Saturday, August 30, 2014

Does Natural Law exist?


 
A widow about to be buried alive in her husband's grave (Wikimedia Commons). Do we all share the same sense of right and wrong?

 

What, ultimately, is the basis for morality? In a comment on a previous post, fellow columnist Fred Reed argued that some things are self-evidently wrong, like torture and murder. No need to invoke the Ten Commandments or any religious tradition. Some things are just wrong. Period.

This is a respectable idea with a long lineage. It's the argument of Natural Law. All people are born with a natural sense of right and wrong, and it is only later, through vice or degeneration, that some can no longer correctly tell the two apart.

The idea began with the Stoics of Ancient Greece. They believed that the universe is governed by laws and that everyone naturally wishes to live in harmony with them, thanks to the divine spark that exists in all of us. In reply, the Epicureans argued that the laws of the universe are indifferent to humans and their problems. We alone define right and wrong.

The Christian theologian Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) worked out a compromise that divided Natural Law into general precepts and secondary precepts. The former are known to all men but can be hindered "on account of concupiscence or some other passion." The latter "can be blotted out from the human heart, either by evil persuasions [..] or by vicious customs and corrupt habits, as among some men, theft, and even unnatural vices, as the Apostle states (Rom. i), were not esteemed sinful" (Aquinas, Summa Theologica I-II, Q. 94, Art. 6).

Aquinas lived at a time when Christian morality had already penetrated deeply into the hearts and minds of Europeans. It was continually being violated, of course, but violators typically knew they had done wrong and they typically tried to justify their wrongdoings on Christian grounds, or seek absolution. Aquinian Natural Law thus closely approximated moral reality, much as Newtonian physics would long remain a good approximation of physical reality.

Things changed from the 16th century on, as Christian Europe spread outward into Africa, Asia, and the Americas. It became evident that notions of right and wrong were not everywhere the same, or even similar.  One example was sati, the Indian custom of burning a widow alive on her husband's funeral pyre. Though supposedly voluntary, it usually involved the tying of her feet or legs to prevent escape. She could also be buried alive, as a 17th century traveler noted:

In most places upon the Coast of Coromandel, the Women are not burnt with their deceas'd Husbands, but they are buried alive with them in holes which the Bramins make a foot deeper than the tallness of the man and woman. Usually they chuse a Sandy place; so that when the man and woman both let down together, all the Company with Baskets of Sand fill up the hole about half a foot higher than the surface of the ground, after which they jump and dance upon it, till they believe the woman to be stiff'd. (Tavernier, 1678, p. 171; see also Sati, 2014)

When the British sought to ban the practice, they appealed to notions of right and wrong, but to no avail. Defenders of sati considered it right and even honorable. The debate was finally resolved by the logic of force, as set forth by the British commander-in-chief:

This burning of widows is your custom; prepare the funeral pile. But my nation has also a custom. When men burn women alive we hang them, and confiscate all their property. My carpenters shall therefore erect gibbets on which to hang all concerned when the widow is consumed. Let us all act according to national customs! (Napier, 1851, p. 35)

Enlightenment thinkers attributed this custom and others like it to degeneration from an original state of goodness. Thus was born the idea of the Noble Savage. Yet this idea, too, came under attack with the realization that even simple "uncorrupted" societies may have very different attitudes toward human life, as seen in the torturing of captives, the abandonment of weak or deformed children, and the killing of old men and women:

The problems posed by limited resources and old peoples' dependence are sometimes resolved in an extreme way: killing, abandoning, or exposure of the elderly—what anthropologists call gerontocide. Cross-cultural studies show that such treatment is more common than we might suppose. Maxell and Silverman found evidence of gerontocide in a little over 20% of 95 societies in a worldwide sample (Silverman, 1987). Glascock uncovered abandonment of the elderly in 9 of the 41 nonindustrial societies in his sample—and reports of killing old people in 14 of these societies. (Bengtson and Achenbaum, 1993, p. 110)

This kind of thing may seem unfortunate but justifiable among nomads. Sometimes, the elderly just have to be left behind. But we also see elder abandonment in sedentary peoples, like the Hopi of the American southwest:

As long as aged men controlled property rights, held special ceremonial offices, or were powerful medicine men, they were respected. But "the feebler and more useless they become, the more relatives grab what they have, neglect them, and sometimes harshly scold them, even permitting children to play rude jokes on them." Sons might refuse to support their fathers, telling them, "You had your day, you are going to die pretty soon." (Bengtson and Achenbaum, 1993, pp. 108-109)

Whenever such accounts come up at anthropological conferences, there is a certain malaise. Some will blame European contact for the devaluing of human life. Others, however, will present similar facts that often predate the coming of traders or missionaries. I remember one speaker who presented evidence of cannibalism at an Inuit site. This wasn't an isolated case, such as might happen in extreme circumstances of starvation. There seemed to be an accumulation of human bones, of Indian origin, with cut marks on them. The findings were later published:

The remains of at least 35 individuals (women, children, and the elderly) were recovered from the Saunaktuk site (NgTn-1) in the Eskimo Lakes region of the Northwest Territories. Recent interpretations in the Arctic have suggested a mortuary custom resulting in dismemberment, defleshing, chopping, long bone splitting, and scattering of human remains. On the evidence from the Saunaktuk site, we reject this hypothesis. The Saunaktuk remains exhibit five forms of violent trauma indicating torture, mutilation, murder, and cannibalism. Apparently these people were the victims of long-standing animosity between Inuit and Amerindian groups in the Canadian Arctic. (Melbye and Fairgrieve, 1994)

When I talked with the speaker after his presentation, he seemed apprehensive. How would people react? 

He needn't have worried. The noble savage is still alive and well. Strangely enough, this kind of thinking has seeped even into the missionary mindset, as I discovered during my last few years at the United Church of Canada. I was surprised to learn just how little our mission work involved teaching of Christian morality:

"Do you talk to these people about the Christian faith?"
"Not unless they specifically request it."
"Do you at least have Christian literature on display?"
"No, we're not allowed to do that."

Things aren't much better in the fundamentalist churches. I remember attending a Pentecostal presentation on "the cause of Third World Poverty." I thought the talk would focus on cultural values. Instead, we were told that the cause is ... lack of infrastructure. The Third World is poor because it doesn't have enough roads, bridges, and buildings. 

The modern world has bought so much into the argument of Natural Law that the entire Christian enterprise now looks like a waste of time. There was no need for missionaries to fight barbaric customs, since there were no barbaric customs to be fought. All of that was one big misunderstanding. Christian mission work is now limited to good works, apparently in the belief that all humans share the same moral framework and that it's enough to set a good example. If you act nice, other people will get the message and likewise act nice.


A hazardous assumption

Christianity has been killed by its success. It has so thoroughly imposed its norms of behavior that we now assume them to be human nature. If some people act contrary to those norms, it's because they're "sick" or "deprived." Or perhaps something is misleading us and they're really acting just like everyone else.

For two millennia, the Christian faith has profoundly shaped the culture of European peoples, allowing very little to escape its imprint. This is especially so in attitudes toward the taking of life. Beginning in the 11th century, the Church allied itself with the State to punish murder, which previously had been a private matter to be settled through revenge or compensation. At the height of this war on murder, between 0.5 and 1.0 % of all men of each generation were sentenced to death, and a comparable proportion of offenders died at the scene of the crime or in prison while awaiting trial. Meanwhile, homicide rates plummeted from between 20 and 40 per 100,000 in the late Middle Ages to between 0.5 and 1.0 in the mid-20th century (Eisner, 2001). The pool of violent men dried up until most murders occurred under conditions of jealousy, intoxication, or extreme stress. Yes, people got the message to act nice, but the message was not delivered nicely.

By pacifying social relations, Church and State also created a culture that rewarded men who got ahead through trade and hard work, rather than through force and plunder. It became easier to plan for the future and develop what came to be known as middle-class values: thrift, sobriety, and self-control. Popular tastes changed accordingly, as seen in the decline of cock fighting, bear and bull baiting, and other blood sports (Clark, 2007; Clark, 2009a; Clark, 2009b).

Were these changes in behavior purely cultural? Or was there also a steady removal of violent predispositions from the gene pool? It's only now that a few scholars are beginning to ask such questions, let alone answer them.
 

Towards a new perspective ... 

The idea of Natural Law is true up to a point. All humans have to face certain common problems that have to be solved in more or less the same way. Kinship, for instance, matters in all human societies, at least traditional ones. Marriage and family are likewise universal.

But even these "universals" vary a lot. There are many kinds of kinship systems, including some with relatively weak kinship and a correspondingly stronger sense of individualism. Mating systems likewise vary a lot. Monogamy makes sense in non-tropical societies where the mother cannot feed her children by herself, particularly in winter. It makes less sense where the mother can provide for her children with minimal assistance.

Human societies similarly differ in their treatment of murder. There is a general tendency to limit the taking of human life, but the variability is considerable. In some societies, murder is so rare that instances of it are thought to be pathological. The murderer is said to be "sick." In other societies, every adult male has the right to use violence to settle personal disputes, even to the point of killing. If he abdicates that right, he's no longer a real man.

The same "problem" will thus be solved in different ways in different places. Over time, each society will develop a "solution" that favors the survival and reproduction of certain people with a certain personality type and certain predispositions. So there is no single human nature, any more than a single Natural Law. Instead, there are many human natures with varying degrees of overlap.
 

... and the take-home message?

While certain notions of right and wrong can apply to all humans, much of what we call "morality" will always be population-dependent. What is moral in one population may not be in another.

Take public nudity, particularly of the female kind. This is less of a problem in places like Finland where polygyny is rare and sexual rivalry among men less intense. It's more of a problem where the polygyny rate is higher but men still have to invest a lot in their offspring. In such a setting, men will be more jealous, more fearful of cuckoldry, and more insistent on measures to ensure exclusive sexual access. Such insistence can lead to extreme practices like sati. More generally, it leads to demands for modesty in female dress. 

This is not to condone the dress codes that prevail in some countries, but we should try to understand the circumstances that give rise to them. Above all, there are limits to what we can impose on other societies. While sati has no justification anywhere on this planet, there may be practices that are warranted in some societies but not in others.
 

References 

Aquinas, T. (1265-1274). Summa Theologica, Part I-II (Pars Prima Secundae) From the Complete American Edition, Translated by Fathers of the English Dominican Province, Project Gutenberg
http://www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/17897/pg17897.html

Bengtson, V.L. and W.A. Achenbaum. (1993).The Changing Contract across Generations, Transaction publ.

Clark, G. (2007). A Farewell to Alms. A Brief Economic History of the World, Princeton: Princeton University Press. 

Clark, G. (2009a). The indicted and the wealthy: Surnames, reproductive success, genetic selection and social class in pre-industrial England.
http://www.econ.ucdavis.edu/faculty/gclark/Farewell%20to%20Alms/Clark%20-Surnames.pdf 

Clark, G. (2009b). The domestication of man: The social implications of Darwin. ArtefaCTos, 2, 64-80.
http://campus.usal.es/~revistas_trabajo/index.php/artefactos/article/viewFile/5427/5465 

Eisner, M. (2001). Modernization, self-control and lethal violence. The long-term dynamics of European homicide rates in theoretical perspective, British Journal of Criminology, 41, 618-638.
http://bjc.oxfordjournals.org/content/41/4/618.short 

Melbye, J. and S.I. Fairgrieve. (1994). A massacre and possible cannibalism in the Canadian Arctic: New evidence from the Saunaktuk site (NgTn-1), Arctic Anthropology, 31, 57-77.
http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/40316364?uid=3739448&uid=2&uid=3737720&uid=4&sid=21104564497747

Napier, W. (1851). The History of General Sir Charles Napier's Administration of Scinde: And Campaign in the Cutchee Hills, London: Charles Westerton. 

Sati (practice). (2014). Wikipedia
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sati_(practice)

Tavernier, J-B. (1678).The six voyages of John Baptista Tavernier, London: R.L. and M.P.

32 comments:

Anonymous said...

You're right about exclusive sexual access and sati, but India is not polygynous. Polygyny and funnily, polyandry, have been allowed in Hinduism but the practice was restricted to the aristocracy. Nor did women farm in India.
But it's true that non-Abrahamic cultures see nothing wrong in suicide.

Anonymous said...

There are two kinds of morality, the objective and the subjective.
It also depends a lot on context. For example, the sex bias in a neutral interpersonal interaction without interests have little importance.

If the individual reacting angrily to an interpersonal (indirectly genetics, environmental factors) neutral interaction, it will be producing a subjective morality.

Now, if the individual is a child and the person you are interacting with it is a pedophile, then its rejection will be based on an objective morality. But there will still be precocious children. So even the most popularly execrable specific sexual preferences, is still capable of wider trial before a summary conviction.

Santoculto

Anonymous said...

According the Aquinas, the Second Precept of Natural Law is to preserve life and ward off its obstacles ("whatever is a means of preserving human life and of warding off its obstacles", "the preservation of its own being according to its nature""

The Third precept of Natural Law is to reproduce and raise your offspring.

This seems like a very good place for a Darwinian to agree. Instead of natural law, call it biological interests or something; those things that if you don't pursue, you go extinct. These things must be pursued in this sense, so it's a natural imperative and all must have the right to pursue them, and if this right is denied, you may justifiably fight against.

Eric Falkenstein said...

Many birds have two chicks where the bigger one kills the weaker one, and the mom is fine with that. It's natural but cruel.

Empathy, the golden rule, generally being nice, is a dominant tactic among thoughtful people (ie, dominant in the game-theoretic sense of being your best strategy given what others are doing). That is, it helps the individual and the group prosper. In that sense it is objectively good.

Of course, that's contextual, and in many circumstances, being cruel may be optimal.

Luke Lea said...

Does Natural Law exist?

My first reaction, before reading the article, is that this is the kind of rational question that would only arise in the West, where reason and the interests of the individual have replaced clan- and tribal-interests (supplemented with religious dogmatism) in the shaping of one's world view. Only the Greeks "thought" about abstract ideas like that before modern times.

Anonymous said...

Thought provoking post. My knowledge of anthropology is limited, but could you have a Natural Law algorithm that includes input on resources. So, for example, if resources are limited, of course, I disregard my parents, but if resources of plentiful, it is immoral to do so.

Such a set of rules would make complete evolutionary sense and therefore be universal.

Curt Dunkel

Derrick Bonsell said...

"While sati has no justification anywhere on this planet, there may be practices that are warranted in some societies but not in others."

There's that Western assumption about morality again.

Panda@War said...

Of course National Law of human morality exists.

Fact 1: the standard of Human morality, , is drastically different from that of most animal kingdoms.

Fact 2: The distance of the two starts to narrow the smarter animals become in views of humans: e.g. dolphins and Chimps obviously have relatively more morality than tunas and butterflies.

Conclusion: Therefore when an animal evolve into a human, the distance becomes 0. If we assume that all humans are equally evolved, then we’re bound to have equally or at least very similar level of morality in views of such humans. Of course, that is “if”.

The Western* idea of Sati , therefore, is unsurprisingly barbaric. Shame on you people’s morality!


* to be brutally fair, just as most of today’s common Westerners and Western academics believe that everything East of Turkey is “Asia” hence “Asians” or “Easterners”, we Chinese for >2, 000 years have always believed everything West of China’s Western border is “Western” and “Westerners” which are synonymous to “barbaric” according to Chinese empirical first-hand experiences until the British Industrial Revolution. So the Western Sati is both logical and justifiable. Excuse me for being too fantanstic at Chinese, but one of greatest classic Chinese novels of all time is actually called “Travel to the Western World” (aka Travel to India).

Panda@War said...

Luke Lea,

My first glance of this comment is that the supremacist planet you’re from must have a very low level of oxygen level that naturally prohibits advanced level of logical thinking based on objective facts. Now try this, genius:

- While the ancient Greeks ( relatives to disappeared Atlantis who soon disappeared after the latter? given they seemed to be way too smarter for their immediate neighbours that much of the thoughts had not been carried out there until European Renaissance 1000s years later) “thought” about this morality in their relatively primitive state of existence – economywise -- much more civilised and advanced Han Chinese not only had thought about it, had intensive social debates about it for 300 years with numerous schools, but also have been carrying the “thought” on for at least 2, 200 years till now educating each Chinese child : every Han Chinese pre-school child of over 3-yr-old but less than 6, rich or poor, for the last 2,000 years, has known this every-level Chinese 3-leter-poem which starts like “when one is just born, one’s morality is good…”.

- things are just getting increasingly more hilarious when recent Western “peer-reviewed research” fantasy of Europeans’ having “less clan- and tribal interests” than so-called “Asians” aka Chinese. But seriously? the one who did the research, the ones who reviewed it, and the ones who propagate the idea without a clue should stick a big Fool sign on their foreheads. This is also closely related to a web debate that who was stronger militarily, Alexander de Great- Roman Empire, or their Chinese counterparts “Qin Dynasty – Han Dynasty”? They debated about the economy etc. here are the clues:

A.Do you know that China has been slave-free society for at least 2, 000 years as early as since Qin Dynasty but officially since Eastern Han Dynasty by national laws (i.e. not by some random individual criminal cases which any human society has always had it, such as in today’s Austria and Britain, even China)? China since Qin but nationally since Han Dynasty ( about 200 B.C.) have had only free peasantry instead of slaves (till 1,000 A.D. in Europe) and slave-like feudal selfdom (till 1,800 and 1,900 A.D. in both Europe and USA). Do you clearly understand of what Free peasantry means to social morality? Europe on the whole had been far, but far more clan-like throughout the history than China. On this point, Chinese society was never a “feudal” society as per (Western, later blindly copied by Eastern) textbook, which is actually a grave mis-translation by Sinologists. On degrees of freedom of peasants, for 2,000 years China was almost as modern as 19th century Britain. Slave, Selfdom and Lords of Europe are civilizational hallmarks of close clanship and tribal traits. Isn´t that clear? Any discussion of superiority needed at all if I only tell you that Qin/Han army and economy were based on free peasantry vís-a-vís slavery of Alexander de great and Rome?

(cont.)

Panda@War said...

B. Do you know that Meritocracy, the corner stone of safeguarding the fruits of universal fairness and systematic & legal separation of clan & tribal interests ( of course, some corruptions have always been there) by law, have been carried out in China for more than 2,000 years, before British India and Europe borrowed it as recently as Voitaire?

Knowing that you might not be sophisticated enough to read Chinese history documents, I presume at least that you should have known your own history written in English? Gonna lov the way how some gloat about “less clan and tribal” of Europeans in comparison to the Chinese. Go no further than the representative of modernity of modern Britain: any clue on what does House of Lord do and get paid? By whom? Or titles like Sir, Baroness etc mean? Have you ever heard of House of Wong? Without “upper class” (aka clan & tribal) accent and see how far you could go in the social, economical and political elite circles in yesterday and today’s England? So-called “peered-reviewed” less clan and tribal? Don’t make Panda laugh. The ancient Chinese would have laughed their socks off, cuz for > 2,000 years any peasant in China, no matter how poor he was and regardless of his accent, could marry the Emperor’s daughter and become the head of national education BY LAW, if he could score the best in the exams.


C.BTW, to both Luke and Peter:

while it’s quite impressive that Euro churches & states officially started to penalise murder in the 11th century - a clear sign of enlightened morality obviously, I wonder if you might have intellectual curiosity towards Qin Dynasty Penal Code of 221 B.C. Check out the rough translation by Indiana University of your own since you can’t read Chinese.

Anonymous said...

In short, dear Panda, Europe is a mess, China is good. Chinese are so moral that eat dogs and cats, pets, pittys, at home, with no remorse, we are not just talking about domesticated animals, we're talking about babies. You eat babies ??

Europeans pay for individuality, they are so moral that lost (on average) the ability to understand the behavior clan, now they living in their own bubble. Psychopaths who commit crimes do so in the name of pseudo-timeless abstract collectivity, as they called white race.

The Chinese mind is pragmatic and brutal. They produced very advanced civilization, no doubt. But lost the race since the great voyages.

'They' has many qualities, but are not perfect. Are you the kind of smart that is adept at finding faults in Western civilization and despise the defects in the civilizations that exalt.

If you love both the superiority aka Chinese supremacy, so what are you waiting for moving to ultra advanced Western civilization ???

Spare me.

Santoculto

chris said...

This is something I came to realize several years ago and it is nice to read some confirmation of my thoughts articulated in a way I never could. It reminds me of the movie "Khartoum" with Charlton Heston playing General Gordon in the scene after he made his visit to the mahdi and was reflecting on what a fool he was to think he had a monopoly on religion.

After many years in the middle east I know morality is not universal to natural law and it is a great plague in the west that we do not understand our own view of natural law does not cross all cultural boundaries.

Panda@War said...

Dear Santoculto,

Just lov your humur, Santoculto – er, EducatedSaint? You name-calling Panda, a bit like what Panda did to Luke, will be spared indeed, as long as you try to showcase a spark of intelligence next time, promised?

To your questions:

- FYI, yes, Panda do eat babies, in soups, according to traditional recipes and legacies that are step-by-step filmed in Youtube. What you jealous? Panda shall think about wokking you, too, next time. lol. It’s hilarious that while whacking their fingers, outrageous Europeans living the glass house mostly have no remorse whatsoever while chewing beef burgers and pork steaks, knowing that domesticated animals such as pigs should rank at least the same as dogs morality-wise, way ahead of cats, given that pigs are proven more intelligent.

- Indeed, “Europeans pay for individuality, they are so moral that lost (on average) the ability to understand the behavior clan”, before they decided to ethic-cleanse all aboriginals every new continents they went – happening in almost modern time. You’re right that Europeans not only pay for individuality, but also pay for head-scalps, with bounties. Yay! BTW, upper-class accent reflects by no means a mere “behaviour clan”.

- “But the Chinese lost the race since the great voyages”, in a self-censored manner despite their overwhelming technological superiority at a time – kindly allow Panda to finish the point that you tried so hard to make.

- yes, Panda is “the kind of smart”, super smart actually being totally honest, “that is adept at finding faults in Western civilization” by casually pointing out some obvious foot-in-mouth hypocrisies so typically Anglo-American in so called “peered-reviewed classic pieces”.

- On Superiority and Supremacy, knowing that these 2 words typically do not belong to Geography which you’re good at ( see? Panda remembers) , perhaps you'll understand them better in your mother language:
- De verdad que se entiene la differencia entre Superoridad y Supermacía que estas mizclando? O sea –
Superiority is a fact of life, requiring a certain degree of intelligence to recognize it and a certain degree of intellectual honesty to admit it (go read Confucius, or Panda@War, lol), while a Supremacist doesn’t – in fact any semi-illiterate (Luke Lea?) with niether evidence nor logic required can comfortablely be a supermacist.

- As for moving to ultra advanced Western civilization, the same question is often raise to many Westerners that line up at China’s Public Security Bureau for residence permit for moving to ultra advanced Chinese civilization. People allover the world migrate for all kinds of reasons, e.g. economical, environmental, political, avoid taxes, avoid 1-child policy, actually for money laundering or avoid graft prosecution as well - like majority of recent nouveau rich Chinese immigrants to criminal-protecting-paradises such as US, Canada and Australia buying up luxury uptown condos there are in fact families of some of the most corrupted Chinese official scums who are intellectually way below Chinese average and morally the lowest of the low in CCP’s China.

Peter Fros_ said...

Anon,

The same could be said for many Muslim societies. In Ottoman Turkey, the polygyny rate was less than 5% and in North Africa around 10%, and most of those polygynous households were concentrated among the better-off. Of course, a polygyny rate of “only” 5-10% means that many men are frozen out of the marriage market.

Santoculto,

You’re defining “objective morality” in relation to a cultural frame of reference. Different cultures have different attitudes to pedophilia. In some Papuan and Melanesian cultures, pedophilia between an older man and a younger boy is seen positively as a means of giving the boy strength and vigour. I’m not defending this custom, any more than I defend sati. But there is no objective framework that exists independently of cultural norms, including our own.

Anon,

I agree, and my post isn’t intended as a criticism of Thomas Aquinas. In fact, he helped create the Medieval Synthesis that put Europe back on the right track.

Eric,

Some version of the golden rule is needed to create cohesive egalitarian societies. The alternative is to develop situational rules that (a) are more difficult to apply or justify and (b) tend to freeze society into castes with different sets of rights.

Luke,

The unexamined life is not worth living. Most people, even in the West, don’t bother asking deep questions about what they’re doing. That can be a more effective way to life if you’re following a time-proven approach and if circumstances are relatively stable. Nowadays, we need genuine philosophical reflection because we’re facing new problems with no easy solutions.

Anon,

I disagree. Even if you know everything about the physical and cultural environment, there will still be cultural variability. Two cultures can resolve the same “problem” in very different ways.

Derrick,

It’s just that some practices will be simply intolerable to people in the West. I have no problem with Muslim women wearing hijabs (in their own societies) but sati is a bridge too far.

Panda,

“If we assume that all humans are equally evolved, then we’re bound to have equally or at least very similar level of morality”
No. Even if their level of development is the same or similar, different cultures may have different forms of morality. You can adapt to the same circumstances in very different ways.

China had black slaves until recent times. Do a Google search for “Kunlun slaves”.

Chris,

Well stated.

Panda@War said...

Peter,

"Even if their level of development is the same or similar, different cultures may have different forms of morality"

Please expand on "different forms" here.

It would be also nice to illustrate the theoritical fundation for why there're "different forms", because it sounds logical to me that Morality is so universal for any groups of equally evolved (intelligence-wise) lifeforms that by and large there are fixed general definitions of what should be deemed as "good" and "bad".


I knew that you would probably mention "Kunlun Salves". lol. Then I thought that you probably would not if you were very knowledgable on the issue. Acutally it was not an issue at all. Forget about Western 2nd or 3rd hand translation articles packed in Google. I'll tell you about what was written in Chinese historical documents on 'kunlun" slaves, since We Chinese have always kept marticulously written history records of our deeds of all kinds - the the detail levels of our "book keeping" had been without peers for 1000s of years until the appearance of Western historians in near modern time :

Kunlun Slaves started more or less 1,200 years ago in Tang Dynasty when SE Asia countries started to sell dark-skinned people (presumablely SE Asian neglitos with the trade centre located in Saigon of Vietnam) to be working slaves to some very rich Chinese families inside Tang's capital city Chang'an - today's Xi'an city. Perhaps due to the homogenouty of the Chinese, rich people then showed more curiosity to buy these "slaves" largely due to their "strange" physical apprearances as an entertainement tool rahter than making them working like slaves, because long ago slaves had become officially ilegal in China by laws since East Han Dynasty. But hey any human society has had this kind of ilegal activities all the time due to corruptions, imperial China was not an acception. But it's completely different, almost like day&night, from "slaves or serfs " in the sense in comparable Europe in the meantime where they were legal, mainstream, and overwelmingly widespread in numbers.

Later on, the name "Kunlun Slave" bacame almost a rear adjective in imperial China, describing anyone who looked dark and appreared rare ( so can not take it so literally as neglitos from SE Asia anymore). It lasted till somewhere in Ming Dynasty. Actually some Chinese Tang poets and novelists of the time even wrote pieces about them - largely in a very positive light - as a form of entertainment. Largely thanks to these ancient poems, most Chinese people know about the existence of "kunlun slaves"today cuz most Chinese people won't read all Chinese historical documents in details ( Actually I even dare to venture that probably 8 out of 10 Chinese today even aren't aware of the name of "kunlun slaves") - just another angle to see why their number were so tiny.


Again, the key is that the "Kunlun slaves" was ilegal, the # of them were so small ( i.e. total 100? 500? 1,000? I am not sure) that you would probably better call todoy's USA more a Slave Society than Imperial China was due to "kunlun slaves", if you calulate the ratio of potential total # of (undiscovered illegal) sex slaves kept in today's US to total # of US population, and comparing to total # of Kunlun slaves/total # of population of Imperial China. That's why I'd rather see "kunlun slaves" or alike as individual criminal cases as they actually were.

Panda@War said...

Peter,

On the natural law, youtube 三字经 ( Three-Character Classic – San Zi Jing) which is the Chinese understanding of natural law of morality for every pre-school kids for centuries.

It’s based on Mecius and arguablely written in 13th century for pre-school kids since then. It deals with morality since the very start that great Greeks “thought” about it as per claimed by Luke Lea.

Since “Character”in Chinese can also be translated into English as “Sex”, the 1st paragraph of Three-Character Classic is translated more or less as such in professional Google Translation :

人之初:At the beginning of life.
性本善:Sex is good.
性相近:Basically, all the sex are same.
习相远:But it depends on how the way you do it.
苟不教:If you do not practice all the time.
性乃迁:Sex will leave you.
教之道:The way of learning it..
贵以专:is very important to make love with only one person..
昔孟母:Once a great mother, Mrs. Meng.
择邻处:chose her neighbor to avoid bad sex influence..
子不学:If you don t study hard,.
断机杼:Your Dick will become useless..
窦燕山 :Dou, the Famous.
有义方 :owned a very effective exciting medicine.
教五子 :All his five son took it
名俱扬 :and their sexual ability were well-known..
养不教 :If your children don t know how to do it,.
父之过 :It is all your dad’s fault..
教不严 :If they had lots of problems with it,.
师之惰 :their teacher must be too lazy to tell them details on sex..
子不学 :You may refuse to study this.
非所宜 :but that is a real mistake.
幼不学 :If you don t learn it in childhood,.
老何为 :you will lose your ability when aged.
玉不琢 :If you don t exercise your dick,.
不成器 :It won t become hard and strong..
人不学 :If you don t learn sex,.
不知义 :You can by no means enjoy its sweetness



But the correct translation of the 1st paragraph should be:

人之初, At the beginning of life,

性本善。 nature ought to be good.

性相近, Basically, nature is nearly all the same in the beginning.

习相远。 But it depends on the way how you do it.

苟不教, If teachers do not teach them.

性乃迁。 nature will leave you.

教之道, During the way of teaching it,

贵以专。 the emphasis is on the concetration of mind.

昔孟母, Previously, a great mother named Mrs. Mon

择邻处。 chose her neighbour to avoid bad nature influence.

子不学, Her son didn't study,

断机杼。 She broke her loom.

窦燕山, A famous person called Dou,

有义方。 has his own good method.

教五子, he taught his five sons.

名俱扬。 and they all raised the family reputation

养不教, If just feed without teaching.

父之过。 it is all the father’s fault.

教不严, If teach them but not severity.

师之惰。 it is must be a laziness teacher.

子不学, If a child refuses to learn nature,

非所宜。 that should be not good for the child .

幼不学, If a child doesn't learn something in childhood,

老何为。 He will lose his ability when aged.

玉不琢, if jade is not polished,

不成器。 it cannot become a thing of use.

人不学, People who don’t learn something,

不知义。 their life will become meaningless.


(end of part I)


A 3-yr-old Chinese girl recites the 1st part of Three-Character Classic (San Zi Jing):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I80lAIoTtKg

A 3-yr-old Chinese boy reads the full version of Three-Character Classic:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m6KiHtvMGOQ

A 18-month-old Chinese girl recites the short version of Three-Character Classic:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zg8jVDtJ1G0

A 5-yr-old English girl recites the 1st part of Three-Character Classic:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=clzFmngKODc

Anonymous said...

Peter, even the cultural norms have it objective contextuality. The most important here is not the specific bejaviour. Is the potential impact resulting by interpesonal interaction.

Santoculto

Anonymous said...

Objective morality is based in probabilities of behaviour impact by interpesonal interaction. Probabilities and results of actions.

Santoculto

Panda@War said...

Panda says, the natural law of morality does exist.

It’s objectively straightforward, like anything in the universe following a set of natural rules, whether an individual is intelligent enough to recognize and interpret these laws or not. Their existence is not contextual, subject to what every Tom, Alice or Patel think either before or after dinner.

If people are intelligent enough to be able to at least envision above basic principle, then we’ll have a base for more intelligent discussion. Otherwise, it would appear not much different from ducks, chicken and holy cows going together peer-reviewing Dao De Jing of Laozi(if they know whm he is and what is it), or even relatively much more easily understood pieces like Piano Concerto #17 in G Major of Mozart.

The law/s of morality had been debated extensively for several hundreds years by numerous schools of thoughts with many scholarly treatises ( not peer-reviewed fortunately) in China’s Spring and Autumn era before settling down around 200BC.

So-called “great thoughtful Greeks” were literally at least centuries behind their Chinese counterparts in advancement of thoughts and lagged even much more in practice and on implementation, for god’s sake. It however doesn’t surprise Panda, since those Greeks on average did have about 10 to 15 IQ point deficit ( a distance like Black Americans vs Euro Americans) compared to the Han at a time – just look at what sorts of high-tech economy the Han invented, developed and maintained at a time vís-a-vís the Greeks.

If one is ignorant enough to deny above, Panda suggests you get hold of a detailed educational youtube vid on the spectacular high tech involved in building of the Terracotta Army of Qin, and try imagine the underlying advancement of economy, state-of-art sci-tech and hence eventually the relatively very advanced state of morality of 221BC China. Then one starts to get the taste of layman questions such as “why in dire contrast to Europe, China was slave-less modern agriculture society for the most part of the last 2,000 years”, “what is the economic basis of why, unlike China, Europe could not unite into piece and stay there at the time frame”, etc, etc.

E.g. The Three-Character Classic derived from Menzi and recited by every single Chinese 3-yr-old kid shown in Youtube above can serve as a much-needed enlightenment. At least it appears to be a drastic contradiction to some bizarre psychological behaviours in so many parts of Western academia nowadays, where the snobby fashion seems to be Mr Ignorance rubbing shoulders with Mr Stupid before congratulating each other on the “achievements”, applauded by countless functional Mr Illiterate in the background. lol

Try a decent copy of full translation of Three-Character Classic to get a start if I were you.

Luke Lea said...

Dear Panda@war, I rest my case.

Santoculto said...

Dear Panda 'war',
Let me see, you want to cure our natural sense of supremacy, with supremacy????? Does your giant brain could brighten us with your wisdom?

Dear Panda, I do not have any jealousy of any ''oriental'', most of them are so ugly and apathetic. Plus, are so superficial. Do not understand the soul of creativity that centuries ago purged of their gatherings.
I'm cute, have the color of skin most expensive in the market and moreover have a normalpenis and does not have a micro-penis. And if that was not enough, I'm not dumb. And not only that, I have a survival instinct, that crowds of nerds have no more.
I am happy.

You part of premises, very foolish and generalists, that I, that I am a Westerner, I completely favorable to the consumption of pork and beef. No, you are using their usual weapons with the wrong person. I'll stop eating meat until my 30 years and is amoral, to be a self-conscious to do it.

Pigs are smarter than cats, what does this have to do with consumption of cat or pig ?? His thousands of intelligence is not pleasing, dear.

It's an excuse??? hihihihihihihi

Europeans do not exist. Maybe there is, if you go to Beijing and see that mass of conformist, consumerist now. But for Europeans, well, I can tell you that there are differences in the types pronounceable within Italy or Poland, which is larger than the largest difference between the East Asian nations.
Therefore, 'the Europeans'' no, honey, individual groups massacred indigenous Australians, Africans, Amerindians.
I am Euro-descendant and I do not massacrei anyone. What's more, tell me more about the supreme chinese goodness.huh!

I'm not typical Anglo-American, I am mestizo, father and mother.

My language is Portuguese, remember that I am good at geography, but do not remember which is the language spoken in my country.

Many Westerners, who are actually few. Stop this generalization and then yes, you can defend your views.

I do not deny that the Orient produced a brilliant civilization, the same way that Greece produced. Today Greece is a country of second world while China stopped in time, lost their creativity and lives to imitate the West, their mistakes and their successes.

What was the need to repeat the biggest mistake committed by the West, ie, all stages of the industrial revolution ????
These Chinese are so smart that they have good mask to protect from pollution.

Destroy the cultural heritage itself to build buildings in poor taste.

The Iceland, with 200 000 inhabitants, Sigur Ros produced, the best band of instrumental music from the last two decades. What China produces ???

1,2 billion of souls and nothing about creativity explosion.

Where are the talented and innovative Chinese immigrants in the USA, Europe??? Aaa, in Prato in Italy, selling and copying the Italian innovation to the fashion.

Nobody has a monopoly of thought. My geniuses are Western. Smart people can arrive at the same answers in different places at different times. How do I know geography, I also know that there were times when there was advanced technology, invented by the white man, to copy the ideas of others.

Santoculto


Santoculto said...

The European morality evolved level of universalism. If we are universal, rationalize our morality and liberalism is an evolution of this morality based on reason. Asian merges the effects of his philosophy, also universalist, with the side effects of centuries of inbred matings.

The term universalism here applies especially to the idea, not the geographic and cultural breadth, but, for what is right. Therefore, the European morality was objectified. However, as Europe is Faustian in nature, it is being pushed by others to burn until the last flame of transcendence. The objective morality of life imitating art, in which the moral lesson is as follows.
We are fortunate that we live in, but this will have the price, that is death.

Panda@War said...

Dear Luke,

lol, for any nuetral lurker here with more than half a brain can see that you've shown no case at all, because you presented zero evidence and scored negative logic.

Panda is afraid that you would be a laughing stock instead if you are sohpisticated enoguh (Panda won't bet on it) being able to translate what you said to any major Chinese-language forum - aka high avg IQ, veeely veeely high, oooops. So pls feel free to rest on or under whatever rock that suits you.



Dear EducatedSaint,

Oh sorry, Portugues-speaking, of course you're. lol

Given the time permitted, Panda has already done the due and overdue parts (see the size of my responses, gosh) to enlighten you by pointing out the way forward...

...but, but, but didn't you promise to at least show a spark of intelligence in your response?

Panda was hoping to see the best out of you, yet you lower yourself even further to the similar level of Luke... Isso não é justo! [hitwalls]





Peter,

Please excuse Panda for perhaps the tit-for-tat rudeness shown towards some brutes in your webspace AFTER being provoked.

It's not Panda's intention to disrespect this entry of yours if it might appear to you in such a way. And actually Panda appreciates plenty of your brilliant entries and comments.

As a world renouwned XXX and amateur X, XX and historian, Panda in my rejuvenated space age would like to give you a small suggestion if Panda may:

Stay inside your professional field, you've maken and will keep making plenty of thoughtful points. Should you decide to venture out of it into the great unknown, however, particularly when dealing with Europe-China differences, IQ or otherwise, it'd be more credible if you could take a time off having a course on Chinese history. It is enormously important given:

A. The Huaxia people have higher avg IQ than the Europeans, and Huaxia is a completely different civilization from Euro, thus Euro-centric logic you and your pals have may, or may not at all, have a clue on Huaxia logic, and

B. you have shown little or no credibility on anything Chinese as Panda sees so far(and sub-cultures of the East like Korean and Japanese as well for that matter), neither in language, nor on culture, nor on history which btw goes more than 300 years.

The lack of above must-have minimum knowledge could potentially make some of your related points, that otherwise could become revelvent or even powerful, mute at best or misleading as usual.

Of course Panda is talking about high standard, unless you're happy with some Lukes of course.

Should you plan to do so, Panda would recommend Needham Research Institute at Oxford, (but don't mistaken it with China Centre of Oxford which is a kindergarden, lol, ) - the only English-speaking and more or less competent insititution on the subject in the Western hemisphere that makes its Harvard/Yale counterpart look like a joke.

Bow out for now.

Santoculto said...

Panda = troll.

;)

I'm soooooooooooo damnb

:(

Chine-me pandito.

Santoculto said...

Educated Panda

I do not know who you are, but besides accuse us of supremacists, you also accuse me of being 'educated'.

Buy a mirror made ​​in china for you.

I'm pretty sure Luke Lea is much smarter than you. I wish someday I could match myself to intelligence this man.

Please, darling, I'm waiting for your answers, I know it will be extremely intelligent, on each point of my comment not very smart.

Anonymous said...

As usual, it is a delight to read your blog, Peter. There is always something interesting to learn or to think about. This does not mean that I agree with everything you say.

In this post, your assumptions produce your conclusion. You start from a moral relativistic point of view and end up with the conclusion of moral relativism (in your own words, "morality" will always be population-dependent). You draw a full circle.

You define "natural law" as "morality which all human groups agree upon". This is a subjective definition of natural law (that is, relative to the opinion of the human group and hence relativistic). Since many moral rules are not agreed upon universally (although some of them are), you conclude that there is no natural law. QED.

But "natural law", as defined by the ones who believe in it is something objective. I know that your metaphysical assumptions (naturalism, nominalism, etc.) make this hard to swallow by you but this is the meaning of the term.

In fact, people who think natural law is real accept these differences of morality between human groups and even suggest mechanisms by which these differences arise (as you have explained with Aquinas). Although Aquinas' society was Christian, the morality of the Jewish and the morality of ancient Rome was well known.

Starting from the meaning of the term "natural law" as objective, the fact that there are disagreements about natural law does not prove that does not exist, only that it is not evident.

Yes, British people thought sati was wrong and Indian people thought was right. So what? Natural law assumes that there is a valid answer which is defined objectively and is binding for all humans. So one of these opinions is wrong.

The same way, British people thought that the sun was a giant ball of hydrogen and other people thought it had a divine nature. So what? This does not mean that the Sun did not have a nature. Only that different people disagreed about its nature (hydrogen or divine).

Of course, you can deny that natural law exists, as something objective. But the fact that morality varies between human groups is not an argument against the existence of natural law. You would have to use other arguments to prove that.

Finally, when you reach the conclusion (wrongly in my opinion, as I have said) that there is not such thing as natural law and objective morality and that morality is population dependent, you end up contradicting yourself.

While sati has no justification anywhere on this planet...

Why not? If morality is population-dependent, as you claim, there is no reason to forbid sati to a population that believes it is right.

"X has no justification anywhere on this planet" is an statement about objective morality (it means "X is not moral, regardless of culture") and you don't believe in that.

Since there is no objective morality, it boils down to differences of opinion. We should allow, for example, sati or killing a man because it is an apostate of Islam ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apostasy_in_Islam ).

Imnobody

Anonymous said...

By the way, excuses for my bad use of English above. I am a foreigner and English is hard for me.

For example,

"killing a man because it is an apostate of Islam "

should read

"killing a man because HE is an apostate of Islam "

Imnobody

Panda@War said...

Santoculto,

What you believe has flattered Panda. Panda appreciates it. You and your pal's responses, no matter long or short, have given Panda much encouragements as expected.

BTW, arguablely the world's first highly polishable sophisticated mirrors were made-in-China as well, isn't it amazing?

Buy a made-in-China mirror? What mirror? You and Luke ARE Panda's mirror, can't you see? Panda thank you again.

On a lighter note, do you know that the world's avg IQ is about 90+?




Santoculto said...


I'll try to explain the ideas of objective morality and subjective morality again.

The objective morality relates of emphasis on utilitarian attributes of diverse natures. If the person wears socks of different colors, one is Muslim, one is gay, one is lame, it is not objective morality.

Now, if the person does evil to another, also on various manifestations, then this is not an example of subjective morality.

If there is a 'practice' in which a woman no matter what age, is forced or manipulated to accept the literal sacrifice of his own life, this seems subjective because it's cultural, but in truth, is universally amoral, are not Western values being imposed on non-Western values​​. Is the value of universalism, neutrality, what is really right, being an alleged tax unfortunate cultural practice where a life is sacrificed, and that life is so fragile and special, this is a kind of crime by banal motivation.

Panda,
where the Chinese or oriental super-moralists are asking pardon for war crimes ??

Anonymous said...

You make an interesting point SC, but surely it all goes back to the outbreeding hypothesis.

In any society rigidly bound by extended kinship, a person's value is their relationship to kin. A woman without a husband loses her value.

In the outbred society of Europe, the person accrued value independent of relationships. And that allowed for morality to become universal.

Thomas Aquinas came along hundreds of years after the ban on cousin marriage was started didn't he?

But there was still a point of time in which a shift took place from natural kinship models of morality to a cultural social model of morality, which ironically chose to frame itself as 'natural with exceptions'.

Anonymous said...

But it approaches the idea of ​​atomicity of existential condition. The most important of all empathy starts on the relationship of individual to individual. Relationships based groups are a grotèsque summary of supreme empathy, since when we act in a group, dehumanize the individual. See how wars occur.

The technique of verbal manipulation currently adopted by the belligerent and degenerate elite of the West, aiming to inculcate that the white race is a population organically inseparable from each other to the point that each individual taxonomically belonging to it, must pay for crimes that were (and are) committed by occult and individual psychopathic groups.

I see games based on nepotism interests all the time in my country, Brazil. Corruption only.
Besides inbreeding, I believe that large racial differences, ie, the perception of people towards an organic community where directly observable attributes such as appearance and the constant behavior are not shared, partial atomicity creates multiple niches nepotistic interests.

Well, I'm reading the Tao Te Ching, lol.


Santoculto

Anonymous said...

The Scots were great because of the English, the English were great because of the Dutch, the Dutch were great because of the Ashken, the Ashken were great because of the Italians, the Italians were great because of the Greeks, the Greeks were great because of the Anatolians. Why were the Anatolians great?