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Related Words, Beliefs, Background

Worldview Theme #16: The Golden Rule, 

              Village Ethic of Mutual Help

alphabetical listing: A to K 

  alphabetical listing, continued: L to Z
Contrast Worldview Themes #16 and #43 --    these themes involve orientations, beliefs or behavior that are (more or less) diametrically opposed!            

Contrast Worldview Themes #16 and #36A --    these themes involve orientations, beliefs or behavior that are (more or less) diametrically opposed!           

Contrast Worldview Themes #16 and #29B --    these themes involve orientations, beliefs or behavior that are (more or less) diametrically opposed!     

Contrast Worldview Themes #16 and #39B --    these themes involve orientations, beliefs or behavior that are (more or less) diametrically opposed!     

absolute moral code -- absolute or universal standards of what is ethically or morally right or wrong. For many religious people, particularly fundamentalists, the word of God as it appears in sacred texts, provides this absolute moral authority. The opposing belief, that no such absolute or universal standards exist, is termed ethical or moral relativism.

altruism -- putting the interests, welfare, happiness, and perhaps even survival of other people or living things above one’s own interests, etc. This devotion often involves self sacrifice. In an extreme case it can even mean giving up one’s own life so that another can live.

brotherhood -- an idealized situation in which people treat each other in a highly considerate way as if they were members of the same family (brothers or sisters)

community vs. society--the sociological distinction between two social groups, most notably made by Ferdinand Tönnies in his 1887 book Gemeinschaft und Gesellschaft.  According to Tönnies, the former group is built around the personal, family, and neighborhood relationships and feelings of togetherness that one expects in a small place where people have direct, face to face contact.  In contrast, the latter group is a loose association of self interest motivated individuals held together by formal regulation and legal framework. There relationships between people are largely impersonal: there is less cohesion and less dependence on each other.  Tönnies saw the contrast embodied in his book's title when he looked first at traditional European peasant villages, then at large, modern, industrialized cities.

Confucianism--an ethical system / agnostic practical philosophy based on the teachings of the 6th century BC Chinese sage, Confucious. Its key teachings include: 1) Ultimately the happiness of society rests on sincere investigation that produces relevant knowledge; 2) Happy societies are built on a foundation of disciplined individuals in disciplined families; 3) Respect for and fidelity to natural obligations, most notably to parents and family, is essential. 4) The right relationship between individuals is important, one based on sympathetic “fellow feeling”, treating those subordinate to you as you would like to be treated if you were the subordinate--ideas which provide the basis for a Confucian Golden Rule; 5) Avoiding extremes and embracing moderation --finding a Golden Mean--is important.

empathy -- concisely it refers to “fellow feeling” , that is imagining that you are in the other person’s shoes and experiencing his or her feelings, struggles, etc.  Emotionally immature people, in particular those who after experiencing so much pain as children have learned how to block it, may not feel compassion for other's pain. Empathizing with others thus requires being in touch with your own feelings.

end of game strategy -- a strategy that can be adopted by a participant in either games or real life interactions with others in which belief that the game is about to end determines the strategy employed. Examples: 1) if you are certain you’ll never see a particular person again, you may decide that it’s okay to cheat that person out of something , and 2) if you are certain that Armageddon is fast approaching, you’ll have little incentive to care about the long-term environmental health of the planet.

ethics--the study of right and wrong in matters of conduct. 

ethical behavior evolutionary pyramid -- the depiction of how human ethical behavior has evolved over a long period of time (over one million years) using a pyramid. When people were little more than animals their behavior was dictated by self interest in meeting basic biological and survival needs -- depicted at the broad base of the pyramid. Amongst pre-civilization humans ethical behavior extended to include family and biological relatives. As culture developed and survival pressures eased, ethical behavior was extended greatly-- moving up the pyramid -- to eventually include community, tribe, regional neighbors, ethnic group, and nation. Today, at the top of the pyramid are those who feel a sense of belongingness to the whole human species and to the planet , and behave accordingly

ethical (or moral) relativism -- the belief that ethical guidelines or moral rules cannot be evaluated outside of the particular cultural / ethical setting to which they belong. It holds that there are no absolute or universal standards of what is ethically or morally right or wrong. Fundamentalists abhor ethical relativism. For them, the word of God as recorded in sacred religious texts provides not only rules to live by, but an absolute authority on moral questions.

evil, the problem of -- this problem has plagued philosophers at least as far back as the ancient Greeks. Epicurus (341-270 BC) appears to be the first to consider it at some length. Simply put, it has two aspects, one religious, one secular, that can themselves be stated as questions, First, why does an all powerful, all knowing God allow evil to exist in the world? Second, how should society fight human’s wicked and evil acts -- won’t fighting them with evil (violence, vengeance, capital punishment, etc) just result in more evil? Those who embrace non-violence, forgiveness, and oppose capital punishment basically feel that good can not come out of evil. Others argue that if evil is left unchecked and unpunished, and not countered with strong action, then more evil will result.

fellowship--involves people communicating and sharing their lives and concerns with each other--not surprising given that humans are social creatures!  In some settings, such as churches, this companionship can involve mutual respect and perhaps unselfish love.  While the desire of lone individuals to share common interests or participate in activities requiring others fosters much fellowship, according to M.V.C. Jeffreys (in his 1962 classic Personal Values in the Modern World) "the natural and original context for fellowship is the family."

Golden Rule, negative and positive formulations--Confucius, in the 6th century BC, is generally credited with the negative version of this universal principle: "Do not do unto others what thou wouldst not they should do unto you" The Jewish sage Hillel provided a slightly different version in 30 BC: "What is hateful to you, do not to your neighbor."  In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gave us the positive version: "All things whatsoever ye would men do to you, do ye even so to them."

Good Samaritan Laws--named for the Biblical parable of the Good Samaritan, United States' law prevents those who voluntarily assist people in need of immediate attention in emergencies from being sued.  In some European countries--most notably France--laws require that certain people provide such aid.

gratitude and reciprocity -- according to biologist Robert Trivers, the amount of gratitude we feel and accordingly our desire to reciprocate is based on our perception of the costs and benefits of the original act that someone else took for which we are grateful. We are most grateful when this act helped us a lot and cost whoever took the action a lot.

justice -- implementing what is just, defined in various ways as being reasonable, proper, lawful, right, fair, deserved, merited, etc. For some, justice is intimately connected with fairness, a connection with three dimensions: equal treatment, the degree to which exercising freedom and liberty is to be allowed, and reward for contributing to the common good .

karma -- from the Hindu sacred text the Bhagavad Gita, “Karma is the force of creation, wherefrom all things have their life.” Western classical physics (in the form of Newton’s 3rd Law) includes the principle that for action (or force acting) there is a reaction (a reaction force, equal in strength but oppositely directed). An eastern version of this -- a “Law of Karma” -- might be cast as “Whatever you give to the world you receive back from the world”.

kinship metaphors -- examples of these abound: brotherhood, sister cities, fraternities and sororities, mother country and fatherland, “Brother, can you spare a dime?”, “Our Father who art in Heaven”, etc. All of these seek to extend the natural love or special treatment that exists between blood relatives to those who are unrelated. Evolutionary biologists explain the special treatment of kin in terms of relatives sharing many more genes than nonrelatives and that natural selection can work to insure survival of common, favored genes by promoting favored (altruistic behavior) treatment of relatives.

  mirror neuron--a neuron which turns on (fires) both when you initiate a particular action and when you observe another individual performing the same action.  Thus their sympathetic firing "mirrors" the action of another.  According to some neuroscientists, the roots of empathy can be traced to neural networks in the brain with such mirror properties.

moral obligation -- the feeling of being bound to act or behave in a certain way given one’s acceptance of some moral code or set of rules

noble savage view of human nature -- the belief that people, if they lived in a natural state away from the corrupting influence of social institutions, are fundamentally peaceful, co-operative, and altruistically concerned with each other’s well being -- not aggressively greedy, acquisitive, competitive and merely out to advance their own self interest. This view was popularized by 18th century French philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau.

rationalism -- a philosophical orientation that links finding ultimate truth to employing reasoning

reciprocity (or reciprocal altruism) -- in human interaction, the idea that one good turn deserves another, or that one should return a favor. Example: If you’ll pick lice out of my hair, I’ll pick them out of yours!”

religion, social function of -- according to Michael Shermer, in his book The Science of Good and Evil, religion is “a social institution that evolved as an integral mechanism of human culture to encourage altruism and reciprocal altruism, to discourage selfishness and greed, and to reveal the level of commitment to co-operate and reciprocate among members of the community.”

TIT for TAT strategy--a strategy for use in non-zero sum "co-operate / defect" games --or applicable situations in real world interactions with people--where you co-operate on your first turn and on subsequent turns do whatever your opponent did on his or her previous turn (e.g. if your opponent co-operates you co-operate, if your opponent defects, you defect.)   The success of this strategy (based on both players coming out ahead) was initially appreciated in the 1980s by academics studying Prisoner's Dilemma games.  It has subsequently been linked to the human cultural evolution of co-operation, hard-wired neural network programs in the brain, and diplomatic successes--most notably the resolution of the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962.

trust--with respect to extending this to another person, it refers to relying on the integrity, character, and ability of that person.  The degree of that trust is in proportion to the belief and faith one has in the honesty, good intentions, and competence of the person to be trusted.

trust, the biochemical basis for--recent research suggests that the neurotransmitter and hormone oxytocin plays an important role in people trusting other people (including strangers) and co-operating with them.  It also suggests that those who are untrust- worthy may have oxytocin receptor dysfunction. 

universalism -- the belief in sociology that there are universal ethical standards.


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