statement did not come off as being deterministic. but if I may I'll respond to the issues that you raised in your original response to me:

        In regards to having more of a sense of justice without government I would say that it depends on the circumstance. There are communities throughout the world that do not have a system of government or centralized power. They are very democratic with their own set of norms. Of course these communities are not utopian but most people believe that without government people are going to go around bashing each other heads in with rocks...these communities are not for everyone obviously and there is nothing wrong with choosing to live within a system of government.

        Now if these communities were indeed chopping off arms and bashing each other's heads in with rocks and no one is able come to an agreement about anything then I would say it would be imperative that such a community may need to establish some sort of system of government. So ultimately I believe that it depends on the circumstance, people's ability to reason with one another and the norms that they create.
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          Dec 30 2013: Sorry about the death of your laptop Orlando, and glad it is back in service again:>)

          I think/feel almost EVERYTHING depends on the circumstances....does it not?

          It seems like the reason some sense of government was formed originally was to organize people into a cohesive "group" or community with similar ideas and goals? I am aware of groups who have had different ways of governing and organizing the members of the community.

          I once read about some native American tribes, who had kind of a consensus practice. Although they had a chief, when an offence was committed against another tribe member, the community gathered, the offence was considered, and the members of the community, along with the offender, decided together what the outcome would be. Interestingly enough, this seems like the "Real Justice" model, which is being used today!

          Often, members of the community spoke about the talents and skills of the offender, and told him/her they appreciated that contribution to the tribe.....AND.....the offensive behaviors would not be accepted in the tribe. If the offender continued offending, s/he would be banished, and no longer allowed to be a member of that tribe.

          I agree with you Orlando, that circumstances, people's ability to reason with one another and the norms they create are important.

          In another part of this thread, there is discussion about compassion and recognition of interconnectedness being elements to the question of justice/injustice.

          The example with the practice of the native American tribes, seems to recognize compassion and interconnectedness as being part of justice/injustice. I also believe the Real Justice model demonstrates these qualities.
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    Dec 27 2013: I have avoided this question as I feel somewhat offended by this notion that you need religion to have a good sense of ethics. I rather feel that both religion and our modern governmental structure is bad for morale and ethical thinking.

    So my answer is yes and yes.

    Basically if you do not believe that we we're created by a (or many) God(s) you must come to the simple conclusion that ethical behavior is inherent in us.

    Monkeys for instance have a notion of fairness and in extension morals.

    Also, I noticed that you mentioned Sam Harris' Talk in your profile it is one of my favorite Talks as well and I do believe that he's correct.
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      Dec 28 2013: Hi Jimmy,

      My apologies for the level of offense that you have taken but you would be happy to know that I have similar beliefs that you do. This is a question that has actually given me so much trouble so I thought I would keep an open mind on this one. Like you, I do feel that both religion and modern governments (I would even say the one in the past as well) are bad for "morale and ethical thinking" (as you have stated).

      when it comes to ethics, I think it is up to man figure out what is right and wrong but this can also be dangerous since there are many perspectives and this eventually leads to relativism. Being that I am neither a relativist or absolutist, what I am trying to figure out is if there is something beyond both positions (or some sort of middle ground as Harris mentions in his talk).

      I am a huge fan of Harris and I do agree with most of his points but I am not sure if I still accept some of what he says in regards to the moral landscape. I agree with 90% of it. I do agree with his scientific approach to morality but something is still missing for me that I'm not sure if he addresses or not.
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        Dec 28 2013: Hi Orlando,

        Offence is taken not given, no need to apologize! What I meant when I wrote "I have avoided this question as I feel somewhat offended..."" was that I usually try to give my input on every conversation, and I've been watching yours since it began, but never went into it as I usually do with others. This is a topic that I have debated many times and there's usually a lot of opinions that you need God to have morals, which is saying that I don't have any which is insulting.

        When I say modern I'm also thinking about past forms, I think it's better now then it used to be in almost every aspect, but I'm hoping that government in the future won't have this effect on society.

        When it comes to relativist or absolutist I think that neither are great in their pure forms. I have yet to find a third road and I've been looking for years. What I discovered was the dangers of always walking the middle road, always compromising. Simply put if you compromise between good and evil (I don't believe in the concepts but I'm simplifying) you get something that is less good.

        Are you able to point to what's missing with Sam's ideas? Maybe I can be of assistance in resolving this?
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          Dec 30 2013: Hi Jimmy,

          I do understand what you are saying about people thinking that we need God in order to be good, com;passionate people. In that regard I do find it offensive myself for the exact same reasons that you gave.

          What you said in regards to taking the middle road is interesting. I have never thought about the issue of compromising before. Now that I think about it, I think I was looking for something similar to what Nietzsche said about going beyond good and evil. For him notions of good and evil are socially constructed and he believed that we were better suited to follow our own values ( for some people its a dangerous position because they are concerned that we are incapable of distinguishing between good and evil through reason).

          As for Sam what's missing for me is how his project would like like in practice. He acknowledges that moral truths exist but if we do not know exactly what they are, how can we say "X is true but Y is false" in the moral sense? Could we know what moral truth is if it was staring us right in the face? And when we get to some grey areas (which is what you see when we talk about governments, politics and economics) I do not think there is much that science can do.

          For example, how can we establish a theory of justice from a neurobiological point of view? How would talking about mirror neurons tell us anything about justice or how to stop injustice? For me, these are purely philosophical issues (although he is correct in saying that there is no clear border between philosophy and science). Both disciplines need each other but there is an effort by many scientist of the mind to engage in political issues. I'm not saying they are incapable of doing so but some of the books I've read or lectures I've seen has led me to believe that some scientist are better off leaving political discourse to people like Chomsky .
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        Dec 28 2013: I previously just skimmed through your explanation, now I read it thoroughly. And I'd like to come to the point of governments role in morale and ethics.

        I think that a societal structure is indeed needed, we've just constructed it wrong, or rather we're not done building and we need some major remodeling.

        Government (societal structure or whatever, I'll call it government here) is needed. We need to build consensus and we need to do that through intelligent debate.
        Government is needed to form an education system for instance, and although our current model may be damaging in many ways it's not the idea of the system but rather the implementation of it that has gone awry. Schools should above all teach people to think for themselves, with regards to others' thoughts as well. If we didn't have this system everyone would be free to wander off into their own faulty ideas and never have them challenged by others.

        And we need an ongoing (probably infinite) debate about what's right and wrong. Religions don't make changes to their core beliefs but governments do, and those changes are driven by debate by the inhabitants of the government (and now the whole world).

        But don't take someone else's opinion as equal to yours without evidence of that being a valid opinion, and to validate we need a form of measurement, one that Sam has offered. It may not be the ultimate but I'm willing to go with it until someone comes along and offers a better one.

        The thing is that this is a very deep topic that I'm afraid can't be resolved only improved upon.
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          Dec 30 2013: I do agree that we need some sort of organization (or order) to be able to truly understand issues of justice and injustice. Of good and evil. Plus if we are living and interacting with other people we will have to know how to act around one another. This can happen through systems of government or through any sort of community.

          My main issue is when governments are unwilling to modify their policies or experiment with new ones until they find something that works for the majority of people (since we unfortunately can't save everyone). I think ideologies (i.e. political identity) are a huge impediment to any sort of change because people are unwilling to change their minds when it may indeed be necessary to do so for the sake of maintaining their political identity. I just don't really see how an idea of justice can come about like this.

          In the U.S. at least, the only time I've seen unity and necessary discourse is when something bad happens that happens to galvanize everyone.
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        Dec 30 2013: Orlando,

        My mind is somewhat fatigued at the moment so I won't go very deep into your two comments.

        I would however like to share an idea with regards to political identity, I too believe that it is really damaging. And and I've seen it from the inside as i used to be a politician for a side-taking party here in Sweden.

        The issue of bipartisan political issues that many countries (almost all) face can and should be resolved through (Electronic) Direct Democracy. I had a conversation about that half a year ago that you could read if you'd like to http://www.ted.com/conversations/18759/does_your_country_have_an_elec.html

        I'm a proponent of what's loosely known as Liquid Democracy, here's a 5 minute video explaining the basic concept of it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fg0_Vhldz-8
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    Dec 27 2013: Personally I think it isn't possible for something like this to happen because we are human beings, and we all have different opinions on matters that we perceive as either good or evil. Without a leader to step up and administer 'justice', there will only be confusion and turmoil, and a lack of swiftness in judgement upon an act of crime due to the inability of humans to form a 'righteous' action upon the hypothetical offender. Therefore, yes, we do have an innate sense of justice, but it may be in conflict with everybody else. This is why we have religions, governments, the law, to tell us right from wrong 'by the book', and the law may sometimes seem unfair, or unreasonable, but since everybody is following the law, there is no confusion or conflict within personal opinions whatsoever, and since the law is in 'black and white', it is more concrete, unlike religion, where people twist the teachings ( Al Qaeda) to commit atrocious actions (terrorism). However, that's not to say that there is no link between religion and the law of the government. Many people's sense of justice are directed and driven by their religion, which points towards important people such as politicians and judges. To conclude, I think it is impossible to have an innate sense of justice without religion, or somebody telling us right from wrong (May not necessarily be the government). As somebody mentioned below, compassion and justice are two different things, and compassion is not taught, unlike justice, and compassion can drive you to do wrong things too, like 'helping' somebody traffic drugs thinking it as a favour to a friend. Sorry if the comment was a little long winded and hoped that this made sense and helped!
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      Dec 28 2013: Hi Elson,

      No need to apologize about your long statement. I did enjoy reading what you wrote down so please if you have to write a novel do so. Ok on to your comments:

      For the most part, what said made sense and it may perhaps be the case that many people need a leader to tell them what to do. It is true that there are a plethora of perspectives but do you not believe that people are capable of being reasonable and coming to a consensus without establishing a centralized system of power?

      In regards to leaders what exactly are they bounded by? Of course there are great teachers, sages and individuals out there but this leader is also human so we should be careful about the power that we administer to them. Perhaps if your living in a system of government it would be imperative to have a leader to maintain the status quo but I personally have trouble with this position because it comes off as people are incapable of taking care of themselves.

      In regards to compassion great point but I think it is also something that is taught (or at least cultivated). It teaches you not to act on your impulses which at times may conflict with being compassionate
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        Dec 29 2013: Hi Orlando
        Honestly I do not believe generally people are responsible enough to do so. We are human beings and are reasonable, but we are too intelligent and prideful (sorry if this comes off a little arrogant) individually to be able to see eye to eye on an issue as controversial as justice. We are too different for this to come to an understanding as equals, if we do not have someone who takes initiative and takes charge. This is also why leaders are imperative in our current society (my opinion).

        In regards to your second paragraph, I think leaders are really bounded by the people they lead. Leaders are after all, chosen by the very people who wants them to lead, in a democratic society. It's also very true about what you said, about leaders still being human, and corruption is still, of course an issue. I'm sure you've heard of the phrase 'power corrupts' . This is why democracy is the 'ideal' as power is spread among a large amount of people. That's not to say there is no corruption as that is simply an ideal and to think it is non existent would be naive.

        Ok back to the point, I think your statement about people being incapable of taking care of themselves without leaders is actually true. But I'm a little bit confused, is it still about justice, or is it about other aspects of life?
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          Dec 30 2013: Hi Elson,

          Since I agree with your first two paragraphs I'll leave those two on the table. Well said!

          To answer your question, I meant it in the context of justice but I do see where you were confused. It is true that some people do need leaders to be able to tell right from wrong. What I meant to say was that I believe that people are capable of distinguishing between good and evil, justice and injustice without the aid of a leader but it doesn't hurt to have one.
  • Dec 27 2013: Anything which give us at the cost of others( society) is injustice, If the plan ,to give others & get from it for yourself, it is justified. This rule can definitely give us the sense of justice .
  • Dec 26 2013: There are no such things as justice/injustice, good/evil in nature. How can we have an innate (natural ) sense of any of these abstract notions ?
    But what i think we do have can be called 'innate intelligence', because Nature is highly intelligent and its intelligence goes through us, whether we are conscious of it or not. I think, we are not , because if we were we could live our lives without any governments religions... justice and the necessity to fight for it.
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      Dec 27 2013: Are you saying that we can't have a natural/innate sense of abstract notions ? If so , is the notion of intelligence less abstract than the notions of good and evil ? (if it's not your all reasoning falls ) .

      But we have innate sense of abstract notions ---- example : the logical relations . And I'm pretty sure we have an innate sense of good and evil .

      To ask if we have an innate sense of justice or injustice it's not the same thing with to ask if we have an innate sense of the Notions of justice or injustice . See the difference ?
      • Dec 29 2013: I do :) But i think we are boiling down to semantics here.
        Are justice/injustice, good/evil senses or notions ?

        " is the notion of intelligence less abstract than the notions of good and evil ?"

        Probably, you confuse ' intelligence ' with 'intellect'.
        May i try to explain the difference as i see it ?
        Intellect is something that I HAVE ( or i can assume that i have it :) )
        Intelligence is something that HAS ME, it goes through me.
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          Dec 30 2013: As far as I'm concerned you may try to say anything you want (when it happens we talk , of course) -- that's my belief , if you say what you have to say as harsh as it may be then it's more likely to reach to some strong conclusions .
          I'm not sure I follow you ; as I see it , good/evil aren't senses , the sense is something else than good and evil , the sense is that thing that tells us what's good and evil . The sense of the notions of good/evil is something intellectual , it's something about understanding notions . The sense of good/evil is that thing in us that tells us what's good and what's evil . This was the difference I was talking about and as much as I'm aware I didn't play semantics .

          So , nature flows an intelligence through us that makes us know how to behave , that makes us know what to call good and what to call evil ---- this intelligence looks a lot like the sense of good/evil I am arguing for .
          Why did you say we have this intelligence/sense from nature ?
      • Dec 31 2013: Sorry, i really didn't get your point . I even didn't notice that i said ' harsh' things.
        But if i offended you in any way, please, take my apologies !
        Let me try again, you say :
        "good/evil aren't senses.... , the sense is that thing that tells us what's good and evil "
        So, we don't have an innate knowledge of good/evil, but the innate ability to get to know what is good and evil.
        Is it what you are saying ?

        Happy New Year ! :)
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          Jan 1 2014: I replied you by adding a new comment !!
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      Dec 27 2013: There IS such a thing as Justice/injustice in nature!

      Watch this TED Talk http://www.ted.com/talks/frans_de_waal_do_animals_have_morals.html
      • Dec 29 2013: Thanks for the link !
        It proves that the break between us and nature is largely overstressed. We recognise the pattern of our human behaviour in the behaviour of animals, no wonder, nature is a fractal. Nature is interconnectedness of all phenomena, it's much deeper notion than 'cooperation ' as was suggested. What about viruses ? The pattern is obvious, we do behave like viruses too, where is cooperation here ? If virus kills the organism that hosts it, the party is over for both, but nothing disappears in nature, " they parish not but reabsorbed " interconnectedness goes anywhere.
        What i am trying to say is that nature builds its strategies via intelligence without judgement ( right/wrong, good/evil ).
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      Dec 28 2013: Hi Natasha,

      I think I understand what your saying but correct me if I'm incorrect:

      So in essence what your saying is the notions that we are talking about are nothing more than individually or socially constructed?
      • Dec 29 2013: Not exactly, it's much deeper, i guess.
        It's the function of who we are. It's psychologically constructed.
        A kind of :)


        I mean, their is not escape from it , until our mind is changed. Justice is a poor substitution for love and we try to redouble our efforts to control unbridled ego by morals. fear, laws justice...
        Joanne D. suggests that we overuse the 'thought' tool, yes, it leads to fragmentation, strengthens our ego ( individual/collective ), ' thought' as a process has shaped our mind, detached us from nature ,we live in linguistic constructs now, not on the planet Earth.
        But what is done can't be undone, we can't remake ourselves and abandon thinking at will. And we don't have to strive for it. Any process has its opposite within, equally powerful.
        Trough thinking we rediscovered interconnectedness, QM has brought this idea back. And connectivity, i believe, is a precondition for compassion, love.

        But it wouldn't hurt to spend more time with nature. Honestly , i think , it's absolutely necessary :)
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          Dec 30 2013: Hi Natasha, Great to talk to you again!

          thanks for clearing that up for me. I understand your point now. I would have to agree with you that we do use our minds (or reason) moreso than our heart. I actually love being in nature and wilderness. It is the only time in which I feel at peace and have value to my life.

          As for QM, I'm still iffy about that but that is a topic for another discussion
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      • Dec 29 2013: Hi, Chris ! Happy to see you too !

        Thank you for framing your argument so intelligently ! :)

        You say :
        Nature is from Latin natura "course of things; [...] the universe," literally "birth," from natus "born," past participle of nasci "to be born," from PIE *gene- "to give birth, beget", thus all of nature is an act of creation (from Latin creatus, past participle of creare "to make, bring forth, produce, beget" ).

        Have you noticed that it's all words concepts notions ?
        Marshall McLuhan said , " we read nature, we don't see nature "
        We are result of our linguistic conditioning.
        But we are not totally mental, thanks God ! When you see/experience nature, does any thought cross your mind at the moment ? You have a feeling, which is not quite yours. Any attempt to describe the feeling looks too over the top, if not pathetic.( it's actually my experience) But there is the grasping after, the message : there is no good/evil justice/injustice , there is no death only life ' as below as above ' and vice-versa.
        What is ' disease ' in nature ? It's just another organism ; nature doesn't discriminate between a human or a fine animal and virus. We do.
        I do :) God knows how i hate diseases , how i fear death !
        It what makes me human, the nature observer. I came out of nature , ready to die ( to be transformed ) peacefully, i inherited no notions of good/evil from nature, but with growing up , my sense of separate self grows and my ego grows inside. Again it's neither good nor evil. It's what it is.
        Can Karma be unjust ? I guess, it's never the option, and if it is the case ' justice ' has no meaning. It makes sense only with its opposite.
        I still think, that there are no good/evil justice/injustice in nature, but in some sense you are right, they do exist in the universe we inhabit, because we built/build/ are building it instantly. I need to make one extra point very clear.
        Would you agree that good/evil justice /injustice is the point of judgment ?
      • Dec 29 2013: cont.

        Is there good/evil ...Above ? If there isn't why should it be Below ? Maybe because we judge ? My guess is that it exists anywhere , it inhabits our mind. We do judge, because we can't do otherwise ; it's the very function of the present evolutionary state of our minds. We can't process information without evaluation and we inbuild wrong/right, good/evil duality in all our models of reality. And what we think it is , it is.
        There is no escape from 'What is real ?' question.
        " Is it the wind moving or is it the flag? The monk answers, neither, its your mind that is moving.'
        I leave you with it :)
        Please don't take me wrong, i am not arguing with you. I merely try to understand.
        Thanks for your help !
      • Dec 29 2013: . How can forgiveness be offered if judgement is not made?

        Love needs no judgement.
      • Dec 29 2013: So... what conclusion we can draw from it ?
        Could it be that good/evil justice/injustice are ego constructs ?

        It's quantum mechanical idea :
        one who acts, the action itself and the result of the action are ONE.
      • Dec 29 2013: depending on what you mean by "above".

        Above is the event horizon for mind, there is nothing (no thing ) above , so is below. I would say Below is the moving image of Above We live in the image, no thing is real, but the attitudes. We perceive good/evil as separate opposites, in fact each only exist by the virtue of its partner, together they must be nothing/zero to mirror the Above.
        It's just a model, it can't be true, but i like it :) I can tell you when this picture appeared in my mind.
        Faust asks the Devil " Who art though ? " Devil offers the paradoxical reply
        " I am part of that spirit which always wills evil and always creates good "
        Goethe reconciled good and evil in one force that moves the image, which is creation. Probably Goethe could process information by resonance only, it's what geniuses do.
        If we could perceive good/evil without separation as nature does as change, justice power judgment...guilt ...you know the litany , would make no sense
        What would be left ? Gratitude for being, joy, love. Paradise at last ! As above as below.

        Thanks for reading this :)
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          Dec 30 2013: Beautifully written!! I wish you inner peace, joy and love (which are one and same) for all time and in all ways. Happy 2014!!!
      • Dec 31 2013: Thank you for your kind words, . . !
        ... joy and love (which are one and same)
        Yes, two words, one feeling :)
        Happy New Year !

        Chris, sorry for hijacking your reply button. :)
        Happy New Year ! ! !
  • Dec 26 2013: There is no inherent justice. Justice is what societies define as the the correct course of actions. Without the many to come to a consensus, we only have individuals with individual conclusions. What is right or "just" in one situation may not be right or just in another. I believe this is why we have yet to come across a truly universal ethical yardstick. To answer your question a different way: I believe a group of people will create a justice system without it being handed down. Again, it is simply an agreement of what is proper. This does not require spiritual intervention either (handed down from a deity). Albeit some may feel spiritually moved or compelled - a form of emotional response to a given decision. I do not feel that justice will be recognizable in the many forms it may take with the numerous possibilities that various groups may conjure. If we judge what other groups may define as just against our own current form of justice, then I believe we will see some people as "just" and others as unjust - much as we see our world today, and throughout history. Justice is relative, however disheartening that may be.
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      Dec 28 2013: Hi Greg,

      I do agree that it is up to humans to figure out what is right and wrong, just and unjust and with this we are going to have a litany of perspectives. and it may be the case that justice is relative. Before I go much deeper with my responses I would like to ask if you see any issue with justice being relative? Could it also be the case that Justice is relative because we allow it to be?
      • Jan 9 2014: To have an issue with justice being relative, I would have to believe that Justice shouldn't be relative. For if justice should be relative, and if it were, then it would be as it should be. Since I believe justice is inherently relative, it is as it should be and I have no qualm with it. On the other side of the coin, I am human, and as such am part of one of many possible justice systems and am thus bias. In my particular case, I am bias towards those definitions of justice prevalent in the western world. I am not of a religious sect, so I cannot claim definition from my religion, but I would be saddened if I were to live by a form of justice contrary to my upbringing. I believe this more an emotional comfort. Generally speaking, I believe that issues do arise from varying justice systems. They will inevitably lead to conflict where they meet.

        I would agree that multiple forms of justice continue to exist because we allow it by not choosing one and forcing it across all humanity. This should not be confused with the inherent nature of justice being relative. Various forms of justice will naturally occur, of which, we all as humans decide which to support and which to suppress. We being humans "allow" different forms. One group supporting one justice system may choose to allow or suppress another, but that decision does not prevent the other from existing, or eliminate the possibility of it existing. This situation is what we find occurring throughout history. Different civilizations with different justice systems conflicting and to the victor goes historical correctness.

        To continue your direction, I will concede that there are many commonalities among the observable justice systems (don't kill). I believe these can be broken down to practical need. Don't kill as an example being needed to prevent our self destruction as a society. Lying as another example, inhibits communication and is an obstruction. Logic may be used, but is still relative...
      • Jan 9 2014: Justice needs a goal, a yardstick, to be measured by. Whoever creates the yardstick sets the bias. Perspective could be considered the root of variation. Is it unjust to kill an animal to eat it? Is it unjust for a lion to kill a gazelle? To the lion society it may be OK, or debated. To the gazelle society, it may be very wrong. Is it wrong for us to kill millions of bacteria? At what point is it wrong to kill a life form? The perspective, I believe, is key.
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    Dec 25 2013: continuing :

    As about God , the Christians say that He told us what's good and evil by rooting in us that innate sense of justice , injustice or good and evil . So I don't know how much we need God to tell us what's right and wrong more than this .

    Goverments , societies , and religions (some more than others) are our products as people with certain capabilities and limitations . Among this capabilities you find logic , the sense of good and evil , reason , the physical power ...... etc . Of course in time religions and goverments intereact with our sense of good and evil and thus they establish things as good and wrong , but it doesn't mean that without them we are lost . We're not , we're the creators .
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    Dec 25 2013: We do have a an innate sense of justice or injustice , we couldn't even talk about justice , right , wrong if we didn't .

    We are born to be reasonable persons , the reason is something given to us by nature (even if we use it or not ) --- this is something obvious to anybody I guess . So yes , we can trust people to come up with rational desicions without a system of goverment . This rational desicions are good or wrong , obviously . On what basis do we call something good or wrong? A system of goverment , a religion ? No way . Our sense of good and wrong is before religion or goverments . It's simple , a religion can be good or wrong , a goverment can be good or evil , right ? we say this on a daily basis , and we make sense when we say this things . It's too obvious that good and wrong is something we know before any goverment or religion told us anything about it , otherwise we couldn't say the things we do , we wouldn't make sense .
    On the other hand , goverments and religions establish that certain things are good and just and certain aren't , but it doesn't mean they establish the good and the wrong . Just think a bit , if we were to be told what's good and wrong by religion or goverments wihtout any knowledge of it before , we wouldn't even understand what they're saying to us .

    I'm not sure that what you say about relativism and absolutism is correct . I mean , nobody on this planet is an absolute relativist or an absolute absolutist . So , to the question you asked :
    ""who are you to say that such cultural practices are wrong and a product of injustice"?
    the asnwer is simple : I am a person like you and everybody else on this planet who know what's good and evil beyond what religions , cultures or goverments tell me , this gives me the right to bring to debate any issue concerning justice , injustice , good , evil .
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      Dec 28 2013: Hi EG,

      So how do we get back to this natural state of making decisions by ourselves (or together) without invoking God or without the aid of the government? Rousseau would argue the same thing but he had a point in saying that we cannot "unsee what we have seen" meaning we can't really break away from the system we have now and return to our natural state. if our sense of justice has stemmed from the government, this is what we are left with. I'm not sure if I agree with that completely but its an interesting point

      As for your next paragraph you would be surprised. I've met people who would advocate relativism til the day the die (or just for the sake of argument). Are they absolutist in any sense of the word? I am not sure but when I do talk about the troubles that I see going around the world, I am usually met with such responses and told that my position is unjustifiable because "I don't know what it's like to be that person or in that society". when it comes to human cruelty I think it's very easy to point out at times but such positions in it's extreme form are really disheartening.
  • Dec 25 2013: Most people have a sense of justice, typically derived from their upbringing and life experiences (where religion, society ad laws come in), though that sense of justice varies greatly from person to person. What one man may have no difficulty accepting, another may find heinous, even if the two people led similar lives in the same society.

    Out of pure practicality, a single system of laws and social norms exist, even if as a whole, they're not espoused by any single person.
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    Dec 25 2013: Hi Orlando....haven't connected with you for awhile....nice to "see" you:>)

    I think that most children are born with a sense of what is right and wrong. And behaviors that are adopted by parents, society, or religions, are often passed down to the children.

    A couple things come to mind at the moment....
    Little girls feet were bound and "reshaped", preventing them from walking normally, because someone came up with the idea that it was beautiful? The "lotus" feet?

    There is a practice of knocking out a front tooth of kids when they reach puberty? That is a sign to that society that the kid has reached puberty, and so it is accepted and even honored?

    Girls who reach puberty have their genitals mutilated, and that is accepted by the society?

    In my perception, these practices are all torture, whereas they are accepted in certain cultures. I don't feel like I need anyone to tell me that mutilating the body of a human being is not ok.

    You bring up the question however...""who are you to say that such cultural practices are wrong and a product of injustice"? How do we deal with this issue? Would it be imperialistic to take action?"

    I believe that when enough people speak up, the practices change. I don't think little girls feet are bound anymore, and there is talk and action regarding genital mutilation.

    Perhaps we may have an innate sense of justice/injustice when we are born, and perhaps this is part of our intuition/instinct? It seems like it is some traditions, governments or religions (the society we are born into) which cause most of the injustices in our world.

    If we were "living in the state of nature... a stateless society that does not rely on a... centralized power, would it be possible to have a sense of justice? It might be possible that we have MORE of a sense of justice? Would there be MORE people WITH a sense of justice/injustice if there was no government or religious power telling us what is right and wrong?

    I'm just adding to the questions!
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      Dec 25 2013: Hi Colleen :

      Religion and goverments are what people made them to be , are what people allow them to be . And this people are you and me as well as any president or head of church . So , I don't quite understand what you mean when you say that it seems that governments or religions cause most of the injustices in our world ?
      Goverments and religions have no power without us , so who cause injustice in this world ?
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        Dec 26 2013: I agree E G, that religions and governments are made up of people, and they are what people allow them to be....well said.

        If enough people within a religion or government are in favor of a certain practice, then often times, those who are blind followers will simply go along with the belief or practice. Those who want to control, oppress and dominate other people seem to cause injustice in our world.

        There seems to often be a very strong leader(s) within a government or religion, who sets the rules, and people within that group will follow.

        When/if there are enough people opposed to controlling, oppressive, dominating practices, either within the group, or on the outside, they/we may create enough voices and strength to stop the controlling, oppressive, dominating practices.
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          Dec 26 2013: So , the people are the primary source of injustice in this world .

          And if we wanna live in a better world we have to fight the injustice starting from its own source , it's an hard thing to do , especially when those injust people are more powerful , better equiped ........ . Is there hope ?
          There isn't the option ' not to fight ' anyway , so ........
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        Dec 26 2013: I agree Eduard, that people are the primary source of injustice in our world, and I believe there IS hope.

        As I said in another comment on this thread...one good thing I observe happening, is our communication systems, including TED. Abuse and violation of human rights thrives in isolation. If people outside the situation do not know it is happening, nothing can be done about it. Now, we can have the information instantly, so more and more people are becoming aware of situations where there is oppression, abuse and violation of human rights. When we KNOW about something in our global society, there is the possibility of speaking out against it.....right?
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          Dec 26 2013: Well, according to your example it seems that the people aren't only a source of injustice , they are and they can be a source of justice as well . So that's right .

          What's strange though is that the people are both just and injust , they can't be just ony ........ strange combination .
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        Dec 26 2013: YES Eduard.....we/they can be a source of justice or injustice. Is it a choice? In my humble perception....it IS a choice.
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          Dec 27 2013: How much a choice ? We are beings bound by the expriences we have , we are bound by what we are , can we choose over us ?
          There are and there will always be this two things : good and evil ; in this conditions can we really do something for a just world ? I mean the evil will always exist , it's part of us . Do we really have a choice or we just have the impression we have (but in the end the evil will still continue to exist) ?
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        Dec 27 2013: As individuals Eduard, we make choices in every moment of the life experience.
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          Dec 27 2013: I know , but on a long term or at scale of the universe or as a matter of changing the actual existence , do we really have a choice ?
          We're tiny creatures in an infinite universe , we come and leave this world with the same features we found it : justice and injustice ; does it make sense to you ? or you think we should limit ourselves to what we are and that's it ?

          The problem is this way : a person who do not dream to a just world won't try to be more just than the circumstances allow him to be ; I understand we make choices in life but is that it ?
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        Dec 28 2013: I agree with you Eduard...we are tiny creatures in the universe. Think about an ant colony....tiny little creatures, when working together can accomplish a great deal.....yes?
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          Dec 29 2013: I guess so .
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    Dec 25 2013: The only innate sense of justice we have is the one a two-year old knows. It's egocentric and vengeful.
    Everyone in a society needs to agree on what is right and what is wrong, to avoid conflict. Religious endoctrination works fine for carying the rules and values.

    But in a larger, global society, the variety of ideologies and religions bring us back to the todler problem, each with its own sense of good and evil. So we need a super-endoctrination, a very powerful dictatorship that supersedes every other government or religion. And this will bring peace and justice again.

    Or... you may decide to get rid of any kind of faith-based ideology and empower reason instead, and have Reason be the univeral judge.
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      Dec 25 2013: Since everybody has its own sense of good and evil , is there something universal as good and evil ? and if there is not (as rather results from your comment) , there is no reason to choose Reason to be the universal judge . ( why would there be such a reason ? ----- we will choose Reason only if there is something universal good and that's the Reason and not because it happens to be good according to ones own sense of good , right ? and as long as there isn't an universal good why to choose Reason as universal judge ? )
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        Dec 26 2013: Because "right" (=good) then because "right" (=correct), and it's universal in that sense.
        If you don't follow reason, whatever you think is going to be incorrect. If you want your kids to be sane and healthy, you must take care of them and love them. This isn't "good behavior", it's rational behavior, much like successfully landing a spacecraft on the moon : only a rational way that gets you there.
        Why should you want your kids to be happy? Because that outcome is probably the most reasonnable because it isn't in conflict with your other goals.
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          Dec 26 2013: I understand what you're saying , happiness is to be wished by anybody .

          But is , the sense of good and evil something universal or not ? And if there is do we still need Reason as the ultimate judge , do we still need to be super-endoctrinated ?

          If we know what's good and evil , we don't need Reason to tell us that , right ?
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        Dec 26 2013: No, good and evil don't exist, hence the need for reason
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          Dec 26 2013: But that's a contradiction , if good and evil do not exist , then what do we need the reason for ?
          You said we need reason to establish what's the good and the evil , but if good and evil do not exist , what to establish ?
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        Dec 27 2013: Good and evil don't exist, but better and worse do when it boils down to solving problems, which reason does best.
        Morality is a social problem among many other kinds of problems.
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          Dec 27 2013: If good and evil don't exist , how then better and worse exist ?

          My reason can't understand you .
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        Dec 27 2013: You need some kind of universal judge for what is good and what is evil. We don't have one.
        However, we have such a universal judge for better and worse solutions to specific problems : reason.

        Think of a problem. Ok now, imagine good solutions and bad ones. Good solutions are solutions, bad ones usually ignore the problem and solve nothing. Better and worse exist objectively in this sense.
        You don't need God to tell you that vaccination is a good solution to the smallpox problem : the vaccine works better than homeopathy or prayer or magic. "Better" is objective.
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          Dec 28 2013: I answered you adding a new comment .
  • Dec 25 2013: I believe that we do have such senses and it stems from the conscience. Where we lack conviction in listening to the whispers of truth is when we find excuses to justify our points to achieve a goal . The means justify the end result may be a better way to express it. What I like in, concept only, is our justices system of supposedly non-partial view. Unfortunately it has fallen in ruin due to the magnitude of laws that have been formulated for the supposedly betterment of justice.
    In closing, Yes it is possible to have a sense of justice on our own, if one can first separate oneself from the equation and listen to what lies with-in.
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    Dec 25 2013: My experience tells me that we do have such a sense; I mean we are prewired with such an innate sense; however, it needs the right conditions to be activated and operational, and to grow.
    Are all lucky enough to be in the right society, family, and so on to have the right chances to get it activated?! so, here is where religion or law comes in.
    wish we all could be fortunate enough to have our genetic endowments activated
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    Dec 25 2013: Yes we do have an innate sense of fustice or injustice .
  • Dec 25 2013: Everyone knows what is right or wrong, if you don't well, you are not human. That is not the problem, the real problem is even though we know what is right, we still chose to do otherwise. Their is a name for that.... crazy.
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      Dec 25 2013: Hitler thought he was doing the right thing. So did the suicide bomber.
      So did Abraham, and everybody else relying on anything else than Reason for their morals, whether it's gut feelings or ideology or religious beliefs.
      • Dec 25 2013: Mele Kalikimaka
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        Dec 25 2013: Good point Gerald, and I agree that those who have committed these crimes against other humans, probably thought they were doing the "right" thing. I also think they were being "reasonable" according to their own personal plan. So when we encourage relying on reason, the question can be asked......whose reason? Folks who violate the human rights of others are working with a different set of criteria for "reasoning" and "morals", and somehow justifying their actions as "right".
        • Dec 25 2013: You are both right as rain and you covered the subject well, I could not have said it better.
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          Dec 26 2013: I see what you mean, but I still think reason is universal. Germans under the Nazi regime should have realized that their plan for world peace was irrational, or that the inferiority of any race was unscientific. THe suicide bomber should challenge whether giving his life to take that of innocents will buy a spot in heaven for his relatives.
          In some places they have their reasons for denying women equal rights, but same thing : they can't seriously explain why women shouldn't drive. It's all crappy arguments. Universally crappy.
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        Dec 26 2013: I see what you are saying too Gerald, and I still think individuals and groups of individuals have their own compasses regarding what is reasonable.

        I agree that people under the Nazi regime "should have realized" some things. There was a very charismatic leader, who pulled people into his plan, and once a group of people have an idea, it sometimes becomes the "mob mentality". One person alone probably cannot terrorize a whole country....probably cannot carry out the mass destruction of people. When there are enough people engaged in the plan however, it can be done.....right?

        There is usually a leader with a plan, who convinces a few people that s/he is right, and when s/he gathers enough followers, they can terrorize, oppress, control and dominate masses.....yes?

        You say the suicide bomber "should challenge". If a child is indoctrinated with the belief that giving one's life for the religion/god will get them a wonderful place in a heaven, then, they are faced with starving to death, living with war and destruction, etc., what looks better? A life of struggle, or death, which they think will take them to a wonderful afterlife?

        When people want to oppress, control and dominate others, they find an argument that supports their desire, and they call it "reasonable", because with tunnel vision, the ONLY information they are seeking, is that which in their mind, supports their argument.
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          Dec 26 2013: Agreed. People look for information supporting their, sometimes nonsensical, arguments and being brainwashed means what it means. You can't argue with a fanatic.
          But... it's still wrong. Even if the endoctrinated cannot possibly know better, we should blame their lack of education and acknowledge that rationality is necessarily superior to irrationality... WHATEVER your goals are.
          And finding one argument that supports one's desire and ignoring the others is not reasonable, right?
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        Dec 26 2013: I personally do not think it is reasonable to ignore information Gerald, and I perceive people who do that as very closed minded/closed hearted.

        One good thing I observe happening, is our communication systems, including TED. Abuse and violation of human rights thrives in isolation. If people outside the situation do not know it is happening, nothing can be done about it. Now, we can have the information instantly, so more and more people are becoming aware of situations where there is oppression, abuse and violation of human rights. When we KNOW about something in our global society, there is the possibility of speaking out against it.....right?
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    Dec 25 2013: As I've often said before on the TED forums - anything which infringes upon the human rights of another is morally wrong, and anything which preserves it is right. That is the foundation upon which we can measure justice without invoking God or Law.

    Proceed from there.
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      Dec 25 2013: I wholeheartedly agree with you Lawren. Do you think everyone has the same compass? Does everyone have the ability to determine what infringes upon the human rights of another and is morally wrong, and that which preserves the rights of others? I just had a very long conversation with someone yesterday, who believes if fundamentalists think they are right, it is ok to push their beliefs onto others. What do you think about that?