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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 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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