From antiquity to the present laws that govern society have been in place. From the times of Babylon under Hammurabi to Russia's communism, to the present laws that govern western society...

All seek to apparently keep us on the right path! Our parents taught us values, though who actually defines right from wrong ? What might be wrong for one person is perfectly acceptable to another...

Is it simply down to culture, society or our own individual conscience ?

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I'm holding that upbringing does not influence the moral quality of the individual. In psychology we recognize that an individual, for example, might be brought up in an abusive household, yet turn out to be someone who would never think of harming another individual. Likewise, someone who was raised around alcohol or drugs may never even try to drink or get high.

this is the great debate between the idea of an individual being a product of his surroundings or being born into certain ways. I don't think we can deny that upbringing and our environment do not play a part in our psychological make up. some statistics can show that external stimuli do indeed influence us. if we just see how marketing and advertising help to sway public opinion and choices, then this is the most obvious example to prove it.

however, it is true that we have our own mind and we can make our own choices according to free will.  so it means that our environment while being a factor cannot simply control us blindly in a way that completely overrides our sense of critical thinking and ability to make decisions. in Buddhist view...every action is the result of previous actions, and more specifically, those previous actions plant seeds in our mind which bear fruit later. the Mahayana master Nagarjuna concluded that each action in the present is the result of a combination of various seeds planted in the past, rather than just one seed. so out doubts, our convictions, our tendencies to be influenced by externals all combine in the pot of soup which determine the choice we are to make now. this explanation of his show me why that each one of us make different choices and not always what is most obvious to others as an expected outcome. patterns certainly exist, for instance women who smoke cigarettes or even worse crack while a baby is in their womb, often give birth to a child with similar substance abuse problems. but it is not always the case. it would depend on the concentration of more virtuous seeds that have been planted in the mind of the baby and though he may struggle with some drug inclinations, they may not prevail...whereas a baby with a stronger tendency to be addicted, will be addicted, according to the seeds he has planted in his mind from past actions.

thought the mother's drug addiction problems cannot physiologically affect the child's future addiction, as medical science explains...the baby who is destined for a drug problem may take birth in that mother's womb...let's just say...a match made in heaven?  or hell?

I think we tend to seek out order, regardless of right and wrong.

well, quite an interesting topic indeed.

my say on the matter is that there is no absolute truth. there is an ultimate reality...but that ultimate reality is not something that can be measured by our relative perception or our sense of relative reality. but as that we exist in the relative world, we ought to concentrate there and develop laws which keep our relative existence somewhat fair and as equal as can be. the founding fathers of the America spoke of "inalienable rights" which were meant to protect us all and which could also help us live in harmony with each other.

the problem is that many of the laws that are instituted by the state have special interests in mind, namely the interest of the rich. we may think that police are there to help everyone be moral towards each other, buy on closer analysis, I think we may find out that the police's main job is to keep the rich safe from the poor so that the poor don't steal from the rich. for instance the police are ready to throw any homeless person in jail if he takes food from a store or restaurant, but they are not so quick to realize that this guy was trying to survive and food should also be an inalienable right. they don't consider to allocate this poor beggar a place to live in the free world and work for his food, because frankly the system is created to only allow enough wealth and sustenance for some people and it will certainly exclude others. this is the survival of the fittest mentality of capitalism.

on the other hand, we can find that any true moral system that has been created by great spiritual thinkers, such as Moses, Jesus Christ, the Buddha, etc are often essentially carried out by our various legal systems throughout the world. for instance, the police will find it deplorable that someone has killed someone and confine that person to jail so that he does not kill again...and we can see many world religions also say that it is sinful and wrong to kill another person. but the system of penalty may vary. The Buddha for instance did not consider prisons to be a good thing, or rather the prison should be like a resort and rehabilitation center to teach the person not to commit wrong actions. He did not consider it good to use prisons to punish people in a way that would make them resentful.

So I think that the laws that govern society are truly a combination of a dialogue between culture, society and a more spiritual discernment of conscience. I think also society does indeed strive for some sense of inner truth in matters of laws but there will always be special interests that cloud that up,,,as long as that we use money to control people and wield power over them.

Every being knows what's right from wrong.

Interesting reply, I would agree by and large though how would you argue a case of adultery ? Were scientists say that men can not help straying as it is genetically programmed in their genes to do so ? If we are merely instinctive beings then who says what is right and wrong ?

Everyone is born with a certain DNA, doesn't mean it cannot change like scientist say.
But Yeah people are straying but it's because of their environment, even i did that but as i found the truth it is hard to go back to babylon ways of destruction...

I believe that there is more on a higher level which communicates to us but that can only be allowed if our brains are quiet and if we are willing to listen. We are here with a purpose and that's inside yourself. I & I :)

That's true environment does play a part in shaping who we are and how we behave...
I guess the ultimate question is who put the information in our genes!

Very good question indeed! I don't know....... yet. haha

That's a good answer :-)

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