Can Reason Save Us?

19 October 2018

Is reason our only guide to the true and the good? Or can reasonable people disagree on what is true and good? Is it simply a mistake to fetishize reason? These are some of the questions we tackle as we take on the broader question of whether reason can save us.   


“Save us from what?” you may be tempted to ask.


Unfortunately, there are dark forces of unreason, which threaten to engulf us in a new dark age, everywhere you turn. There are demagogues busy undermining democracy, climate deniers addicted to fossil fuels, and religious zealots who see unspeakably evil acts as tickets to paradise.  


If that sounds a bit Manichean—as if I think there is an eternal struggle between forces of darkness and light—I’m afraid I must plead guilty. It may comfort some to believe that the dark side has been losing, ever since the early days of the Enlightenment. But surely the current political situation in the United States—or the folly of Brexit, or the morally chaotic mess in the Middle East—gives the lie to such sunny optimism.


Sure, the good guys have had their share of victories over the last few centuries. I celebrate the abolition of slavery, the rise of democracy, the defeat of fascism, colonialism, and Stalinism. Not to mention progress in science, technology, and medicine. And some of these victories might well be thought of as triumphs of reason. But the Nazis, for example, weren’t argued out of existence. They were bludgeoned to death. That suggest that the so-called "force" of reason, just taken on its own, is a pretty limp force. And to make matters even worse for reason, don't forget that without the Red Army, Hitler would never have been stopped. So to the extent that we think of communism as one of the forces of unreason not that we should necessarily think fo communism that way, but there are certainly those who do think of it that way  we’d have to say that in the case of the dark force of Nazism, it took an alliance with other dark forces unreason to defeat an even greater threat to reason. So much, again, for the unaided power of reason to win out over unreason!


Now about Stalin and the communist. Stalin himself was a monster, no doubt about it. But Marx, the great founding father of communism, was as much a man of the Enlightenment as Adam Smith or Immanuel Kant were. Marx endorsed scientific rationality, opposed religious dogma, and advocated for human dignity. Marxism is, in fact, lovely in theory. Unfortunately, in practice it gave us Stalin’s Gulag and Mao’s Cultural Revolution. And what this shows is that it's a mistake to fetishize reason in the first place.


I know it will sound perverse to some, but there is actually a part of that wants to blame reason itself for the Gulag! After all, Stalin had his scientists and engineers. They adhered to the canons of scientific rationality, did they not? He had his party apparatchiks. They managed a sprawling state by means of bureaucratic rationality, did they not? And ask yourself how the “great leader” managed to control his gaggle henchmen? He did it, I suggest, through various rational incentives.


"You mean, like with fear and intimidation," someone may incredulously ask. And I do have to admit that these are not your everyday tools of rational management. Hopefully, they are not ones that you or I would ever find a need to resort to. But look at it from Stalin’s point of view, for a second. From his perspective, the gulag was just one more manifestation of bureaucratic rationality! And all things considered, it worked pretty well. Those management techniques enabled him and his successors to run a sprawling technocratic state that dominated half the world for three quarters of a century.


To be sure, if you start out thinking that way, you may end up concluding that reason even played a significant role in giving us the Holocaust! Not that reason gave us the Holocaust all its own. But surely it would no one can deny that the sort of bureaucratic-technocratic rationality that helped to sustain the Soviet state also played a role in creating and sustaining the Nazi state.


I can almost hear the indignant retort, even as I write these words. "What are you, Taylor? Some kind of post-modern relativst? Reason didn’t give us the Holocaust. Virulent antisemitism did! Somebody who thinks that will say that if you’re inclined to see Jews as cockroaches, fit only for extermination, you’re completely out of your mind. And you’re not at all using your reason correctly."


I know that the thought that reason simply went dark in the Nazis has a certain intuitive moral appeal. And it is terribly comforting for those who want to believe that reason can save us. Unfortunately, though, this view vastly overestimates what might be called the normative power of reason. Reason on its own doesn’t and can’t tell us what to value. All it does is take our values, whatever they are, as given and tell us how to build a world that accords with them. The sad fact is that if you take anti-semitic values as input, then reason will produce the Nazi state as output.


Kantians will disagree. They will insist that reason can and should determine our values. But Kantians tend, on my view, to over-romanticize reason. I side more with Nietzsche and with Hume. They were both more naturalistic, sober, and circumspect about the powers of reason. Hume, for example, was pretty explicit that, as he put it, "reason is and ought to be a slave to the passions." To be sure, Kantians and others will insist that views like Hume’s or Nietzsche’s wrongly imply that Nazis were rational. And they take is as something like a brute fact that any view that implies that the Nazis were rational, cannot possibly be right. Reason went dark in the Nazis, pure and simple, according to the Kantians.


Now this is a longer and more substantive debate than I want to get into here. For one thing, Kantians and others tend to distinguish so-called normative reasons from so-called motivating reasons. Motivating reasons may "explain" but they do not "justify." The Nazi's may have hade their motivating reasons, but they had no normative or justifying reasons, the thought goes. And when Kantians say that reason "went dark" in the Nazis they don't mean to deny that Nazis lacked motivating reasons or were incapable of instrumental reasoning, that is, of adjusting means to end. They mean to say that nothing could rationally justify what the Nazis did. Personally, I have argued that there is less to the distinction between motivating reasons and justifying reasons than philosophers imagine. But setting the subtleties of that issue aside, I will just say that Kantians and others miss, though, is that those of us who refuse to romanticize reason, may still abhor the Nazis too. We simply insist that our abhorrence of them doesn't mean that they are irrational. It just makes them… different. "Different as in evil," the friend of normative reasons will ask. Well, yes, I am willing to respond, the Nazis were evil. But "evil" still isn't the same as irrational.


So who gets the better of the argument? The Kantian who thinks that naturalistic sorts like Hume or Nietzsche vastly underestimate reason and who insist that if we are to be saved from the darkness, surely reason is our only hope? Or Humeans, and the like, who reject what they see as the Kantian tendency to romanticize reason? And by the way, Hume and Kant are both widely heralded as heros of the Enlightenment. So even during the Enlightenment, the supposed heyday of rationality, the very idea of reason was hotly contested. So it’s not entirely surprising that it may still be contested today, in what maybe shaping up to be another period perhaps dominated by new and powerful forces of unreason. Clearly, there is lots to sort out here and we'd love to have your help in thinking through it all.


Image by PIRO4D from Pixabay 

Comments (6)

MJA's picture


Saturday, October 20, 2018 -- 8:34 AM

I think reason should build

I think reason should build on a foundation of equality, the light at the end of the tunnel. ='s picture


Tuesday, October 23, 2018 -- 3:02 PM

I have a modest proposal that

I have a modest proposal that would allow all humans over a minimum age to independently and anonymously join "The Human Society. - THS " This web membership would be separate from their country, religion, community or family. Initially, a high percentage of members (e.g., 80%) would agree on a set of Principals, Rights and Values (PRV). To maintain their membership in THS, each member would vote annually on three global issues (two mandatory).

Questions vis a vis "Can reason save us?" might be: .

Can we trust the judgment of 50%, 60%, 70%, 80% of the human society?

Can the judgment of 80% provide sufficient "moral suasion" to sway governments to make more rational decisions on Nuclear Disarmament, Climate Change, Economic Disparity/Migration, Political Refugees and similar global issues?

I have a longer and more detailed essay/proposal on The Human Society that might/should be on interest to your membership.

Martin MacIntyre's picture


Wednesday, October 24, 2018 -- 1:38 PM

The Human Society

The Human Society
By Martin MacIntyre

This modest proposal germinated in my mind in the 1960s when the means of person to person mass communication was the postcard. The idea was based on the fact that humans didn’t have an unfettered opportunity to join the human race (as it was called then). This proposal was rekindled by an idea competition offered by the Global Challenges Foundation seeking a solution to the fact that the existing models of governance were not capable of solving global problems. To see details of the prize competition, go to While the competition offered a possible US$5 million for the best idea and at a minimum $1 million. The competition is over and the highest actual awards were for $600,000, because the stated and unstated competition goals were contradictory and therefore could not be met. They were:
• The new model must be achievable and sustainable within the foreseeable future.
• Violent methods can’t be used to achieve universal acceptance of the new model.
• Decisions of the new model of governance must be enforceable.

The following proposal was not selected by the competition committee, although in my opinion it comes as close as is humanly possible to meet the stated goals and in some respects exceeds them. I know this proposal meets the first two goals and that the third one is impossible to meet without using violent methods.

I know that this proposal can be implemented within a few years at a reasonable cost. I offer it in the format required for the competition and ask you to give it serious consideration.

1. Abstract

Existing models of governance are incapable of solving significant global problems.

Solution Requirements:
1. To solve global challenges, countries will individually and/or collectively make a significant improvement in their models of governance or agree on a single world government.

2. The solution must be instituted in the foreseeable future and be sustainable.

3. The governance model must have enforceable decision-making authority.

Previous Governance Models:
All secular governments are basically tribal in character with territorial boundaries and leaders. Systems of religious governance have no territorial boundaries but can't countenance competing beliefs. There have been many models of governance including the clan, village patriarch, town meeting, aristocracy, theocracy, monarchy, oligarchy, military rule, dictatorship, representative democracy and government of governments. Previous methods for changing governments have ranged from extermination of opponents (war) to voluntary creation of a new government (voting).

Previous Governance Failures:
All models of governance and change methods have failed to prevent war, which now has the potential of annihilating all living things. The failures may be due to human nature, which embodies a natural territorial imperative (land/water/air ownership) and a belief imperative (one true belief). Also, the existing models aren't based on acceptance by a super-majority of individuals. Until recently, there was no global method for individuals to independently agree on basic human principles, rights and values (moral imperative) or to instantly and simultaneously voice their views on global issues.

The Conundrum:
How can humanity control the territorial and belief imperatives that are both the current foundations of governance and also the source of failure?

Proposed Solution:
The Human Society (THS) adds a moral imperative (moral suasion) to balance the the territorial and belief imperatives. Individuals will voluntarily join THS, a free Web organization based on shared principles, rights and values with minimal - but mandatory - participation.

THS will provide the existing governments with real, timely, transparent and continuing knowledge of global views generated by its members. Although THS can't force the decision-makers of each country to comply with widely held views of their citizens, it would be hard to ignore a super-majority of individuals.

Formation of The Human Society:
The Global Challenges Foundation, the Nobel Prize Committee and representatives chosen by UNESCO will select the founding Board of Trustees from a group of individuals representing human diversity who volunteer for this important, but short-term, task. The Board will select and oversee the technical personnel who will create The Human Society website and pretest it in a number of diverse countries and governance models.

Functioning of The Human Society:
Communications will be in all recognized languages, both written and spoken. The THS website will maintain the membership rolls. Data will be displayed to demonstrate that the membership is diverse and representative of the world's population. When enrollment reaches a critical mass and diversity, members will vote on a list of human principles, rights and values (PRV). The PRV list shared by a super-majority will be published and re-voted bi-annually.

Annually, members will have the opportunity to vote on at least three issues of global significance and obligated to vote on two. The results will be used to guide existing governments.

The THS system will be simple, transparent and secure, thus maximizing participation and trust in the ballot results. Governmental "powers that be" should find it difficult to reject the views of a super-majority of their country's and world's citizens (moral suasion). To be successful, THS must guarantee a secret ballot and prevent fake memberships/votes.

Ten-Year Measurable Objectives:
1. 30% of the world’s population with web access will be members of THS.
2. 20% fewer individuals in war zones.
3. 10% fewer political refugees.
4. 10% fewer economic migrants.
5. Deceleration of the gap between rich and poor.

Crowd-funding and anonymous donations will create an endowment to fund a low-cost system. Major costs of THS will be the web server, computer security and translation services.

Assessment Criteria:
The Human Society exceeds the criteria of the 2017 New Shape competition.
1. Improves foundational forces instead of changing governance models.
2. High probability of acceptance by the world community.
3. Low-cost and easily tested.
4. No veto, minimal delay and possibly a more efficient decision process.
5. Universal participation without added fees.
6. Immediate feasibility.
7. Existing technology and flexible.
8. Simple and transparent.
9. Meaningful and trustworthy.
10. Practical and sustainable
11. Objective measurement of success.
12. Accountable and non-commercial (no advertisement).
13. Secure and effective.
14. Moral suasion (moral imperative) replaces physical enforcement of decisions.

It is beyond reason to think that the wide variety of current governments will accept a common model of governance based on rational/moral arguments with enforceable laws and diminished sovereignty. Therefore, instead of changing the existing models of governance (an illogical requirement of the competition), this proposal adds an extra-national uniting and balancing foundational force - moral persuasion. Moral suasion was effective in ending apartheid in South Africa and in resolving other national issues. Now it can be used on a global scale because the Internet allows individuals to voice their views on significant current global issues based on shared human principles, rights and values - The Human Society.'

1. Current governance models, founded on the territorial and belief imperatives,
can’t resolve global problems.
2. A significant change in the governance models of existing countries is unlikely.
3. A moral imperative is needed to balance the territorial and belief imperatives.
4. Global citizens should have an opportunity and obligation to express their
5. The Human Society (THS) fulfills the need for a countervailing foundational
force - moral suasion - that will hold the "powers that be" accountable.
6. THS fulfills all the reasonable criteria of the 2017 New Shape competition.
a. Core Values: upholds the common good of humankind.
b. Decision-making capacity: Adds timely global moral suasion.
c. Feasible: Immediate implementation with measurable objectives.
d. Resource and Financing: Existing technology and low-cost.
e. Trust and Insight: Transparent, participatory and considers existing
f. Flexibility: Trial run, regular revision.
g. Prevent Abuse: Constant vigilance and multiple back-up systems.
h. Accountability: Independent vigilance, rotating management, nonpartisan.
i. Likely Criticism: Massive moral suasion will be ineffective in guiding
decisions of national governments.

2. Description of the Model


Before describing the proposed solution, it is necessary to briefly review how homo sapiens sapiens have reached this point in our quest for a successful model of governance (coexistence).

The governance of humankind is rooted in a natural, evolutionary tribal system, whether it is a village/clan related by blood with a patriarch or matriarch/chief (that can still be found in many places in the world) or a country, with a hereditary, appointed or elected leader and sometimes a representative decision-making congress or parliament with an independent judiciary. The members (citizens) of each territorial group owe their allegiance to that group/sovereign, whether or not they support that model of governance or the actions taken on their behalf. (Ref. 2) Citizenship is usually determined by the location of one's birth or a parent’s citizenship, rather than by an overt declaration of consent and loyalty. Exceptions are naturalized citizens, elected officials or members of the military, who take a pledge of loyalty. Citizenship includes the unstated obligation to fight and die to maintain the security of the nation's borders and system of governance (patriotism). Any major opposition to the group’s existence or governance can be deemed a high offense (treason), punishable by death, imprisonment, torture or exile. Even being unwilling to fight and die for one's country (conscientious objector) can result in imprisonment and/or torture. One rare example of a government voting itself out of existence was in 1707 when, under economic pressure, the Scottish Parliament voted to become part of the United Kingdom.

There have been written laws of governance as early as Hammurabi (c. 1700 BCE) and the Decalogue (c. 1400 BCE). However, until recently, most countries had no written statement of their basic principles and significant changes in government have been, and often still are, by brute force, with assassination of the ruler or civil wars being common change methods. It wasn't until after the American Revolution that the United States Constitution and Bill of Rights were approved.

Individual Representation:
In 1789, the United States of America was the most democratically representative government, but the meaning of “all men are created equal” only applied to white males who owned property. It wasn't until after the American Civil War, that in 1868 black men were considered citizens but women couldn't vote until 1920. There wasn't a US federal voting-rights law until 1965 and some state laws still make voting difficult for groups of citizens (the poorest and least educated). It wasn't until 1971 that the voting age was lowered in the US to 18, the age that males could be forced to join the military - to kill or be killed. There are still countries where there is no universal suffrage.

International Language:
There have always been international languages based on conquest and territorial occupation e.g., Latin, Arabic, Spanish, French, Mandarin and English, among others. At one time, French was the Lingua Franca of diplomacy and now English has become the default language of diplomacy, commerce and science.

However, in the 19th century, a few European intellectuals - who might have applied for a competition like this one - thought that a shared "world" language was essential for global peaceful coexistence. Toward that end, several new languages were constructed trying to avoid being associated with a particular country, region or culture. The longest lasting and most widely used has been Esperanto (meaning "one who hopes") but it hasn't accomplished its purpose of being a popular or unifying international language. (Ref. 3)

World Governance:
Secular - Attempts have been made to have a unified, secular, "world" government. After World War I, the League of Nations was formed but it failed, largely because the United States didn't join. The United Nations was formed after World War II and has had partial success but the veto power of the five "permanent" members of the Security Council has greatly limited enforcement powers. Its basic model hasn't changed in keeping with the changes in world governments.

Before and after WWII, there were attempts by non-governmental groups of individuals to plan a world government. There was a "World Constitution" and the United World Federalists, a union of organizations seeking a world government. These efforts haven't received widespread support, partly because they were seen as counter to the interests of individual nations (e.g. un-American).

Due to the Cold War, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was formed by western democracies to counterbalance the military might of the Soviet Bloc’s "communist" model of governance. When the Soviet Union collapsed, NATO was enlarged to include countries formerly part of the Soviet Bloc. NATO still remains in opposition to Russia and other groups in opposition to western democracies, like Al-Qaeda and Isis, that has resulted in military action as far away from the North Atlantic as Afghanistan.

The European Union was formed as a countervailing economic and then political force to the United States, Soviet Union, China and Japan. Formation of the EU required some loss of sovereignty by the member countries in return for greater cooperation among its members. By agreement, new countries could be added, and members could have a peaceful exit. Some Eastern European countries were added, as was a common currency. However, the expansion and consolidation trend was halted in 2016 when the United Kingdom voted to leave the EU. The United Kingdom's decision was based on a simple majority of those voting with 37% of eligible voters approving the exit. A major argument for leaving was the real and perceived loss of sovereignty and cultural identity - forces that both unite and divide.

Religious - There are groups that don't control territory yet still hold sway over the most aspects of how a human being should live and interact with each other. These "religions" are generally based on definite principles, often in writing, that sometimes describe how life on earth began and what happens after death. These "holy" texts are often claimed to have supernatural origins and authority; as the one and only absolute truth (the belief imperative). To be an adult member of a religion may require a public affirmation of belief in the religion's central tenants. If you don’t believe, are unwilling to profess your belief in a public forum, or don't conduct your life according to the tenants of the religion, then you are shunned, shamed, excommunicated, exiled, tortured or killed. Even a single belief can separate one religion from another, which all too often has resulted in war, even though their stated beliefs are to be non-violent.

A religion's primary influence over a secular leader still exists in many countries. There have been a few cases where the "official" religion of an entire country changed when the leader changed his religion or established a new one, e.g., Roman Emperor Theodosius and Henry VIII of England. Over 50 countries have official religions e.g., Iran, Israel, Saudi Arabia, The Vatican, Myanmar and even the United Kingdom. Past examples are: Tibet, the Roman Empire, and Aztecs.

Regardless of whether the governing organization is a territory (village/country), a religion (true belief) or a combination, the decisions that affect the individual citizen are made by hereditary, appointed or elected leaders, including the decision to go to war.

If individuals have no binding and unifying agreement on basic principles of co-existence, then individuals and groups will try to impose their secular or religious government on each other. This is a manifestation of the territorial and belief imperatives. (Ref. 4)

The existing systems of governance have not resolved significant global problems and in some instances have exacerbated them. This is the problem the 2017 Global Challenges “New Shape” Governance Model competition sought to address.

The goals of a global government or one shared "improved" model of governance have already been attempted by various means:

Extermination of the non-believers or unwilling citizens, known as ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity (e.g. Hitler’s Holocaust; Pol Pot's Cambodia, Rwanda massacre, ISIS Caliphate beheadings etc.).

Forced submission and/or agreement via war or threat of war/death (slavery).

Exile: Citizens of Judea were taken to Babylon; Native Americans were moved from Georgia to Oklahoma; Armenians were removed from Turkey.

Here are examples of voluntary agreements to not exterminate or harm each others (peace treaties) or to settle disputes and cooperate on world problems:
League of Nations
United Nation
United World Federalists - individual memberships, not representing countries.
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
World Health Organization
International Court
International Atomic Energy Agency
Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty
International Monetary Fund
World Bank
World Trade Organization
Sustainable Development Goals
Paris Climate Accord

None of these solutions have fully or permanently prevented armed conflicts or prevented significant actions detrimental to the health and wellbeing of individuals. The United Nations has not prevented individual nations from resorting to war. In one instance, the UN sided with South Korea against North Korea based on approval of four of the five permanent members of the Security Council with the Soviet Union not voting and therefore not vetoing (Korean Conflict).

Membership in the United Nations is by countries and not by individuals (global citizens). This meant that for many years, China was represented by the government of Taiwan. The United Nations has a statement of principles and sub-organizations with more detailed lists of principles (e.g. UNESCO and WHO). However, these principles have not been attested to by global citizens as individual members of the human society (civil society).

Up to the present time, the human species' quest for permanent, safe and secure coexistence has resulted in many forms of governance including village patriarch, town meeting, monarchy, aristocracy, republic, oligarchy, theocracy, military rule, dictatorship, representative democracy and government of governments. All have fallen short of resolving the most serious world problem - war with the potential of annihilating all living things.

First: There are territorial and belief imperatives that both unite and divide individuals/groups on the basis of common and differing characteristics and beliefs. There are many legends and historical facts concerning ownership of territory as a source of conflict and there are still wars based on which belief is the true one. Nonetheless, these two imperatives have been the foundation of governance and have both united people under one government and pitted countries and blocs of countries against each other. History and the study of human interactions strongly suggest that there is no way to eliminate these natural imperatives.

Second: All prior attempts to solve this problem have been based on agreements among countries rather than among individuals. When a country goes to war, it doesn’t require a majority of its citizens to approve. It is only speculation, but what would happen if war required approval of a super-majority of all citizens of each country, including the obligation to be willing to kill and risk being killed?

Third: Until c. 2010, it wasn't technically possible for a super-majority of humans to voice their views on values or issues. Within the last few years, the Internet/Web, space communication satellites and relatively universal access to wireless mobile communication devices have made this feasible. As of March 2017, half the world population (over 3.7 billion individuals) has access to the Internet. (Ref. 5)

First: In the foreseeable future, it will be possible to have a widely accepted model of governance that can make decisions on global issues.

Second: The decisions of global importance must be enforceable.

These requirements may be unattainable by any model of governance due to human nature, which has an imbedded territorial imperative (ownership of land, water and air) and/or a belief imperative (one absolute true belief).

So, how can humanity control the natural territorial imperative and the natural belief imperative that are the current foundations of governance but at the same time are the reason for the failure to peacefully coexist?

One might conclude from the preceding discussion that it is impossible to have a new, improved and universally accepted model for global governance in the foreseeable future. However, I'm reminded of a statement by George Bernard Shaw:

"You see things; and you say 'Why?' But I dream of things that never were; and I say, 'Why not?'"

This is the underlying spirit of the 2017 New Shape Global Challenges Foundation competition and it is in this spirit that I propose the following solution.

Instead of trying to improve all the inadequate and diverse systems of governance or to have all national governments accept a single world government, there is a third alternative.

We can add a uniting and countervailing foundational force - moral suasion - that has always existed but, until now, has lacked the means to be used effectively on a global stage.

Moral Suasion is our species' natural moral imperative. There are two types:
1. Pure Moral Suasion - an appeal to an individual's sense of morality (moral imperative) in order to guide everyone's behavior without threat of harm during life or afterlife. This was the primary method used to end apartheid in South Africa.

2. Impure Moral Suasion - Threatening or using non-violent actions to force someone to take a desired action or to prevent/stop an undesirable action. This was also used to end apartheid via boycotts of South Africa's commerce by other countries and individuals.

In this proposal, Moral Suasion refers only to the pure form. It is manifested by creating The Human Society (THS) - a free voluntary web membership organization of global citizens based on shared principles, rights and values (PRV) with minimal, but mandatory, participation. THS is an all-encompassing, non-national, non-religious and non-violent organization of independent individuals voluntarily expressing the moral and political conscience of the global population.

THS adds an all-important countervailing and uniting force (moral imperative) to the already existing territorial and belief imperatives, as foundational forces of governance. Only with this addition can the existing systems of governance be more closely aligned with the moral will of the global citizenry. The only technical requirement for THS membership will be access to the Web at no additional cost to the individual member. While there is no way to prevent the members of THS from individually using or exhorting others to use the impure form of moral suasion, this activity will not be advanced by THS. This restriction is necessary because there may be agreement on the end (desired outcome) but not agreement on the means to achieve the end, e.g., pure moral suasion vs. impure moral suasion: sanctions, boycotts, blockades and border walls vs. the threat of physical force and all to often, physical force (war).

The initial THS goal is simply to have a super-majority of humans become members of The Human Society. This free, voluntary global citizenship will be separate and distinct from the individual’s birthplace, residence, DNA (ethnic and biologic characteristics), socio-economic status, religious affiliation or national citizenship. Members will be anonymous. There will be periodic votes on basic principals, rights and values (PRV) and regular informed votes on important global issues. The purpose will be to give timely direction to the existing governments as they make life and death decisions on their citizen's behalf and/or have global consequences.

THS has similarities to opinion polls and elections but with significant differences.

Opinion Polls/Surveys are minuscule statistical samples, usually self-selected based on the decision of each individual to answer or not answer the question being posed. The way the question is asked can influence the response and the results are frequently not consistent with the prediction.

In sharp and significant contrast, THS is a super-majority of a large representative body of humans who are required to vote in order to retain membership in The Human Society.

Plebiscites/Referenda/Elections are limited to countries and often don't represent a majority of the eligible population, because in most countries, voting isn't a requirement of citizenship. This means that elections are frequently won by a minority (plurality) of eligible voters. In the 2016 US Presidential election, only 55% of eligible citizens voted and only 22% of them voted for the winning candidate. This means that many individuals, who were eligible to vote, either didn’t register or were prevented from registering and many of those who were registered, didn't vote or were prevented/discouraged from voting and a significant number didn't vote for one of the presidential candidates. There are often questions about the accuracy or legitimacy of the vote count because voting is conducted by a partisan government.

Again, in sharp contrast, voting on THS principles, rights and values will be 100% participation requiring a super-majority approval and voting on specific issues will be a minimum 66% participation. The votes will be free of interference from any government or individual.

Thus, THS is a bottom-up source of power, via a transparent but secret ballot that provides a moral/ethical compass to inform and guide decision-makers who have the power to improve or destroy the world. This additional representative and moral source of power does not require a change in, or approval from, the existing diverse governments.

THS doesn’t remove the territorial and belief imperatives because they can't be removed from the human DNA. Instead, it provides a way for each global citizen to voluntarily and independently become an avowed (but anonymous) member of the human society and to directly participate in the politics of global moral suasion regardless of their national citizenship, religious affiliation, biologic characteristics or socio-economic status.

YES. If one can believe the Old Testament Exodus story, it was some form of pure or impure moral suasion that convinced the pharaoh to free the Hebrews from Egyptian bondage and similarly to allow the Babylonians to free them. In the last 100 years, on rare, but significant, occasions, moral suasion has succeeded on a national level with the non-violent efforts of Mahatma Gandhi in India against colonialism; Susan B. Anthony, Martin Luther King and Cesar Chavez in the United States for civil rights; and while in detention, Nelson Mandela against apartheid in South Africa. Moral suasion was a force in stopping atmospheric nuclear bomb testing. Moral suasion hasn't always worked, e.g., the Dalai Lama for Tibet independence and for nuclear disarmament. There are still forms of slavery in the world (vulnerable women and children) despite almost unanimous moral opposition to it. However, moral suasion has never been tried on the scale of THS to improve decision-making on global issues.

THS is an up-to-date international version of those prior efforts without individuals having to physically demonstrate in the street where they can be identified by the authorities and consequently risk their lives. For example, THS could have been used by protesting Syrians and might have averted the displacement and carnage that has subsequently taken place. Joining and participating in THS will be safer than demonstrating in the street and easier than mailing in a ballot, standing in line to vote or buying a product online.

The Human Society will be formed by fifteen full-time, but short-term (one year), members of a founding Board of Trustees. The trustees will be selected by the Global Challenges Foundation, the Nobel Prize Committee and diverse representatives of UNESCO. Five will be Nobel Prize laureates/nominees or persons of similar stature; another five will be from countries of permanent members of the UN Security Council and five from other countries in the UN General Assembly. The ten selections from the United Nations are intended to allay any concern that THS is usurping the prerogatives of the UN and to ensure a wide representation of a diverse global population. It is also intended to make the UN part of the solution rather than a potential opponent. The Board of Trustees will represent all continents and human diversity in biological, geographical, generational, gender, educational, sociological, religious affiliation and technical skill characteristics.

The entire THS organization may be no more than 100 individuals.

The Human Society Organization (See PDF Attachment: THS Organization Tree)

Board of Trustees
Co-Chairpersons -> Technical Staff

Web Design
PRV List/Votes
Public Relations/Communication/Outreach/Endorsements

Technical Staff
General Manager
Web Design
Computer Security/Data
PRV List/Votes
HR/Personnel/Job Description/Recruiting/Vetting/Hiring
Outreach/Social Media/Press/Government Relations/NGOs/UN

Each member of the Board will serve on at least three committees. The committees will recommend and the full Board will select/oversee the technical staff. The staff will be drawn from experienced individuals responding to a Web invitation to create The Human Society. The physical location of the Board and technical staff will be decided by the Board, but it will be important to draw upon the expertise of the Global Challenges Foundation in making these initial decisions. There may be regional offices but, whenever possible, activities will be via the Internet to be able to include candidates who can’t move their families or be separated from their families and cultures.

Communication within the staff and the Board will be in English but communications to the public will be in all recognized languages - both written and spoken formats. This will allow the inclusion of those individuals who can't read or see or hear. Unfortunately, but by necessity, participants will need to have access to a web device, a problem already being addressed by others.

From the date of the first THS board meeting, it may take 6 - 12 months to form a THS website that can safely and securely start accepting billions of members. The THS system will have a trial run in countries that represent a wide variety of potential problems. The first run might include locations like: China, South Africa, United States, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Palestine, Iran, India, New Zealand, Brazil, Venezuela, Spain, Ukraine, Russia, Korean peninsula and the United Kingdom. The trial run will be initiated via press releases to multimedia and word of mouth via social media. Initiation of THS will not need permission from the existing governments or the United Nations, but their advice and support will be actively sought and welcomed.

The initial technical staff will also create a system for selecting the maintenance staff and permanent Board of Trustees. There will be a staggered turnover in positions to avoid stagnation, entitlement or appearance of bias, while maintaining continuity and trust in the THS system.

A list will be developed of principles, rights and values that might be acceptable to a majority of global citizens, regardless of their national origin, biologic or physical characteristics, social, economic or educational status, beliefs, ethnic origin, sexual identification or age (with minimum limits). The founding Board of Trustees and staff will mold these into coherent principles, rights and values, ready for a vote by the THS membership.

Once the bugs in the web system are corrected, the final operating plan will be approved by the Board of Trustees giving consideration to the guidance found in this proposal. Then, and only then, will THS be activated worldwide and the THS formation Board of Trustees will be disbanded (like Solon's 10-year planned exile from Athens after he designed their constitution, which only he could change, according to the historian, Herodotus). (Ref. 6) THS operations will be turned over to the maintenance staff and oversight to a new Board of Trustees. Hopefully, THS board positions will become highly prized and respected as perhaps the only truly global organization with membership open to all humans. This will be as close to a global force (if not an actual government) as one might hope to accomplish in the foreseeable future.

Every human being that meets the age requirements will be invited to join The Human Society. Communications will be in all recognized languages: both written and spoken forms. The only membership requirements will be access to the web and minimum active participation. To ensure that registrants are unique individuals, they will be asked to identify their age-range, self-identified gender, multiple physical characteristics, general birth GPS location, general present GPS residence, national citizenship(s), self-described socio-economic status within their group, ethnic origin(s), language(s) - primary and secondary, religious affiliation or lack thereof, and a unique password (with a secure system to prevent multiple memberships). There will be no names, telephone numbers, postal addresses, e-mail addresses, computer I.D.s or personal I.D. numbers. To the extent possible, anti-hacking algorithms will be developed to avoid fake memberships.

In the foreseeable future, it may be possible to have identification of individuals that is too difficult, cumbersome or expensive for hackers to penetrate yet simple enough for all individuals to easily access.

This extensive information requirement for individuals will also ensure that THS membership is representative of the world’s population. It must be able to distinguish between identical twins residing together without being able to determine the information needed to steal their identity. Avoiding fake memberships (computer security) will be the most difficult barrier to overcome and a top budget expense along with translation. Despite the fact that membership does not offer monetary gain or risk identity theft, there will be individuals or groups who would like to have multiple votes in order to defeat the purpose of The Human Society or simply to show they can "beat the system."

When the THS membership has reached a critical mass of enrollment and diversity, the members will be asked to select items from the initial PRV list that they can accept and think a majority of their fellow global citizens should be willing to accept.

From this reduced list, members of THS will vote on each principle/right/value (PRV) creating the official THS-PRV list of items that are supported by two-thirds of those voting and a majority of each major subgroup (gender, continent, age range etc.).

The PRV list will be revisited bi-annually for possible additions, deletions or revisions. PRV items that are supported by a majority (but not super-majority) of the THS members will be offered for a revote in two years.

At least three times a year, there will be votes on issues of world importance selected by the THS membership in order to inform decision-makers. Prior to these votes, there will be position papers with references arguing each side to help the THS members make an informed vote. This will be relatively expensive because it will be in multiple languages and in audio for those who are sight-impaired or cannot read. Examples of issues might be the Paris Climate Accord and management of economic migrants. In September 2017, the THS members might have wanted to vote on the question, "Should there be universal disarmament of nuclear weapons?"

To maintain THS membership, one must vote at least twice during a 12-month period starting with the activation of the membership. If a membership lapses, it can be regained by voting on all prior issues that were missed. Members will always be free to cancel their membership, but they will have no basis for complaining about the state of the global politic.

If a vote by a majority of members on a specific issue appears to be in conflict with an item on the PRV list, then that PRV item will be resubmitted for a mandatory vote of the membership with essays supporting and opposing the alleged inconsistency.

Within 5 years, 15% of the world’s eligible population will be members of The Human Society and in ten years, 30% will be members (approximately 2 billion humans). I propose that membership can start at age 10 (the age of my granddaughter who already has well-considered opinions on important issues that affect her life now and in the future). There could be a non-voting associate membership for those under age 16 and their votes might not be counted in determining a super-majority. However, it is important for as many humans as possible - as early as possible - to have the opportunity to join The Human Society and to participate as a unique individual, independent of their siblings, parents, family, village, country, ethnicity, culture, socio-economic group or religious affiliation. Enrollment and participation in THS will be simpler to perform than online shopping or voting in elections.

On the tenth anniversary of the activation of THS:
1. Twenty percent reduction in individuals living in war zones,
2. Ten percent reduction in political refugees,
3. Ten percent reduction in economic migrants,
4. Deceleration of the gap between rich and poor,
5. 50% reduction in human trafficking and slavery.

On the twentieth anniversary of THS there will be:
1. Ten percent reduction in poverty,
2. Ten percent increase in literacy,
3. Ten percent reduction in childbirth mortality (both mothers and children),
4. Fifty percent increase in girls attending school,
5. Deceleration in birth rate,
6. 90% suffrage.

Crowd-funding and/or anonymous donations will create a long-term irrevocable endowment to sustain a low-cost THS organization. The annual budget of THS might be so low that a single individual could endow it, as was the Nobel Prize and was the Global Challenges competition prize.

Sources and inspiration for the initial shared list of principles, rights and values can be from the Hindu Rig Veda; Decalogue; Confucius sayings; the New Testament; Buddha sayings; writings of Plato and Aristotle; Magna Carta; United States Declaration of Independence; United States Constitution and Bill of Rights; Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen; English Bill of Rights; United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights; European Union Charter; charters of international organizations; and other writings on this subject.

As a start on a list of shared PRV of humanity, we could use a slightly revised version of a list composed by L.D. MacIntyre in the early 1940s as guidance and motivation for International Red Cross volunteers.


Might can never be the measure of the right.

The end cannot be used to justify the means.

Strength was given us to succor and shield the weak; to lighten the burden of the sick at heart; to teach all who wish to learn the simple skills with which to aid themselves and others.

That all children of this earth are brothers/sisters and we shall not recognize any barriers of physical characteristics, class, creed, economic or social status, national origin or citizenship to set them apart, one from the other.

That equal opportunity must be afforded for each to share in the fruitfulness of this world and each, according to his ability, to share in it burdens.

That kindness and mercy and understanding will grow – must grow – that this planet may be a place for children and their children’s children to live in peace and security.

That each must have a chance to contribute what he wills to this new world, this fitter measure to his dream.

That as each one of us has a share in the world we know and hope to shape, so each of us now must strive to save those simple human values which give dignity to man and life its meaning.

For these principles and to the just means to achieve these ends, I pledge my time and efforts.


Climate Change and Global Warming?
Nuclear Weapons Control? Disarmament?
Political Refugees?
Economic Migrants?
Mal-Distribution of Wealth?
Population Control?
Korean Peninsula?
Yemen - Shia vs. Sunni?
Myanmar - Buddhism vs. Islam?



3. Argumentation demonstrating how the model meets the assessment criteria

General Argument:
It is highly unlikely that the current wide variety of government and models will accept a common model of governance based on rational/moral arguments with enforceable laws that diminish their sovereignty even if the decisions are limited to global issues. Therefore, instead of changing the existing models of governance, this proposal adds a uniting and balancing foundational force - moral persuasion. Moral suasion was effective in ending apartheid in South Africa and in resolving other national issues. Now it can be used on a global level because the Internet allows individuals to voice their views on significant current global issues based on shared human principles, rights and values - The Human Society (THS).
The Human Society meets, and in some respects exceeds, the New Shape Global Challenges competition assessment criteria. In two respects it doesn't fulfill the criteria. I have two comments on those criteria.

First, no matter how rational and practical a new and improved governance model might be, it is too optimistic to expect existing governments to voluntarily change their models of governance in the foreseeable future (10, 20, or 50 years). With a few notable exceptions (e.g., EU), governmental changes have been the direct result of wars or attempts to do so have been precipitated by violent conflicts.

To expect all countries to accept the same model of governance, albeit an "improved" one, or to join into a single world government, will entail a universal motivation more dire than the already existing threat of global annihilation via nuclear war. As fanciful as this sounds, it might require a force from outer space that threatens the lives of everyone on earth, regardless of their citizenship, social order, religious/moral persuasion or species e.g., the thesis of the film, The Day the Earth Stood Still or a 60% chance of a direct hit by an asteroid. Only then, and only with sufficient lead-time, would there be a strong enough "survival" imperative to unite global citizens under a single earthly government that fulfills all the requirements of the Global Challenges Foundation competition.

Second, it is too limiting to require enforceable decisions, which ultimately means physical force, i.e., war. The model shouldn’t be delimited by necessitating physical enforcement. There have been rare, but monumental, changes in the world of politics (governance) that weren't preceded by violence or threat of force as the change agent (even when violence was used in trying to prevent the change). Thus, it is possible to have an unenforceable, yet forceful and effective "middle way" to improve governance and this possibility shouldn't be preemptively ruled out. (Ref. 7) (Ref. 8)

So, I'm arguing that it is possible to significantly improve decisions made by all types of governance, even dictatorships, without using force or requiring them to relinquish any sovereignty, cultural identity, beliefs or authority. While this may seem to be impossible, it has already happened in human history and is far more feasible in the foreseeable future than persuading all the governments with various models of governance to accept one “improved” model or one world government.

After all, the purpose of the 2017 New Shape Global Challenges competition is to make the competitors “think outside the box” and "… to dream of things that never were and say, 'Why not?' " Only in this way can we develop a solution that meets the stated goal, even if it does not meet all the criteria but nonetheless, achieves the required goal. As the announcer says at the beginning of the Star Trek TV series we will need to go "Where no man [person] has gone before."

This proposal has very few references and only one attachment because the proposal is not a new form of governance but rather an expanded implementation of a naturally existing and well-known human moral imperative using existing technology .

1. Core Values.
‪Decisions within the governance model must be guided by the good of all humankind and by respect for the equal value of all human beings. ‬‬

The Human Society fulfills the core values because all human beings can join and equally participate in selecting the shared principles, rights and values of humankind.

2. Decision-Making Capacity.
Decision-making within the governance model must generally be possible without crippling delays that prevent the challenges from being adequately addressed (e.g. due to parties exercising powers of veto).

At present, it has been impossible to even achieve global action (binding and enforceable agreements within the UN Security Council) to oppose on-going crimes against humanity, like those taking place in Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Congo and M. (Ref. 9)

For this reason, The Human Society will leave intact the existing systems of governance and depend on the enormous force of moral persuasion (moral suasion) expressed by billions of individuals to do the work that can't be accomplished by physical enforcement. The consensus views of humanity must be the force to guide the decision-making process of each and every proposed "New Shape" governance model, no matter how diverse the models.

THS will create minimal delays (perhaps a week or two) in decisions. The THS process might even accelerate (also perhaps a week or two) the otherwise slow decision-making process of governments that have legitimate deliberative bodies. A recent example of a similar device was critically important in the decision to not change the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) in the United States. The U.S. Congress has an independent, non-partisan research organization (Congressional Budget Office) that estimates the effect of proposed legislation. In the case of replacing Obamacare, they determine that millions of individuals (voters) would lose medical insurance and that fact alone may have swayed the decision-makers.

There is no perfect system of governance that will be acceptable to all countries or peoples or even to most individuals. The only "veto-like" power of the proposed solution would be the clear lack of THS support for a specific item being decided by existing governments. This would be a good "veto", equivalent to immediate and overwhelming public street protests. In The Human Society model of governance, there is no way for existing governments or a vocal minority to physically or violently prevent, intimidate or oppose the expression of opinion (approval/protest) by the THS membership beyond shutting down or destroying the means of communication (the Web), which would risk shutting down or destroying the entire world economy, an action no government would be willing to take simply to prevent the expression of opposition or support. Hackers might attempt this, which is the major concern of this model, but this concern exists for all models of governance.

3. Effectiveness.
‪The governance model must be capable of handling the global challenges and risks and include means to ensure implementation of decisions. NO and YES ‬‬

NO - No governance model can "ensure" implementation of its decisions without using physical force (death, exile, detention or threat of harm and willingness to take action). That is why, despite international agreements to prevent it, many countries have developed nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them (India, Pakistan, Israel, North Korea) and others have attempted it (Libya and Iran). In this regard, physical enforcement has not been effective while impure moral suasion has been effective in Libya and Iran but ineffective in North Korea, India, Pakistan and Israel. Using equal force (nuclear weapons for all countries) to enforce nuclear weapon disarmament (of all countries) is unthinkable and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council won't easily give them up. However, there has never been a vote of global citizens to eliminate all nuclear weapons and this could be what is needed to change the equation. It certainly is worth the try. Regardless, there will still be great benefits from having individuals participate in global politics.

YES, because moral suasion by a well-represented super-majority of the world's human beings is the only way left to achieve changes in the decisions made by governments, although it can't ensure implementation.

There will be two major criticisms of this non-enforceable moral suasion approach:

A. The addition of moral suasion might still be inadequate to avoid war or global actions that can destroy the environment and make the world uninhabitable. That is an invalid reason for not trying it. The United Nations hasn’t been 100% effective but it certainly has been worth trying. One can always add impure moral suasion to the equation with voluntary enforcement of boycotts by individuals.

B. There is a significant percentage of the world's population who are illiterate, uneducated, uninformed or have more important personal survival issues that might keep them from joining and participating in THS. However, illiteracy won't prevent participation, since there will be spoken languages. The bottom line is that we have to start somewhere by including as many people as possible in the political process in the hope that they can be informed and, if given a chance, they will be guided by a common moral imperative. Only then will their voices potentially lead to alleviating some of their survival problems.

These criticisms apply to any other proposed New Shape changes in the model of governance. For example, it will take more than an 85% international survey result to get the five permanent members of the UN Security Council to give up their veto power or nuclear weapons. However, a 70% vote of the THS members in the countries who are permanent members of the Security Council might affect a change in the veto power to require two countries to agree on a veto and/or to override a veto by 80% of the General Assembly. Any major change in the United Nations is unlikely without the support of a super-majority of the global population behind it, representing the moral imperative expressed in a way similar to The Human Society.

4. Resources and Financing.
‪The governance model must have sufficient human and material resources at its disposal, and these resources must be financed in an equitable manner.‬‬

The required human and technical resources to create THS already exist. Financing will be minimal and can be initially achieved in the same way that Wikipedia has been funded, by crowd-funding and anonymous "no strings" donations from individuals, foundations, companies, and governments. The cost is so minimal that it could be sustained by an irrevocable endowment from a single wealthy individual, as was the case for the Nobel prizes and this prize. In this way it would be free from leverage by the funding source and any withdrawal of funding, or threat of withdrawal, would easily find "no-strings" alternative funding.

5. Trust and Insight.
‪The trust enjoyed by a successful governance model and its institutions relies on transparency and considerable insight into power structures and decision-making. ‬‬

The stated goal of the New Shape Global Challenges competition is to have a significant improvement in the organization and enforcement of global decisions in governance models. Within these limits, it is highly unlikely that these goals can be achieved in the foreseeable future. It is this “insight into power structures and decision-making” that has caused me to propose adding a foundational force at the bottom rather than change the "power structure" at the top. Instead of a new physical system of enforcement there is a reinforced global psychological system of enforcement (moral suasion). This change hasn't been possible until now. The THS website is a non-violent, transparent and timely means to exert moral suasion (the moral imperative) on existing governing institutions from the diverse supermajority of global citizens i.e., the voice of the voluntary members of The Human Society.

6. Flexibility.
‪In order to be able to fulfill its objectives effectively, a successful governance model must contain mechanisms that allow for revisions and improvements to be made to its structure and components.‬‬

The Human Society has a bi-annual membership vote to correct any problems. The Board of Trustees and technical staff will be available to correct immediate Web problems or to request an emergency vote on an urgent global issue.

If and when a problem in The Human Society website is detected, it can be presented to the membership (via a backup system, if necessary) where solutions can be proposed, discussed and voted on by the membership. If needed, this can be accomplished on a short notice.

7. Protection against the Abuse of Power.
‪A control system must be in place to take action if the organization should overstep its mandate, e.g. by unduly interfering with the internal affairs of nation-states or favoring the special interests of individuals, groups, organizations, states or groups of states. ‬‬

It is difficult to imagine how The Human Society can be abused as described above, beyond multiple votes by a single individual, fake identities or a malicious shutdown. This will require constant vigilance by the staff and membership and could happen even though there will be no monetary or power reward for successful hacking. However, it will be relatively easy to know when it is happening due to input from the (anticipated) billions of members. If there is suspected vote tampering (as suspected in the 2017 Kenyan presidential election), an immediate re-vote can be accomplished in a short time to offset and discourage any voting abuse. Unsuccessful attempts at hacking or vote tampering could be considered a measure of THS success.

In the foreseeable future there may be a way to identify members that can't be duplicated by hackers, like retinal scan, fingerprints and similar technologies.

Avoiding abuse by the individuals managing THS can be accomplished by rotating management and independent oversight.

8. Accountability.
‪It is a fundamental requirement of a successful governance model that it performs the tasks it has been charged with, and the governance model must include the power to hold the decision-makers accountable for their actions.‬‬

The power to hold the decision-makers accountable is to have immediate, transparent and continuing advice and feedback based on moral suasion from billions of THS members. This accountability will also apply to those managing THS.

It is hoped that decision-makers (whether legislators, executives, judges or a supreme authority who has all three powers) who consistently ignore the "will of the people" will lose the citizens' trust, even the trust of any military support they may have at their disposal. If so, they will be deposed via election or by whatever means are appropriate for their form of governance, but hopefully non-violent.

Therefore, decision-maker(s) who ignore moral suasion will risk loss of power. In authoritarian models of governance, it will swiftly and clearly demonstrate loss of support by the people and hopefully result in a change in decisions that otherwise are avoided when the government controls the media. Otherwise, the authoritarian ruler will risk forceful removal from power by members of the ruling group and, at the very least, will know that the citizens of their country and/or the world strongly disapprove of the action being taken (e.g. Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump).

9. Likely Criticism (added item)
The destructive side of human nature will always be present and must be taken into account. Only constant vigilance can keep it in check. (Ref. 10) (Ref. 11) (Ref. 12) Creation of The Human Society, or something like it, appears to be the only feasible way to advance the goals of achieving rational governance and global peaceful coexistence. While the best foundation for a rational improvement in governance is a literate, educated and informed population, we have to start somewhere. Pure global moral suasion in the form of The Human Society seems to be a viable, feasible, sustainable, meaningful, transparent, and potentially effective choice.


2. "Australia Wants to Drain the Swamp -- of Canadians. Lawmakers felled by obscure
citizenship rule: 'Resigned as , bro' " by Rachel Pannett, Wall Street Journal Page A1 Monday August 7, 2017
4. Robert Audrey
5. Potential worldwide access by individuals
(e.g., Facebook and Twitter and mobile devices)
6. Herodotus, The Persian Wars, The Modern Library 1942 Random House, P.16
7. Middle Way -
8. Global Citizenship -
9. "U.N. Backs Inquiry on Syria After Departure" by Associated Press, Wall
Street Journal, Page A16 Tuesday, August 8, 2017. The Director resigned due to lack of
10. "Humanity Violated" Podcast of Aug. 22, 2017
11. On Tyranny, Twenty Lessons From The Twentieth Century,
by Timothy Snyder, 2017, Tim Duncan Books
12. The Future of Democracy, Lessons from the Past and Present to Guide us on our Path
Forward by Steve Zolno, 2016, Regent Press, Berkeley, CA
13. Stuart Little, The School Room pp. 91-96, Pub. HarperCollins 1945.

The Chairman of the World (a mouse names Stuart Little) is the substitute teacher and with the help of his students, they try to develop and test “laws of the world.”

“Absolutely no being mean.” Suggested Milfred Hoffenstein.

“Very fine law.” said Stuart. “When I am Chairman, anybody who is mean to anybody is going to catch it.”

“That won’t work.” Remarked Herbert Peengast. “Some people are just naturally mean. Albert Fernstrom is always being mean to me.”

“I’m not saying it’ll work.” said Stuart. “It’s a good law and we’ll give it a try. We’ll give it a try here and now. Somebody do something mean to somebody. Harry Jamieson, you be mean to Katharine Stableford. … Harry ran over to where Katharine sat, grabbed the little pillow from her hand and ran back to his seat while Katharine screamed.

“Now then.” said Stuart in a fierce voice, “hold on, my good people, while your Chairman consults the book of rules.” [Stuart pretends to look in a book of rules]… Harry has broken two laws – the law against being mean and the law against swiping. Let’s get Harry and set him back before he becomes so mean people will hardly recognize him any more! …

He ran toward Harry and the other children jumped up from their seats and raced up and down the aisles and crowded around Harry while Stuart demanded that he give up the little pillow. Harry looked frightened, although he knew it was just a test. He gave Katharine the pillow.

“There, it worked pretty well.” said Stuart.

Without knowing it or giving it a name, they successfully used moral suasion to enforce the law.

14. Twitter #MeToo Movement. A real example of moral suasion using the Web.
15. Towers and Squares, Niall Fergusson. A history of networks. The title refers to the tower in Siena that looms over the piazza/square. The tower represents the secular hierarchical power structure of governance (along with the cathedral of the same height for religious governance/power) and the piazza/square represents the powerful but unpredictable alternative market place of ideas.

Comment: The web is the new “market place of ideas” with governance via moral suasion.

Harold G. Neuman's picture

Harold G. Neuman

Thursday, October 25, 2018 -- 10:34 AM

As some of us know, Pinker

As some of us know, Pinker has written about reason. Others have read Susan Jacoby's book on unreason in America. Good books, both (and Jocoby's Strange Gods parallels another of Pinker's other works, The Better Angels of Our Nature). Public Intellectuals have, of late, tackled some pretty philosophical issues and given us more to think about. Hume (18th century) wrote about ideas and impressions and the difference. He claimed resemblance; contiguity; and causation as the relational factors involved in the development of ideas. As an idea, reason itself emerges on different levels; in different times; among different people. Within such temporal proximities, reason (as so many other physical and non-physical entities) Evolves, or depending upon outcomes, DEvolves---taking now, two steps forward; now, three back. There are many things/influences (social; cultural; economic; theological, etc.) which can and do affect the direction of this evolution/devolution. Predicting its direction is tentative, at best. Mr. Hume also asserted that ideas and impressions are not the impression may be only a passing notion that lacks life and 'vivacity', sufficient to attain the substance of an idea. If we view reason historically, as Pinker has done, and consider that it has waxed and waned in areas of the world, we might wish to ask: Is reason an idea, or is it merely an impression? Semantics? No, I think not. Because if some of us treat reason as a convenience, to suit certain aspects of situational ethics, then the rest of us must forever be looking over our shoulders, lest we be unceremoniously stabbed in the back. I have adhered to brevity here, while hoping to stimulate some thought. This is important, I think, if we ARE worth saving.

Eddie L's picture

Eddie L

Friday, June 14, 2019 -- 11:43 AM

When we talk about reasons,

When we talk about reasons, it always gives an impression that we are civilized, cultured and are conscious about the grounds for our own actions . In its simplest form, we define our terms, work through the logic and reach a conclusion that is so persuasive that people are forced to accept. Its worth noting, however, that technically, there are two types of reasoning, deductive and inductive. Deductive reasoning is said to have only limited value because it does not add to what is already known, whilst inductive reasoning does not guarantee the conclusion to be 100% true. And worst of all, we are running out of alternatives. So to accept an argument, we need not only to confirm the internal logic is coherent. i.e. its valid, but also, more importantly, we need to personally believe at least one of the premises to be true or we need to accept that the conclusion is not guaranteed to be true. As the world around us continues to evolve , some facts will turn out to match our conclusions and others will not. Accordingly, we either adjust our beliefs or alter our subjective probabilities about how things are associated with each other. And through this process, our idea of the world gets closer to the real world over time. And for me, it is in this sense that reason is useful for us that it provides a framework for us to think things through. However, due to cultural diversification, value diversification and different material circumstances in which people live, even intelligent people with perfectly sound mind can reach very different conclusions through reasoning, e.g. WWII Germany as illustrated above. Therefore, unless, one is ready to question all the assumptions behind an argument, we need to prepare to be wrong as we reason. The problem seems to be that there is always a point at which if further questions are raised, it becomes culturally absurd and further inquiries attract unfavorable attentions and people would normally just stop at that, because a common belief is good enough for most of us to go by e.g. Democracy is desirable. So in conclusion, I would say that reasons are useful, subject to differences in cultural values, material circumstances and the courage to challenge our existing beliefs and when these conditions fail to hold, people could be vulnerable to political manipulations.

Ramesh's picture


Friday, June 18, 2021 -- 7:41 AM

In Mumbai, at my third year

In Mumbai, in my third year of college, I was a happy Sanskrit major and English minor. A friend with Sanskrit major had philosophy as his minor. I was full of Indian philosophy which I studied at its primary sources, in Sanskrit. When the friend recommended Western philosophy, I reacted, "What is there to study? It's all materialistic." I had a stereotype. I thought materialism was all about physical pleasures and Western culture was nothing but a hot pursuit of dance, dollar and divorce. But curiosity led me to start reading a history of Western philosophy. And the rest is my personal history.

What attracted me to Western philosophy was its tall claim that it was all about reason, rather. And that all other cultures were full of unreason and their thought was not worthy of being called philosophy, a term which was truly descriptive only of Western thought. Plato, with Socrates as his mouthpiece, started the reason game which is still being played out.

Even voices within the Western philosophic scene that criticize reason also claim that they do it with reason, especially when they are face to face with non-Western thinking. Everybody from Socrates to Sartre, even the anti-logocentrists use a method of reason to support their anti-reason theory. So, reason, reason and reason everywhere, with the constant perpetual drum-beat of reason saving us from unreason and from rival reason-mongers as well, who are dime a dozen. Every Western thinker seems to be saying, "I am for reason. All who disagree with me stand for unreason. If they say they are for reason, it is only rhetoric. I have the true voice of reason. And this is so, even if I am against essentialism or logo-centrism or even if I am a rabid existentialist or a deconstructionist."

Witness that Kant can write his magnum opus and call it Critique of Pure Reason. It was a half-hearted criticism of some fellow rationalists who induced him into a self-admitted dogmatic slumber. All it did was ratify and reinstate Newton's world-view. With a sham "deduction" of categories, where deduction was no formal force of logic but a Perry Mason-style courtroom deduction for the benefit of a biased jury. Ha, and did he refute Hume's attack on causality? I searched and searched for the corner in his so-called critique of reason and found that it was no more than an analogy "arguing" that causality was an irrefutable category of understanding akin to the logical concept of formal implication!

Ha, ha and ha! So much for a great "critique" of reason. Then John Stuart Mill, on the other side of the Atlantic pond, argued against the charge of petitio in proving the so-called laws of thought, that the laws are already assumed by the critics themselves. Reason cannot prove itself by its own method yet has the audacity to accuse its rivals of using it. Give me a break, a big break! John Dewey was on a better track, saying that reason is just a problem-solving instrument. Really, Hume had a similar take, but his position was also tamed by the necessity implied in the analytic statements.

My point is not that reason has no value. Kant's railing against dogmatic reason was not a worthless fight either. Down to nineteenth century, Bradley arrayed impeccable reason to destroy more than anything that Hume dreamt of destroying, When he said that metaphysics is the giving of bad reasons for what we believe on instinct, Strawson added that such reasons can be good, bad or indifferent. Bradley's point, perhaps, was that philosophers just try to whitewash their instincts and dress them up and that reason is just for the show. That is psychologizing, but who knows he has a point. But Strawson went on to make a further point aside from his predecessor at Oxford. At least he did not fall for the Cambridge philosophers who brushed aside having to defend their newfound realism against Bradley's so-called idealism by merely branding Bradley as a Hegelian. Russell never understood, for example, Bradley's critique of both internal and external relations and accused him of Hegel-style murky inernal relations.

Turning to Strawson, we may ponder his penchant for descriptive as against revisionary reason. The big problem is not how or whether reason and only reason can save us from not waking up tomorrow with the whole world being destroyed by a nuclear holocaust. The problem is with reason itself. Starting with Parmenides, it has always and unfailingly drawn a poor picture of our world. We cling tp the latter, with all our energies, even as it always comes up short of reason in the eyes of philosophers who swear by reason. And the world as we see it drives philosophers, with their reason, crazy. Some are driven so crazy as to propose a revision of the world, others enough to keep cooking up reasons to support the world, as if only their reason can save it!

Anyway, philosophers are divided in a hopeless fight within their own rank. There are: those, like Plato, who offer a revised world that suits reason and those, like Hume, who offer a better description of the world, again one that suits reason. This match between the revisionists and the descriptionists re-emerged, yet again, as Strawson pointed out himself, into the Formal Language Philosophy camp of philosophers in North America and the Ordinary Languge Philosophy camp in the United Kingdom. Lately these camps have muted and mutated themselves beyond the death wish suffered by philosophy herself. But who can say the matter is over? There seems no settled verdict on the issue.

In any case, the show of reason goes on. No matter how much reason proves or disproves itself it always approves of itself. Some, or rather most in the
West, are simply addicted to reason or whatever they call reason that they are practicing. They will continue to scream that only reason can save us. Others, using reason yet again, in whatever form, will try to find holes in this rhetoric in the name of reason. They will show how reason has got us in this or that hole from which we cannot extricate ourselves.

Descriptionists want to save the world from revisionist reason, but they do not want to stop using reason themselves. Revisionists want to save reason itself even if it destroys the world which, in their view, is not worth saving, at least not in its apparent form. Will the real reason stand up, please? Then maybe we can decide whether it is itself worth saving.

Anyway, what reason, if any, can save us from this rhetorical fight in the name of reason itself? Both, or all, parties here use reason, descriptive or revisionary, that is hell-bent on an intellectual destruction or disfigurement of our world. And almost everyone, including those for and those against reason do it either in the name of reason itself or against a reason that is called dogmatic, let alone umpteen other names.

I have taught intro to philosophy more than thirty times, in both historically oriented and problems-oriented forms. With the possible exception of ethics, it's the most challenging course I have taught, yet I loved to teach it every time. I get bored teaching the same texts, so I nearly always taught different books. Almost all these books contain or even start with a refutation of naive realism. Obviously, it is endemic of philosophers to attack the commonsense world in the name of reason. Yet they want to save the same world?! Or themselves? Or their reason?

The protagonists of reason fight what unreason they detect in their own, Western, society. Yet, the same voices of unreason there say they are the voice of reason, when they are confronting non-Western thought which they in one voice want to call the voice of unreason. Is reason an oxymoron? Or, is it a proxy for the West, with hubris equating the two?

The most ironic aspect of all this seemingly chauvinist charade is probably that the emperor has no clothes. What in the world is reason? Socrates, in his relentless pursuit of definition, failed to provide a definition of what in his view was the arbiter of truth, namely, reason. He equated and equivocated hopelessly between cogitation, dialectic, argumentation, intuitive reason and even seeing of the Forms by an intellectual eye. He said to Demosthenes who complained that he could see horses but not horseness, "My dear Demosthenes, that is because you have eyes but not reason." What is interesting is that reason, which ceaselessly enjoins everyone to give clear concepts and definitions, cannot produce a single definitive idea of what it itself is. Since Socrates, the list of notions claiming to be semantic equivalent of reason, has grown unmanageably large. You ask the question: What is reason? and a plethora of platitudes show up. Has anyone reduced them to a single cohesive concept? Have all agreed on that concept after a good debate? If not, should not the emperor be declared stark naked?!

Have fun, within reason!