This is the essential question. What is truth? What is real?
The most basic human experience we have is that we live in the context of nature (or the physical world around us) and we encounter other people there just like us. We are born, we live and we die in the context of this world. We discover ourselves, our needs and our wants, and we also discover that the world and the people in it do not always give us what we want.
Sometimes we can take it for ourselves. Sometimes not.
There is a “gap” between what we need or want and the reality of how we experience the world (and the people) around us. A gap between desire (or value) and reality (or fact) – “the reality gap.” To call it a “gap” is nothing more than being polite. Most would call it “suffering” or “depravation” or even “evil” (depending on the severity of the gap in question).
This is the secular problem of evil.
But that already puts us into the issue of interpretation. One thing is to observe that there is a “gap” and another is to make a value judgment as to whether it is good or bad.
We call it the secular problem of “evil.”
Perhaps that is because some aspects of that “gap” between what we desire, need or want, and a world which refuses to (or cannot) give it to us, may be a question of survival. What supports survival must be good and what does not support survival must be bad or “evil” (at least for me).
But even then, there is room for interpretation. What level of survival? Who is to determine what is necessary for survival and what is not and should my survival be more important thanyours? Who decides the question of interpretation? Who decides what is good or bad for me? My parents? Society? God? Myself?
Furthermore, I want to do more than just survive. I want to thrive and grow and develop and become all that I can be. What if that means that the resources that I use so that I can “flourish” are needed by others just to “survive”? Do I have an obligation to them? Enter morality. Here now is born the question of “ought” and the law (both moral and common law) as a limit to what I desire, want or need.
When my “will” to act and acquire resources for my own good is in conflict with your “will” to act, who will decide between us? Enter justice.
And if you and I (and others) agree to act in certain ways and under certain conditions so as not to harm the other? Enter the Social Contract.
If you and I (and potentially many others) discover that in unity there is strength and that through common purpose and joint effort more can be done than any one individual can accomplish? Enter Government (or, at least, different forms of joint social effort).
Finally, if I discover that I can impose my will on you (and potentially many others) and through fear or force require you to bend your will to mine with fine sounding words or with weapons and threats? Enter dictatorship and war and deception and a whole spectrum of creative tyranny and manipulation and general wickedness (a value statement shared at least by those dominated against their will).
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Footnotes and references included in the original manuscript.