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Ethics: Why We Are Divided - The Rise of Positive Law


While everyone is arguing the surface issues (support for lockdowns, vaccine passports, illegal playgrounds, protests) we are ignoring the underlying warring perspectives.

When people claim ‘I have human rights that no law can abridge’ they are appealing to a Natural Justice perspective, which has informed much of our historical development in the West – certainly in the field of human rights.

Modern human rights stances can be traced to Thomas Aquinas, and his ideas underpin everything from Occupy Wall St protests to Black Lives Matter protests and now to the anti Lockdown protests and anti vaccine passport protests. Even though politically disparate, they all rely on a Natural Justice narrative.

When people claim ‘I’m just following orders/doing my job’ they are appealing to a Positive Justice perspective, which arose with Thomas Hobbes and his ideas of ‘Social Contract Theory’. Jeremy Bentham furthered Hobbes’ work on Positive Justice (and hatred of Natural Justice) in setting our culture of government surveillance, fines, community policing one other, and Chief Health Officer directives.

This momentum of replacing Natural Justice with Positive Justice is seen in our legal systems where legislation increasingly usurps common law and politicians, media and voters all clamour to ‘create a new law’ to fix the latest problem.

It is also mirrored in economics where the well accepted ideas of Adam Smith (supply vs demand etc) are replaced with Modern Monetary Theory and various other ideas with inductive reasoning.

It is further mirrored in the decentralisation of truth (‘your’ truth), gender and race identification by intent only, moral relativism and other movements which seek to ‘create’ rather than ‘discover’.

Not that Positive Justice is wrong, or doesn’t deserve a place at the table, but we must be aware of the underlying friction to understand why people are so partisan on human rights, lockdowns, mandatory vaccinations etc.

NB: for the purposes of this brief and narrow explainer video, histories and details have been compressed and narrowed and I fully acknowledge the unexplored depths of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Aquinas, Hobbes, Bentham, Locke and Smith.