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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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    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 !
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        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 :)

          edited.

          "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 !
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        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 :)

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