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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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    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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