Team Forum 1

Feb 5

Is Justice a Shared Fiction?

During Rhetoric Lecture, 1:25-2:15 on Fri, Feb 5, via this special Zoom link.

Reading: Harari, Chapters 6 and 8.

In recent classes, we’ve read roughly the first third of Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens, in which he argues that large-scale human organizations depend on shared fictions. Because everyone buys into these myths, mere acquaintances—even strangers—can engage in trade, collaborate on projects, and simply socialize. Looked at from this angle, the concept of justice is itself a shared fiction, one that helps resolve disagreements by identifying who’s right and who’s wrong, channelling outrage in ways that reaffirm rather than trample the social contract.

Yet even as Harari helps us understand how an ancient Babylonian thought he was doing right in owning another human being, Harari’s model would seem to deprive us of the capacity to judge that Babylonian as wrong in his thinking—or (more pressing) to judge a 19th century American slaveowner. In Ch 8, Harari suggests that all social hierarchies are in one way or another “unjust”, but on what grounds does he make this judgement? Two chapters earlier, didn’t he assert that there is no way to escape the “prison walls” of an imagined order?

In preparation for the first in our series of Team Forums, read chapters 6 and 8 in Harari, then post either:

  • your answer to this philosophical quandary,
  • an insight of your own, applying Harari to the world we live in, OR
  • a question that you’d like for Team D faculty to address during the forum.

We will be reading your posts the morning of the Team Forum, so to aim to submit yours by 6am, Fri, Feb 5.

112 responses to “Team Forum 1

  1. Justice, from my opinion is definitely a shared fiction. The definition of justice from dictionary is: “the quality of being just; righteousness, equitableness, or moral rightness”. It is a standard created and valued by human. Justice depends on moral judgements and morality is definitely a shared fiction, as discussed by Halari. For example, If one kingdom decides to decimate a primitive tribe only because the tribe occupied the land that the king wants, that kingdom or that king will probably be marked as “unjust”. However, for the cases of animals, it is usual that a lion kills a deer for no other reason but it wants to have an additional meal. The lion ignores the thoughts of the deer and doesn’t ask for the permission of the deer. Is the lion just? If just is not a imagined reality, it should exist no matter we believe it or not. However, we tend to treat the example of lion as “common phenomenon” of the nature. For humans, this becomes unjust and should be condemned. That indicates justice is subjective, not objective. As a result, justice is a shared fiction.

  2. From the book sapiens, we already know that the author gives pieces of evidence that support the argument of justice is a shared fiction. In his opinions, the shared myths and other things can develop association among people and make everyone engage in the activities with the shared idea. In my opinion, justice is a shared fiction for a huge reason——people have the shared norm.

    Since people are born with no consciousness of what is right or wrong, the justice is defined by the imagination of the norm. Things are defined as right can be also explained by positive and morally acceptable. The norm is not the same in the ancient world and nowadays. Justice means hierarchy in the ancient world, and people are not equal at that time. This is their norm and what is called “the right thing”. However, in modern society, people chase for the equality. The change of the examples and ideas of justice embodies that the justice is from imagination, which can also be called by “fiction”. Ideas that most people think right mean justice. However, during the time past, the idea with change even oppositely. If some days we thinks that the maximum profit means justice, then it is. Therefore, justice is a shared fiction for us.

    • Good point here, Kelly: “in modern society, people chase for the equality. The change of the examples and ideas of justice embodies that the justice is from imagination, which can also be called by ‘fiction.'”

  3. Nothing began “unjust”. Situations simply unfolded this way because of both shared and contradicting interests. On the one hand, indeed, Agricultural Revolution created circumstances, under which the collaboration between strangers, and, generally, many people, was a necessity. After all, the ability to communicate is what distinguished us from all the other hominids 70,000 years ago. However, as Harari argues, forming groups of people that exceeded 150 individuals was not fostered by natural orders, but by what he refers to as “Imagined Orders”. In other words, shared myths, which are not objectively true, but help to enable mass cooperation and aim to lead to societal prosperity. Of course, Harari clarifies that a prosperous society does not indicate personal sufficiency. It is inevitable, that increasing complexity in communities will be accompanied by inequalities. Survival instincts turn into desires, and once someone is used to the privileges these offer they become fictitious needs. The two main examples Harari provides in chapter 8 of his book, about Indian casts and African slaves, capture this exact idea. So, every “justice” system is rooted in an “unjust” imagined order, which is nothing more than a non-biological lie, evolving as a social structure. Prejudices pass from generation to generation, inside people’ s consciousness. Harari implies that Agricultural Revolution gave birth to a self-centered human being, and unfortunately, people will continue to be imprisoned in an unfair world, since they need both to believe in something, and to belong somewhere. The perfect political/economic system does not exist, and the interests of billions of people around the globe can’ t be easily interrelated. 

  4. What if Sapiens continued to be foragers?

    “Most Sapiens bands lived on the road, roaming from place to place in search of food.” (pg. 47) Forager’s extensive knowledge of the nature they roamed was extremely beneficial. Their way of life provided success for small bands that were well aquatinted with one another. Centuries of this form of living were suddenly put on hold when foragers decided to settle in rich lands of soil and resources. Developed techniques that allowed for advancements in the creation of crops resulted in larger populations, higher disease susceptibility, fewer variety and nutrients, and a decrease in brain size according to Harari.
    Today, the agricultural revolution has paid society many dividends that maybe would never have occurred if Sapiens continued to primarily forage on nature’s fruits. But, we can still wonder, what would our world really be like? Would there be a lack of need for shared “myths” because bands of foragers would continue to be small in size?
    Looking forward to an interesting conversation.

  5. Justice is a shared fiction because it is directly based on two key terms, both hierarchy and equality, which are both based on an imagined order. Like Harari addresses in Chapter 6, the idea of hierarchy and division of people into different groups was definitely constructed using imagination, from belief in shared myths, for example, The Code of Hammurabi. The idea of equality is simply based on myth also, as humans have evolved and evolution is synonymous to difference. Individuals in society become easily influenced by the myths that are present during their time, especially if it is new and there is not a lot of other information to use as comparison. This explains their tendency to listen to a hierarchy and base their judgements on what creates a succinct order – sometimes this order could influence discrimination as categories can be formed. These imagined categories are unjust in nature, but to some individuals, like the hierarchy, it benefits their order and shows that justice is a subjective term.

    Society was bound to believe in justice because they believed in a particular order, an imagined order, that benefits society by allowing more effective cooperation. A divine power or main leader in this order often constructs the principles of justice, just like they would have created a sense of hierarchy beforehand. People become motivated to accept and believe in justice, if they believe it will only benefit their community and keep things running a certain track that the hierarchy oversaw. If a few individuals decided to not believe in justice, this could potentially disrupt the balance that was already created by believing in an imagined order in the first place. Justice overall stemmed from an imagined order, influenced by the imagined social hierarchy’s input of believing that everything that took place within it was “natural and inevitable.” Because of this, people shared a similar idea or fiction that justice was something alike – that it was something that naturally promoted correct or right behavior in an order that “upheld the hierarchy of wealth.”

  6. According to Yuval Noah Harari, the idea of shared myths is what develops close relationships between people in a society. In my opinion, the idea of justice is a part of the shared fiction concept- because of interests (both similar and conflicting), the imagined reality of “justice” as we see it now was formed. People are not born with an innate sense of what is right and wrong, it is learned from the norms around them. To this point, the way people conceptualize things as justified or unjustified are formed by the world around them. In the ancient world, much of the focus on justice was emphasizing those unequal to the “higher-ups”. Today, however, there are many large movements striving for equality in all aspects of life. The way justice is able to change so drastically over time is even further proof that it is a shared fiction based on the surroundings of society during that moment in time.

  7. How do you think humans would have evolved if the Cognitive Revolution NEVER occurred?

    a) Do you think we would actually evolve into homo Sapiens we are today or would the development of our species slow (and possibly stop) and allow natural selection and biology determine the fate of the species?

    b) Would humans be even more like bonobos and chimpanzees due to the closeness of our DNA or is it that because of these few genetic differences humans evolved into the complex beings we are today?

  8. Justice is a shared fiction. In ancient Babylon, the social hierarchy was already established based on social and sex roles. According to the Code of Hammurabi, his idea of justice only seemed just to males in high places. The king’s subjects could not have imagined another way to live at that time. The shared fiction of justice in Babylon was created through a mirage of religion and unfair laws. From today’s view, these unequal codes would hold no actual power because we are in a seemingly more equal society. Thus the shared fiction has changed. While 200 years ago, when the U.S. was founded, the Declaration of Independence, according to Yurari, could not hold objective validity either. The meanings demonstrated in the statement seemed incommensurate with social justice-related issues in America. However, people with shared beliefs are driven by inter-subjective phenomena, and they instigated actions, processions, and even wars because the situation is unfit for the national mythology. What we cannot see is that the intangible ideology of universal equality, justice, and liberty are significantly sabotaged by an ever-lasting imagined order —social hierarchy. People kept imagining and eventually materializing the “perfect” social order without concerning the lower classes and slaves’ interests. The laws and policies were made to protect the rights of proprietors, and the caste system was created to keep people where they are “supposed to be.” While sex and gender have been divided mercilessly between two opposing sides, masculinity and feminity are endowed with specific meanings that should not be mixed up. Social orders require a clear separation of sexes so that people can be categorized and controlled. The development of modern society is undoubtedly the history of exploiting socially inferior groups, and justice is merely relative from the oppressors’ point of view.

    • This response is thorough and clearly written, Youlin. I like this sentence especially: “What we cannot see is that the intangible ideology of universal equality, justice, and liberty are significantly sabotaged by an ever-lasting imagined order —social hierarchy. “

  9. In our modern society constructed upon so many fictions, imagined orders, and hollow ideals, it is increasingly challenging to separate the objective truth from the fictions fed as gospel. Revenge, jealousy, and greed come naturally to humans, and the concept of justice is how the individual rationalizes these emotions in a uniform and understandable way. If one stood in front of a crowd and called for another’s head because he blinded him and it brought him pain, little would occur, but if the common established concept of justice entailed an eye for an eye mentality, the blinder would be in deep trouble. This is the reason the myth of justice was created, so all people in a society wouldn’t be able to govern themselves by their own ideas and whims. Prime evidence that justice is a shared fiction is that the concept is not uniform across time or even today’s global landscape. Ask two people within the same city, in the same country, at the same point in history a question about justice, for example if the death penalty is a reasonable punishment, and it is very likely they will give different answers. Culture, socioeconomic class, gender, and so many other factors contribute to how an individual sees the word, and therefor how they believe the civilized world should operate. The truth is that ‘unfair’ and ‘unjust’ things happen to even the ‘best’ of people, and that concept is hard to swallow unless there is some sort of common system of redemption set in place. The concept of justice, upon examination, is one that is very self centered in essence, because it is much easier to understand ones own hardships and see atrocities first hand than to abstractly understand another’s position. Justice, therefor, is a unique shared fiction, because it is both a common fiction shared among people in a community and also an individual fiction strengthened by one’s personal experience.

  10. After the Cognitive Revolution, shared myths, fictions, and gossip allowed for close-knit communities within Sapiens. Yuval Noah Harari argues that without these shared fictions, the Sapiens would not have been able to work as cooperatively as they did. Entities such as money, religion, and government are all arguably shared fictions, but what about justice? Justice is also a shared fiction because no human is born into the world with a moral compass. The long-standing debate of nature vs. nurture illustrates the complexity of the topic of morality, but I believe humans are nurtured and taught between wrong and right. Being born without a sense of morality would not have been any different for the Sapiens. Like modern-day humans, they also adjusted to the environment around them, instead of inheriting the trait of morality. Justice had to have been a shared fiction between the Sapiens to create a sense of equality and security within the community. Like money and religion have allowed for close-knit communities, justice also allowed for Sapiens to be able to trust in “getting an eye-for-an-eye” within their civilizations.

  11. The idea or thought behind the definition of the word justice is a string of words agreed upon by the majority, it has no actual proof of existence; thus, justice is a shared fiction. The only differences between what is right and what is wrong is solely on what that shared fiction suggests. Yes, there is enough diversity for a few lively debates but all concepts fall into a category of acceptable ideas. People learn from people, they learn and develop their own individuality based on their surroundings that influence them. Even “theories” that sparked some sort of revolution came from researchers researching people, these certain people behind said theories were merely observant. These are the same ingredients, just cooked differently. It might be slightly terrifying to think our society’s view on justice is merely the average status quo of what we as “acceptable,” however, is it as scary if everyone and anyone to have or to exist will live through this same reality? Or does that make it even more terrifying?

  12. Throughout his book Sapiens, Harari centers the narrative around his theory that Sapiens were able to become the dominant force and even form societies and develop systems due to the fact that they are able to fabricate collectively held fictions (what he calls “myth”). Some of the myths he points out in Chapter 6 and 8 include social order, law, religion, and money. He also points out that all of these aspects of society are false; everything we come up with or perceive is “fiction,” including our perception of “fact.” In Chapter 6, Harari poses the question: “How do you cause people to believe in an imagined order such as Christianity, democracy, or capitalism?” He then answers, “First, you never admit that the order is imagined.” I have two questions regarding this idea of imagined order:

    1. What do you think of Harari’s use of rhetoric – how do you justify his belief in not believing? Do you find his ideas to hold some cognitive dissonance?

    2. Harari’s idea of imagined order is still a belief. What do you think the world would look like if humans collectively believed that every system, ideal, value, etc. was false? Is a firm lack of belief still a uniting factor?

    • Rachel, I admire your interdisciplinary introducing of the concept of cognitive dissonance into your post. This question is also thought-provoking: “Harari’s idea of imagined order is still a belief. What do you think the world would look like if humans collectively believed that every system, ideal, value, etc. was false?”

  13. The “He and She” part is the most interesting part because among all kind of discrimination, the discrimination between genders is the most severe and widespread. This reminds me that people are always trying to seperate genders as much as possible, while the biological differences between men and women are minor. In my home country, China, there are so many old-sayings that amplified the differences between genders. For example, man cannot cry easily. However, there are no correspondent sayings about women. There is clearly no biological evidence showing that men are able to control their emotions better than women. This is just how the world expects men to be. This causes lots of problems in the real world. When I was young, I believed this is what men are born with. In this way, mens who are not able to control their emotions well will be treated as weak and weird person when they are not.

  14. How would Harari address and perhaps solve the issues of social hierarchies?

    Whilst Harari does seem to contradict himself by stating that all social hierarchies are “unjust” I would agree that there is also no way to escape the “prison walls” of an imagined order no matter what the situation is within society. This is because of the doomed structure of society, this is because even if people are granted equality of opportunity, which is the case in most western societies, ultimately the outcome for the majority of these people is a direct consequence of where they started in life. Harari provides a clear example of this when referring to the idea of the identical twins being separated at birth and having different childhoods. Harari reverts back to the idea that due to hierarchy, “manners and connections often speak far louder than genes”. This encompasses the conflicting idea of social hierarchies being “unjust” with there also being no way to escape this imagined order, barring a Socialist Revolution under the guidance of Karl Marx.

  15. Myths, stories, and ideas often transcend the scope of human capability. We can teleport, read minds, and shapeshift in the tales we tell each other. Harari’s claim of justice being a myth is a legitimate one. True justice is as achievable as flying for humans; it would require us to know everything and anything that occurs within the realms of a case. A wholly impossible task. Yet the fight for justice is not a moot cause. It is a positive that we hold this idea of justice on such a high pedestal in our heads. Without it; we would be satisfied with our justice system and unknowing of its flaws. There would be no protests for questionable supreme court nominations, unfair trials, and racially charged arrests. Without the myth of true justice, small victories in its pursuit would never be achieved. The idea of justice pushes us forward; without it, an already unjust world would become even more so.

    • A wonderful defense of pursuing justice, Lily! I also note some clever phrasing in your sentences. Here is one example. “We can teleport, read minds, and shapeshift in the tales we tell each other.”

  16. Although it seems that breaking social boundaries is easy, the complexity of a society makes it that changing social norms require individuals to change their ways, which is incredibly complex. Given the size of our society, it is almost impossible to simply change the thinking and habits of people in an already established social system. Such efforts would require tremendous movement (several of which are currently happening) and said movements take long times for change to become visible. Take Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech and civil rights movement of the 1960’s. Although tremendous change has occurred since the movement began with many, many members, civil rights are not prefect today, 50+ years later. The Black Lives Matter movement begs to challenge the “change” that has occurred since the 60’s. Considering the size of these movement and remembering that there was no pause in the fight for black rights since the beginning of the civil rights movement, this is direct evidence that changes in society and the way people think take significant periods of time. Thus, Harari is correct in stating that we are stuck within “prison walls” of imagined order.

  17. The justice we have not now is not justice for everyone. Harari reveals how people can create a network through “imagined order and devised scripts” which crafted their justice (133). It is simply not in our biology to act and behave a certain way, as characterized by our current social status. So where do these social hierarchies come from? Why are some people determined to be ranked higher than others? According to Haeri, “hierarchies are all the product of human imagination” which dictates how the justice we have now is just a shared fiction (135). If we truly have justice, then it wouldn’t be shaped and influenced by the discrimination and prejudice we currently have. The justice from the past is completely different from the justice we currently have. For example, the gender hierarchy from Ancient Athens and Modern Athens is completely different. This comes to question the role of sex and gender. The sex of a person is from the biological viewpoint and will forever be the same. However, due to our shared fiction of justice, we created a gender for people based on the cultural category. Because relationships and appreciation of people change over time, it indicates how justice is ever-changing and a shared fiction/imagined order rather than real.

  18. If justice is a shared fiction, as Harari states, I would believe something that is not just or unjust, is similarly a shared fiction. However, just like there are different religions, a shared fiction, that people believe in, people each believe in a different “justice”, and what is unjust. Because of this, it would be correct to assume that what Harari states is correct, that there are unjust things in all social hierarchies. Whether a person is a man or woman, bureaucrat or proletariat, on top of the caste or one of the Untouchables, they would most likely have differing opinions on what is “just” or not depending on what they are looking at. Because of the definite existence of a difference of opinion within any given social hierarchy, Harari would have some sort of basis to say this.

  19. Justice is a shared fiction. Humans began to have morals and values through the creation of imagination. Our imagination grew to create social divisions in our society, and thus the concept of fiction was introduced. In comparisons to animals, they do not keep in mind what is “just” or “good” in everyday life. Justice is a fictional idea that came to be because of “imagined order.” Like Harari says, the imagined order not only is inter-subjective, but shapes our desires. We’ve created the Code of Hammurabi and later, the Declaration of Independence. These legal systems are not present in an animal society; laws for justice do not exist in the animal kingdom. It is not an objective phenomenon, it is subjective. We create what is “right” and what is “wrong.” Justice in our eyes is something important, when in fact, it is not necessary in a world without our imagination. Therefore, justice is a myth and is a shared fiction.

  20. In Chapter 8, Harari introduces to us a “vicious circle” in which a chance historical event is translated into a complex social system. This initial chance event sets discriminatory laws, poverty, unequal opportunity, and a whole host of other unjust happenings into motion which eventually culminates in cultural prejudices. Similarly, in Chapter 2, Harari accepts the “tree of knowledge mutation” theory, almost parallel to Chomsky’s theory of genetic happenstance being the start of language. So, my question is: Why do you think Harari is so quick to believe in chance happenings, or singular specific events that then result in something so complex? He elaborates on and considers both language and social systems at large. Yet, he sometimes seems to be hesitant to give consideration to a chance that these devices came into existence in a particularly a careful way. Could it be he’s so focussed on how these items develop and change after they exist that he occasionally overlooks the different possibilities of their coming to be in the world?

    • Hi, Amanda. I admire the critical thinking on display in this post. The following passage demonstrates that you both understand Harari and are able to see weak spots in his thinking: “Why do you think Harari is so quick to believe in chance happenings, or singular specific events that then result in something so complex? He elaborates on and considers both language and social systems at large. Yet, he sometimes seems to be hesitant to give consideration to a chance that these devices came into existence in a particularly a careful way. Could it be he’s so focussed on how these items develop and change after they exist that he occasionally overlooks the different possibilities of their coming to be in the world?”

  21. Justice is indeed a shared fiction in accordance with Harari’s explanation of collective imagination. The line of reasoning entails that civilization and society were founded upon our species’ mass cooperative effort, made possible by imagination and shared myths/ideas such as religion, laws, and social hierarchies. Without such common ground in our thinking, our capacity for group cooperation would’ve stayed limited to 150 individuals– as shown in other species like chimpanzees and elephants– and our species would’ve also remained as nomadic foragers in spread out bands. Long story short, commonalities brought civilization, meaning close quarters and conflict. Not everyone can agree of course. Therefore, because of conflict, a shared idea of needed reparations and a framework of rules arose in order to provide socially approved instructions to follow and consequences. Based on this “imagined order,” imagined justice had to follow suit.

  22. In chapter 6 of “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind” Harari states that the imagined order of our society is inter-subjective. It depends on millions of people believing in the same myth or idea. He then goes on to describe the differences between objective, subjective, and inter-subjective phenomena. Are there aspects of our society as a whole that are objective and subjective as well? Or is the “imagined order” strictly inter-subjective?

  23. As humans, we are at the top of the food chain, the dominant force on Earth, yet we seem to be under the control of something invisible. “Imagined orders” have dictated our entire existence since the formation of early civilizations and to this day, even after identifying many of these myths, we are unable to drive them away. This is because the imagined order has established itself deep in the core of our values. The Declaration of Independence and Hammurabi’s code are just some of the examples that Harari uses to explain our dependence on the imagined order. These formal documents enable humans to live together in society, it establishes a shared belief. While achieving the purpose to bring individuals together, these documents have divided us as well. Harari mentions the creation of another imagined order, social stratification. Among different societies, a social hierarchy is formed where certain people of a certain race and background are more privileged than others. For example, Harari mentions the disparities for an individual born to a wealthy family and one born to a poor family. The rich get the better education, the higher-paid jobs, and the better amenities whereas the poor are not offered the same opportunities, not because they are not capable, but because they are classified as lesser than the average individual. Despite the realization that such judgements should not be made in a society that recognizes equality for all, there are more individuals that are hardcore believers in the myths that surround these judgements which allow the imagined order to continue to be beyond our control.

  24. Justice, like all beliefs is not an objective truth. It is not tangible. Harari describes this as an example “inter-subjective truth” belief that are shared by a large group of people. No, this does not mean that a hundred percent of all people will agree on one thing but collectively society has decided that the phrase “justice for all” holds weight when it comes to the societal structure.

    Harari traces the societal structure back to the beginnings of the Agricultural Revolution. The revolution led to a societal hierarchy that put kings, priests and government officials on top. To justify this hierarchy the people at the top used another imagined order of religion. Shared myths like religion helped establish other myths since for a long time the separation of church and state didn’t exist on a wide scale. Hammurabi used religion to justify his laws because religion was already collectively established in the society as an “inter-subjective truth”. The ten commandments say “thou shall not kill” so the law says murder is a crime. However, it didn’t just stop at murder is bad; religion specifically the bible is used throughout history to reason sexist, homophobic often racist laws in societal structures based on its interpretation. These societies were entrenched in these “truths” so it would make sense for them to think nothing of laws that would put one race above another if God says one is more favored. Our society however has a different point of view now we are taught to question and reason so of course when we see hypocritical laws we would want to analyze and reform them. We see human rights as a truth that shouldn’t be questioned and justice as a right. Today people are questioning that right trying to break down what Harari called the “prison walls” of our imagined order of “justice for all”. Even though the phrase “prison walls” does have a negative connotation, believing in justice isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Justice may not be a “real” objective nonfiction, but neither is most ideals but in my opinion, it is worth fighting for.

  25. Justice is a shared fiction. It is something that humans made up and passed down as the indication of right and wrong. All shared fictions such as religion and social norms are interpreted and switched to meet the needs of the person. Justice is a new shared fiction that contradicts the ones that we were previously taught. With justice, the selfishness of a people becomes more apparent because different people would see the same event as right or wrong based on how it benefited them. For example, the racial divide in America may be seen as an injustice to the discriminated against and oppressed people while those on the top of the hierarchy would swear by its truth. They would go to their grave defending the practices as “mandated by God” and necessary. We have spent years fueling the idea that there are winners and losers. So, unfortunately, with the introduction of justice, we are now trying to break down the “prison walls” we put up. Justice exists because we choose to believe there is such a thing as right and wrong but it is hard to move past the selfishness embedded in our society in order for everyone to gain their version of “justice”.

  26. The most striking concept explained by Harari in the eighth chapter of his work is that through a biological lens, “nothing is unnatural” meaning that culture’s excuse of prohibiting something because it is deemed unnatural is inherently invalid. He argues that “whatever is possible is by definition also natural”. So if something is really unnatural, there would be no need to sign a law to prohibit it, as it’s already impossible. In America, an action that many would label as unnatural and many others as natural, is that of abortion. Biologically, it’s possible and therefore natural. That being said, if the government or someone opposed to abortion argues that one should be penalized for it because it is unnatural, that would be incorrect as abortion is sometimes necessary and much older than any us, so who are we to say that it is wrong? If abortion was signed into law as an illegal act, the government would be simply prohibiting a natural occurrence and it would be false advertising if, in Harari’s words, the system claims “that it forbids only that which is unnatural”.

  27. Harari suggests that we live in a world where if we believe that we are all equal this will help us cooperate with each other. I disagree with this statement for the particular reason that in this world today, there are multiple countries that try and establish this order of equality but it never works out. Countries that are monarchy contradict Harari’s statement of equality because of the different social classes this government has. Not everyone has a say and there will always be someone above the other. Even the United States has tried to create equality within the Americans, however, history has shown that this was not the case. Moreover, demonstrating the fact that there can never be equal rights bestowed among humans in this world.

  28. In chapter 6 of “Sapiens, A Brief History of Humankind,” Harari emphasizes that society’s structure is ultimately based on myths and fictional beliefs. He focuses primarily on the power that governments hold over their people through articles like “the Code of Hammurabi” and “the Declaration of Independence,” as they both shape societies through a rigid set of rights and laws. This set of rights, according to Harari, are an “imagined order” that we all cooperate with to maintain stability. If this is the case, why is it that individuals who find themselves in the harm of society’s laws can’t break away from their connection with the collective imagined community?

  29. Justice is a shared fiction. Throughout history morals, values, beliefs, and ideas have changed drastically. Societies will only hold morals that are believed by a majority. If enough people do not believe in a law, it will simply not be followed, there would be no reason to as people will not look down on someone who does something that they do not believe is morally or socially wrong. Harari brings many examples of the changes in group think with the ideas of racism and sexism. The civil rights movement throughout the United States was only successful because enough people agreed it to be true. This aforementioned idea of group think explains this phenomenon. According to many psychologist beliefs people in groups will follow and believe what is believed by the majority, their opinions will change to match the group in order to not get ostracized for their ideas. Thus, people will believe that what society at large agrees is right, is indeed truly what is morally correct.

  30. In the last sentence of chapter 8, Harari writes, “If, as is being demonstrated today so clearly, the patriarchal system has been based on unfounded myths rather than on biological facts, what accounts for the universality and stability of this system?” (159) Harari seems to be implying that the progression in reversing gender roles means all our societal beliefs could be on the verge of collapsing. What do you make of this argument? If it were to happen, would it be a slow or gradual process?

  31. Harari goes into this in chapter 6, but the idea of justice is a shared fiction just as the ideas of equality and inequality are. The idea of the “social contract” in itself is also a shared fiction. When that contract is broken, justice needs to be sought out to make a wrong right. When looking at society today, justice can be mainly found in the justice system, another shared fiction. It works (debatably) because everyone believes in the system. Without a shared belief in this, the system would fall apart and the idea of justice would not really exist and society in itself would fall apart. Laws would not really apply and chaos could ensue. So while the idea of justice is a shared fiction, it’s hard to step outside it because we need it to keep society structured.

  32. When Harari claims that all social hierarchies are “unjust,” he does so based on numerous types of hierarchal discrimination: the difference between free and slave and rich and poor, the Hindu caste system, and gender discrimination. These hierarchies are all built around “shared fictions,” or universal beliefs that societies share with each other in order to establish a common ground between their citizens. Harari also argues that this type of ranking is what has allowed societies to establish and preserve order; regulating each person’s social status gives a society more control over almost every aspect of their lives. However, in Chapter 6, Harari also states that there is no possible to way to escape the “prison” of a shared fiction, as leaving one only leads to another. This seems to suggest that there will always be some form of discrimination within a society’s imagined order. In a way, this somewhat bleak observation becomes more apparent when we look at the whole of human history. Mankind has always been entrenched in a scramble for power, with both individuals and societies seeking to control more and more. Those on the top of the social hierarchy want more of it, and those on the bottom want to take their place. Thus, I suggest that the answer to this conundrum is this: as long as a society’s shared fiction idolizes those at the top of the pyramid and emphasizes the importance of acquiring power, there will always be some form of discrimination.

  33. Justice is a shared fiction. It is a shared imagination of thousands and millions of people. Justice is only a communication network that links the consciousness of many individuals. Justice has been brought up because people saw mistreatment and unfairness in their community, and they wanted to create a sense of equality within the community. Humans are not born with this idea of having to be just. As they see unjust actions, their moral tells them to do the opposite, because their minds believe that unjust actions are morally incorrect. One of the examples Harari gives in chapter 8 are slaves. Masters and slave owners will continue to have this thought of prejudiceness and mistreatment because they all need to believe in something in order to belong in their positions. That belief, unfortunately, happened to be mistreatment of slaves. However, if the masters and slave owners magically start to believe that slaves are unfair and stop owning them, then they are becoming more just. Therefore, this idea of justice is a shared fiction where people can change the meaning of justice and change their view on it.

  34. Chapter six of Sapiens is titled “Building Pyramids.” At first glance, this may be a confusing title, as the chapter has nothing to do with Egypt or the literal construction of pyramids, but after reading and analyzing the chapter it becomes clear the intent Harari put behind the title. The development of a social pyramid is what is being described. With the introduction of agriculture into society, a new organization is applied to the sapiens and their society. Harari implies that the social hierarchy of sapiens is now determined by social status. This is a concept and idea that I believe can be applied to todays society as we currently live in a country that has “classes”. Although these “classes” are not influenced mostly by agriculture as they were when sapiens were around, they are still a representation of someones’ social status in the country. As glamorized by celebrities and social media, the upper class lifestyle is sought after and perceived as a more influential and privileged position to be in. This makes those who are not in the upper class of society feel subservient and underprivileged, very similarly to Harari’s description in Sapiens. Harari also mentions how the more privileged tend to control society, which I believe is still very relevant in today’s society. This is because we have the world’s elites controlling our media, schooling, and economy, making them extremely powerful and able to shift society to their liking.

  35. Justice is, in fact, an imagined reality. Judicial systems that differentiate between cultures, religions, and time periods demonstrate this well enough; Harari’s own analysis of intersubjective truths makes this even more clear. However, there is a difference between justice and human conscience. I believe that conscience is not at all an imagined reality; in fact, it is a completely biological behavior that is observed in many other species (notably, meerkats in the Kalahari desert). The lust for power at the expense of fellow humans exists in many forms-these kinds of hierarchies even extend to other species . However, the full “ownership” of another homo sapien is not only against our modern judicial codes, but against our biological conciense. Why the abhorrent practice of slavery was normalized for so long I cannot speak to. Perhaps, like many other organs or genetic behaviors, the conscience regarding slavery simply needed time to evolve and develop.

  36. Justice is most certainly a shared fiction. For the same reasoning Harari says that human rights don’t exist, neither does justice. It is not something that you can hear, see or touch. Justice is imagined among people all over the world. But like human rights, justice is a necessary shared fiction. There is no written rule book anywhere about what is considered morally right, and morally wrong. But there are agreed upon unspoken rules, also known as social norms, that unify communities. When those unspoken rules get broken, people in communities band together to make sure that justice is served to the fullest extent. But what would happen if we didn’t believe in justice? Would people have the same standard of morals if no one believed in fairness? Maybe not. But as long as humans believe in the shared fiction of justice, we don’t have to find out.

    • What a compelling conclusion to your post, Emma: “But what would happen if we didn’t believe in justice? Would people have the same standard of morals if no one believed in fairness? Maybe not. But as long as humans believe in the shared fiction of justice, we don’t have to find out.” I like the way you use rhetorical questions here!

  37. Harari makes many points throughout his book, Sapiens, that allows us to conclude that justice is a shared fiction. Justice is meant to identify what is right and what is wrong. It is a myth that a group of people believe in order to unify with others that believe in the same moral ideals that they do. However, there are often disputes about what is and is not justice. Harari states, “the imagined orders sustaining these networks were neither neutral nor fair,” which leads us to understand that all justice systems would innately hold unjust bias’. Justice was created out of myths thought up by people who are all different and hold varying opinions. Because we know that people have different opinions on what justice means, we know that justice is not concrete and is something that we are able to change and recreate as the myth develops. Justice is a shared fiction, but not everybody holds the same perspective on its meaning, leaving room for the myth to be developed as society develops.

  38. According to Yuval Noah Harari, the one aspect that makes us special from other primates is that we are able to use language to communicate concepts, which enables us to cooperate in large numbers even with complete strangers because we are connected through shared fictions that we all believe in. Shared fictions such as religion, money and the state all promoted the progress of society, even though they also introduced hierarchies and inequalities into society. Justice, in my opinion, is one of the most important shared fictions that serves as the backbone to society’s imagined order today. Without our collective belief in justice, there would not exist a threshold for just and unjust, and society would fall into chaos like wild animals roaming through the jungles. We would not have the collective trust in each other to trade or cooperate, and would most likely resort to violence when there isn’t an authority that would defend our rights, such as the Judicial System today. Despite it being intersubjective, we believe in justice because believing in it allows us to forge an ordered and civilized society, and with the idea of justice so embedded in our lives, it essentially shapes our morals and ethics today.

    • There is a narrative momentum to your post, Shumin, that culminates in this excellent passage: “Despite it being intersubjective, we believe in justice because believing in it allows us to forge an ordered and civilized society, and with the idea of justice so embedded in our lives, it essentially shapes our morals and ethics today.”

  39. One question I’d like to pose to the forum is: Do you believe that society/ civilization can exist without shared myths? In Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, author Yuval Harari spends a lot of time explaining myths and their impact on society. He introduces myths/ shared fictions as something that originated as a means to unite citizens who did not know one another. He then shifts to talking about the importance of myths in our modern society while listing the things that we’ve deemed as valuable. Hariri then states that there has been no recorded society that has not used imagined order to discriminate against a group of people. Myths have helped citizens of a civilization work together toward a common goal. For thousands of years, shared fictions have been the backbone of human society since people will only unite with those who share the same beliefs as them. However, is it possible for society to exist without these shared fictions?

  40. In chapter 6, Harari explained that an imagined order is always in danger of collapsing. He explains that in order to keep the structure stable, true believers have to exist. As seen throughout the chapters, there are many imagined orders that our society relies on. Do you believe that any of the imagined orders of our society could collapse? If so, who do you think would be responsible for the breakdown and who would fix the aftermath?

    • You present two thoughtful hypotheticals here in need of answers, Heather: “Do you believe that any of the imagined orders of our society could collapse? If so, who do you think would be responsible for the breakdown and who would fix the aftermath?” Good.

  41. In chapter 8 of Sapiens, Harari explores three theories for why the social inequality between men and women. Even though the concept of men and females is a “social construct”, or as Harari would say, a myth, most if not almost all societies are/were patriarchal. While Harari believes that gender is a myth, he recognizes that sex is biological. Despite minor biological differences, the expectations of men and women have been different. Women are often discriminated against and have historically not been in positions of power. Most of history is written by those in power, and those in power have overwhelmingly been men. In the United Senate, there are 24 women and 76 men serving, demonstrating that men still largely dominate politics.

    I somewhat agree with the third theory that Harari presents, which suggests that while men competed to impregnate a woman, once the woman was pregnant, she was less able to obtain food and required the help of a man. Due to childbearing, women were forced to be dependent on a man. Even today, when a woman leaves for parental leave, they are unpaid for months. They could have missed a promotion that their fellow male counterpart would have received in that period of absence.

    While this attempts to answer the question, there are likely many reasons for gender inequality. It appears that the myths about the role of men and women in society play a significant role.

  42. In Yuvals Noah Harari’s book Sapiens, the author discusses with the dawn of the cognitive revolution came a series of myths that society has collectively bought into that has determined all of the social constructs and constitutions that we see today. These shared myths are nothing more than imagined concepts that society as a whole has chosen to believe. The concept of justice Harari deems as a collection/set of shared fictions is no different. During the post civil war era, Jim Crow laws were enacted, that were a collection of state regularized statues, enforcing racial segregation in the United States. These statutes went as far as to deny black Americans of their right to vote in elections, occupy the same educational institutions as white Americans and so much more. My point lies in that, during this time society, (mostly white Americans who were unfazed by these laws) did not see anything wrong with these dehumanizing statues that stripped African Americans from their civil rights. However, today most people (including myself) believe that these laws were a violation of justice for the black community. Such that as a whole, society has shifted its beliefs and come to terms with that every person regardless of skin color, gender and ethnicity is created equally and therefore deserving of equal rights. This leads me to believe that justice is fluid. It is subject to change with time as societal beliefs fluctuate. We will never truly know what constitutes something as unjust as it is something that we have made up and therefore will be constantly evolving.

  43. The idea of justice is one of the many shared fictions present in the world today. The reason that every government in the world has an extensive set of laws for its citizens to abide by is that without these laws, people would have completely different ideas of justice from one another. Each person’s view on justice would alter from the next because everyone’s perception of what is and is not just is shaped by their individual experiences in life. We have seen this concept take place throughout history. For example, the southerners in the United States a couple centuries ago believed racism to be just simply because they were born into that lifestyle and had their mindsets molded by their family members and others around them. Who is to say that if some of the people who were slave owners during the 1800s had been born in eastern Massachusetts in 2021 instead, that these people would still be vehemently racist, or racist at all?

    People’s view of justice has always been and will always be based on their personal experiences and setting, meaning that no two people will ever truly have the same views on justice, unless there exists a strict set of laws to follow. These laws mold the ideals of citizens leading them to buy into a social construct, meaning that justice itself is merely a fiction shared by humans around the world.

    • Nick, You offer a valuable reminder here about the role of “personal experiences and setting” relative to “shared fictions.”

  44. Justice isn’t real. As said by Harari himself nothing that we as humans make up or imagine is real, religion, social hierarchies, Peurgeot, and justice just to name a few. These are all things that are not in our genes or the world around us. We as a community can bring these things to fruition and institute them into our daily lives and society, but in essence that’s all in our head. There are physical repercussions of justice, that take the form of punishment and reprimands. But justice itself is just an idea that some people wrote down and millions of people agree with. I would like to pose a question to the professors, along the lines of justice and its state as a shared fiction. What about those with mental illness? Those who are not capable of comprehending justice. You see some people simply aren’t born with the ability to judge right and wrong, what do we do with those people once they harm others. Aside from those with mental illness what about those who are simply malicious, how do we treat them, since justice isn’t a real thing and it’s something we all imagine, how do we treat those who don’t agree, or do we simply define malice as a mental illness. If someone doesn’t follow a religion or doesn’t believe a deity exists there isn’t a problem but if someone doesn’t fully agree or believe in this common sense of justice a problem arises. So when the case arises and justice needs to be enforced does that change its state as a shared fiction or is that just how the rest of us Homo Sapiens enact our justice on those who don’t agree with out imagination. I know justice has changes over the years and has been written down a multitude of times in a multitude of different papers and rules, but in that case is crime also a shared fiction? I’d say so, and with that means some people may not agree and go along with it. That’s why I believe we still lack a perfect society with each other, this can explain why such things as oppression, racism, and abuse exist.

    • Aiden, You make a thought-provoking observation — that Harari may not have accounted for deviance, both by the criminally insane and my the mentally ill.

  45. In chapter 8, “There is no Justice in History,” Harari explores various theories as to why patriarchal societies are so common throughout the world. These explanations are helpful when looking at how and why societies dominated by men might initially form. However, I wonder as to why these societies would STAY patriarchal even as jobs and warfare began to require less physical strength with the advent of new technologies and inventions. Why do you think this happened? Would it boil down to those in power trying to hold on to power? Perhaps the divide was already too far gone with laws and religious institutions placing restrictions on women? Some other reason?

  46. All imagined orders are embedded in the material world and by law are instilled to us since birth. All the aspects of modern life are shaped by the current imagined orders that work in an inter-subjective way to keep the people submissive. Imagined orders by default introduce the idea that a hierarchy or social classes are needed to maintain the order of society. All these ideas are explored by Harari in his book ‘Sapiens’ from chapters 6 to 8, Harari argued that “There is no way out of the imagined order” (323) which made me think What conditions are needed for an imagined to evolve?

    Imagined orders work together with revised scripts in order to organize massive cooperation and once massive cooperation is achieved human society reaches a point of realization that allows it to understand the current problem within its society. The evolution from a an imagined order of racial inequality to one of human rights was possible by massive cooperation understanding through science that skin color does not makes you more intelligent or of better morals. And with this new knowledge thousands of individuals were able to work together to displace the old imagined order for what they think its a better, more just and rationale imagined order. But why if the imagined order appear to have changed why is racial inequality still a thing, Harari ended chapter six by saying that “When we breakdown our prison walls and run toward freedom, we are in fact running into the more spacious exercise yard of a bigger prison.” (323). So, is an imagined order really imagined or is it part of natural human behavior, or perhaps is just part of something bigger out of our understanding.

  47. Within Chapter 8 of Harari’s Sapiens, Harari examines the social dynamic of the sexes throughout the ages. He investigates the reasons for the patriarchal society that exists today and highlights the different theories as to why society believed the male gender to be better. However, its revealed that none of the theories are substantial and are all flawed in their own ways. So my question is, what do you believe the reasoning is behind our patriarchal society and why were humans so easily able to uphold and enforce it? // Furthermore, as a separate question, Harari makes an interesting point about the culture vs biology conflict, in which Harari states “Biology enables, Culture forbids”, so my question is, why do humans so readily believe things such as religion and culture when they aren’t genetically programmed to?

  48. In chapter 8, “There is no Justice in History,” Harari dives into the patriarchy that is seen throughout the world. He provides a few explanations as to why many societies had this imagine hierarchy. However, I wonder why the societies which praised women deities, treated women so poorly? Why was there a disconnect between the beliefs they had in religion and the ones they had in society?

  49. After understanding the concept of a shared fiction and thinking more deeply into if justice is a shared fiction, I’ve come to the conclusion that justice is a shared fiction. I believe that justice is an idea that society has created to make people believe that all wrongs will, one day, be brought to justice and that the people who committed these wrongs will pay for their actions. This not only brings comfort and peace of mind to society, but it makes them more trusting of the government which in turn makes the people easier to control and manipulate.

    I think that justice is something that society strives to achieve because most of us believe that it can actually be served. It has been engraved in our brains since we were born that when something does something wrong, they will pay the consequences. But, as I’ve grown up, I’ve realized that is far from the truth. Justice really depends on the situation and the people that are looking for the justice. For example, if a man murders a woman, the man may go to jail for 10 years. But is that really justice? A man who took the life of an innocent woman will spend 10 years in a jail cell and then is just free to go afterwards. The family of that woman will never get their daughter, sister, aunt back. These family members may see jail time as a reasonable punishment and in that case, to them, justice has been served. But most families wouldn’t just accept the sentence of a murderer to be 10 years. They would never feel like they received closure or justice because the murderer isn’t dead and their daughter, sister, aunt, will never come back.

    I think justice is a word that is thrown around to try and instill a sense of confidence among those who try and bring it to the people. When a police commissioner tells the people of New York City that justice will be served in response to a school shooting, they are not promising that justice will actually occur. They are trying to unite the people of New York City and to regain their trust and confidence.

    My question is, is it better to be ignorant to the idea that justice can be served, or to acknowledge that it will never be a reachable goal, forcing the people to accept something that might never bring them comfort or peace?

    • Thanks, Isabelle, for this thoughtful and fully-developed post. You offer good examples about the practical flaws in the administration of justice.

  50. In Chapter 6, Harari elaborates on, “shared myths”, and how citizens of Babylon blindly accepted their place in society, no matter how low it may be. Does having a set of rules like Hammurabi’s code, in which rulers rely on fear and intimidation to micromanage their citizens, really cause a society to flourish? And to what extent, if the citizens are afraid of making mistakes, and live in a restricted, artificial manner?

  51. As Harari pointed out in Chapter 6, the idea of human rights and equality is something imagined to sustain order, just equally as imagined as the Code of Hammurabi, where the idea of inequality based on gender and hierarchy was something also imagined but used to sustain order. These ideas are intangible — they do not exist within the minds of other species outside of ourselves, and are not biologically provable. Therefore, the same argument can be made in regards to justice. Justice, just like the above, are also intersubjective forces that are the way they are in order to sustain order and maintain peace among humans. However, Harari had made a point earlier in this book that sapiens were in fact the one species that were able to develop such complex cognitive abilities, and have been able to establish such a capacity for imagination unlike any other species to exist. That was the whole idea of the Cognitive Revolution he had brought up. And for these imagined ideas to exist, in my opinion, they must have some sort of biological realness to it, since the brain the way it works are not fake. Since sapiens were able to experience a cognitive revolution, does that mean we’re always in the process of evolving metaphysically? Is there really an end to the Cognitive Revolution? If so, does that mean that there will be a point reached where intersubjective beliefs will be equally shared amongst all humans, to the point where a “perfect society” could form, meaning that justice will eventually become obsolete because humans have developed so much to the point where intersubjective beliefs become objective as there would no longer be a need for holding one another accountable? Or will humans always be stuck in this inescapable whirlpool of trying to define the right and wrong?

  52. Western society has perpetuated the myth of “justice,” a myth that was created by other the shared fiction of social order. It is possible that the concept of justice emerged in order to solidify the existence of the social order by actively combatting against the equality that comes from division into different categories such as race, gender, economic status, etc. The quest for justice acknowledges that inequality exists and attempts to rectify this inequity, in many cases not by identifying and disabling the source (imagined social order) because that would mean dismantling society itself, but rather fixing an issue superficially. It is hard to combat something that is not real with another thing that is not real. For example, in the United States, many feel that the issue of police brutality against Black Americans can be solved by the implementation of body cameras or de-escalation training. While these two items do offer an improvement to the problem, the underlying issue is that the United States social structure was founded by slaveholders, people that did not believe Black people were people. It is impossible to edit a belief that is so deeply engrained into the scheme of a nation, so justice is unattainable. Harari’s assessment that hierarchies are inherently “unjust” is completely reasonable. Earlier in Sapiens, Harari explained our limited capacity for keeping track of large sums in our heads. Something that coincides with that is the need for categorization, ranks, that separate people into digestible, distinguishable groups although we are biologically the same species. This separation forms an imagined hierarchy which then results in the myth of justice as means of reversing the separation by attempting to put everyone on the same playing field. Even if justice were real, it would be impossible to achieve without first disassembling the foundations of society, and in the society of the United States where countless innocent people have died in an unjust manner, it is impossible to imagine such justice could ever occur.

  53. Harari makes his claim that all social hierarchies are inherently unjust based on the fact that every social hierarchy throughout history has resulted from the oppression and subjugation of an entire class of human beings. It’s true that morality is not a tangible thing and that its difficult to break free from the shared fictions that govern one’s community, but there is simply no true justice in denying rights to people because of the conditions or body in which they were born. As he says, there is no meaningful biological difference between a Black man and a white man, or a Brahmin woman and an Untouchable woman. The difference in how they are able to live in their societies results only from arbitrary decisions of the ruling class, foreign invaders, or religious myths. Justice, in its most pure form, should be completely blind and based only in objective reality. Social hierarchies defy both of these ordinances, and as such, can certainly be considered unjust in almost every culture throughout history.
    These thoughts do leave me with one question: what social utility did sexual discrimination truly have to offer a society? Would it not be more economically and politically effective to engage all people in all jobs, leading to an increase in production, innovation, and prudent political decisions? Was the imagined order that led to patriarchal structures even stronger than the imagined order of capitalism that would benefit from using women to engage in labor and militarism/imperialism?

  54. There’s no room for justice in our world, as it currently exists. Justice, as Noah Yuval Harari would put it in his book Sapiens, is “an imagined order.” Justice is an abstract concept, and despite that, societies across the world have accepted it as being real. Humans continue to strive for justice when it’s unattainable. There can never be justice until there is equality, and the existence of social hierarchies is the reason that there will never be equality. The social hierarchies across the world have placed humans on different levels, on unequal playing fields. Of course, Harari suggests that social hierarchies are “unjust,” because you can’t have both. The existence of social hierarchies has wiped away the possibility of justice in this world because even after the abolishment of these hierarchies, the inequality will remain. The stereotypes and ideas that these hierarchies developed will be around long after the hierarchy is gone. Entire systems have been built around hierarchies, and as Harari said, there’s no way to escape the “prison walls” of an imagined order.

  55. The idea of justice is not only a shared idea but a feeling. Think back to young children- when one child hit the other, the other will strike back. This is because of this feeling of needing retribution for a wrong. This desire for payback is something that takes the form of “justice” which turned in to the idea of an “eye for an eye” as demonstrated in the Hammurabi code where if a person kills another’s son, his son must be killed. This idea continues today with capital punishment. The other person must face death because they killed another member of society and therefore “justice must be served.” Justice is very much a shared idea, one that is shared all around the world but its also something that we can all feel.

  56. For as long as human societies have existed, so has the patriarchy. In his book, Sapiens, Harari delves into the history of gender inequality and some of the standard theories supporting it. Harari implies that there must be a reason relating to the innate nature of men and women that has propelled this false sense of male superiority. However, none of the ideas discussed sufficiently explain why women remain second-class citizens to this day. Is there a compelling argument that explains the universal existence of the patriarchy? What do you make of the prevalence of its use throughout history? Will there ever be a perfectly gender-equal society?

  57. Justice is a shared fiction. There is no universal guide as to what is right or wrong, but instead we collectively as a society get to dictate what is right and what is wrong or rather just and unjust. Perhaps this is why the most unjust deeds are committed when a group of people chosen to represent a society and its views on justice, go against said views for personal gain. Our American society’s idea of justice could be drastically different compared to what we might see in third world countries, so we work hard to ensure that these other countries follow our model. Justice provides justification. Justice is simply another shared fiction used to further an agenda, although in this case it is for the better.

  58. Civilizations have existed under societal fabrications since their inception. Harari repeatedly touches on this premise throughout his book, and specifically relates it to structures and hierarchies in society. He explains that common “myths” are “stronger than anyone could have imagined”, and proves it by discussing how much of an impact they had on society as we know it.

    Harari goes on to elucidate the fact that these myth-based social hierarchies are inherently “unjust”. In saying this, he almost presents a conflicting thought, affirming that social hierarchies are unjust, yet also explaining how justice and ranking aren’t based in reality- therefore his claim can’t be based in reality either, can it? However, because the thought of “justice” is commonly known throughout the world, it is a shared fiction that takes part in ruling the way that we live, and has very real consequences. Therefore, Harari’s argument is grounded in the reality that we live every day, with imagined orders reigning over our lives as humankind evolves.

  59. I believe that justice is a collective myth that society has cultivated over the years. There are hundreds of myths that have been created as society has continued to advance in order to allow modern cities to function with such large populations. As Harari mentions in chapter six of Sapiens, one myth that people struggle to accept as such is the concept that all humans are created equally. People are willing to accept negative concepts, such as racism, sexism, and class division, but have difficulties accepting positive ideas as myths. Although justice for all and accepting everyone as equal aid society and often allow people to live much happier lives, these are indeed myths that unfortunately had to be created due to the negative myths. Biologically, it is impossible that everyone is physically equally, but socially it is important for people to be accepted as such.

    One question that I had was are the myths that are not shared across all cultures more likely to be erased from existence? For example, in chapter 8 of Sapiens, Harari describes the caste system in India, which does not exist in other cultures, such as in America. Since people in India can look outside of their own culture and see that this myth doesn’t exist elsewhere, are they more likely to rebel and therefore eliminate the myth or is this impossible as the myth is already shared amongst too many people?

  60. Like all the other values in human society, justice is also a shared myth that we deeply believe in. In the book, Harari uses the code of Hammurabi and the American Declaration of Independence as examples to explain different systems of justice during different periods of time. They are similar to each other because they both use god as an authority to convince people to believe in this new myth that they created. However, Americans who believed in the Declaration of Independence would say their idea is better than Hammurabi because Hammurabi divided people into three social classes but they said “all men are created equal”. On the other hand, Hammurabi would think the same thing about Americans because “all men” did not include women or black people. Therefore, the definition of justice has changed over time depending on how persuasive the definition is. Furthermore, Harari demonstrates what the Declaration of Independence would be like if it was written from a biological perspective and we see that these straightforward statements no longer sound convincible and powerful. By using authority and shared myths that people already believed in (“happiness”, “liberty”, “human rights”), people created the new myth called justice.

    Question: I found the last paragraph in Chapter 6 very compelling, which is “There is no way out of the imagined order. When we break down our prison walls and run towards freedom, we are in fact running into the more spacious exercise yard of a bigger prison.”
    Harari describes the “imagined order” as a prison wall and there’s no way to be truly free. However, he also thinks the “imagined order” or the myth is what makes humans unique and powerful. So do you think “imagined orders” will eventually be more beneficial, or more vicious for humans?

  61. Harari argues that hierarchies are normally unjust, but also contradicts himself by saying that people have social norms that are hard to break. These social norms, however, cannot take the blame for the unjust qualities of social hierarchies. The “prison walls” of imagined order stay in place as a result of everyone agreeing to believe the same ideas. With social hierarchies, people spend their entire lives following their peers while they live out their roles in society. If one were to go live in the past and be taught all of the social norms of those in the Babylonian Empire or those in 19th century America, they would have most likely agreed to follow the norms. It’s hard to think differently from everyone around you due to the rules established. Although people were following their peers back in the Babylonian Empire and 19th century America, I believe these people should still be blamed for their inhumane treatment of slaves. Even though there were social norms in place that coincided with a social hierarchy, people were still hurting other people for their own benefit.

  62. After the agricultural revolution, human communities became larger and more complex. Different tribes had more interaction. Individuals started to communicate with larger group of people. It was fiction that held those together and it gradually became more detailed and complete. Justice is also a shared fiction because people were born with no conception of this society. They can not distinguish what is right or what is wrong. The fictional concepts and stories that surround them every day is what shape the way they think. These make them think in certain ways, follow to certain rules and abide by certain norms. Generation after generation, these rules allowing millions of strangers to conform to the social order. Furthermore, justice itself is just a concept, because to ensure “justice” you have to restrict social hierarchy. But ancient society divided ‘people into ‘superiors’ and ‘commoners’. These terms are all based on imagination since there is no objective correctness.

  63. Shared fictions, in other words, collective myths are everywhere behind our society, and it is the reason why the society is kept connected and close knit. Modern states, companies, and even justice are valid example of shared fictions in our society. From Sapiens, Harari states that human right actually doesn’t exist, and so does justice. Justice appears to mean fairness in the way that people are treated. However, unlike other subjects that actually exist, the standard of justice always varies over time dues to the change in society structure. For instance, from The Code of Hammurabi, the justice at that time was that upper class had more power and rights among people in lower class, but, for now, the justice becomes everyone, no matter their wealth, gender, age, should be treated equally. Furthermore, this illustrates the understanding of shared fictions like justice reflects how people view and understand the world and how their society works from different time period.

  64. Harari argues that the idea of justice is an example of “fertile imagination”, that it is a figment of our own thoughts. I think that Harari’s argument is very literal and in ways too simple when concluding that justice is just a shared fiction. I am not saying that I disagree with Harari, I just think that this is such a complex topic that should encourage deep critical thinking for yourself. It raises a specific question in my mind: Can you say that justice is a shared fiction if we were born with compassion and empathy, is it possible that the sense of justice can be innate in all human beings? I ask this because I wonder that if all humans were born with an innate sense of compassion and conscientiousness, can’t the existence of justice be tied in with this? To elaborate, with compassion we feel emotions and we feel these emotions when we don’t like something or when we do like something. For example, if someone were to kill another’s kin, would they feel rage and desire for revenge because it is merely an idea of justice from a social construct, a shared fiction, or because it is something engraved in our nature. Unfair things always exist and have existed but just because humanity’s desire for selfish gain outweighed the act of justice throughout many historical events, it is hard to say whether justice can only be a concept of shared fiction. It really gets me thinking. Harari is such a knowledgeable scholar who brings up great points and I really enjoy reading his writings and critically thinking for myself.

  65. According to Yuval Noah Harari, the key element that makes humans unique among other animals is the ability to imagine things that are not true in the physical world. Justice, in my opinion, is one of the shared fictions. First of all, Harari states in the book Sapiens that the social classes that divided people into groups were based on imagination. Hammurabi’s Code, for example, suggests that some groups of people were innately superior to others. Specifically, the aristocracy lived a better life than commoners and slaves because of the imagined hierarchies. Since social classes are based on imagination, justice that exists within the social stratification can be seen as an imagined concept too. Secondly, justice is fictional because the criteria for judging justice is different in different eras and social circumstances. We sometimes hear people saying that justice is objective. Indeed, people’s pursuit of equality and justice exists objectively; however, the criterion for judging justice is subjective. Since the criterion for judging justice is created by human imagination, justice, therefore, is a shared fiction. 

  66. Everything that surrounds us isn’t a tangible object, will fall upon the category of “shared fiction” according to Harari, and this definition includes “justice” as a shared fiction as well. Such shared fictions were under the creation and imagination of us (as Harari said), and justice, being one of them, introduces a broad concept that determines “rights” and “wrongs”. Of course, the determinations are also products of our imagination. However, the ability to realize and recognize “what’s good” and “what’s bad” is what differentiates humans from other animals – the occurrence of the first lawsuit “Hammurabi’s Code” and the agreement/common beliefs that we had in it. We, as humans, know to set boundaries for certain actions and restrain ourselves from bloodsheds or other harmful events. This is a higher level of thinking that was raised by our ancestors.

  67. The concept of justice and morality have been proven many times throughout the history to be mere products of human imagination. Regardless of the time periods, from the most ancient mythology that proclaimed slavery to be simply a decree from Gods to modern American society that persistently rationalizes the hierarchy of wealth to be nothing out of the ordinary, humans have grown so used to adhering to the societal norms that we fail to realize how much of our beliefs comprise pure fictions.

    The advancement of civilizations was not without major costs. In order to govern larger populations ascribed to the Agricultural Revolution, humankind found out a way to make mass cooperation networks as organized and amenable as possible, which is the creation of social hierarchy. While it is true that such ideology enabled societies to function in way larger scale, it was only possible by unjustifiably placing people into various imagined categories in which the bottom tier is deemed as naturally inferior to its counterparts. Despite its flawed nature, this imaginary belief system still thrives on today’s world, which naturally explains the current inequalities throughout communities to nations.

  68. Justice is a shared fiction. ‘it cannot be a physical object. But it exists as a legal entity.’ This is an explanation of shared fiction. Justice does not exist in this world.No one can touch it, or see it. But, since we were born, our mother or dad will teach us common rules in this world. We need to help others. We cannot steal things. Justice is our collective imagination. In my opinion, social hierarchies are unjust, because we have slaves. The black Americans and American Indians are inferior to white men. All of the people in that era had these kinds of unfair common rules, which exploited the freedom of Back Americans. Based on these conditions, Harari suggests social hierarchies are in one way or another “unjust”. We have a lot of movements to liberate black people and pursue equality for all humankind in this world. Thus, in our era, common rules changed and have a better development. When I googled Justice, I found we have 4 types of justice which are distributive, procedural, retributive, and restorative. We will punish people who did wrong, pursue equality, and so on. We have the right values now. Now, Shared fiction helps us to regulate our conduct,which is important. I cannot imagine if we do not have shared fiction such as laws, what will become of our society? Is it chaos, or are there new and alternative ways to help us form an orderly society?

  69. If justice is a shared fiction, what justice systems today are rooted in inequalities?

    Yuval Noah Harari, author of “Sapiens”, believes that justice is a shared fiction ever changing throughout history. There is no DNA coding in human brains that morally discerns what is right and wrong; rather, this moral conscience is a social construct defined by the time period and values of the culture. These “imagined orders” are passed down through generations not by genetics but of learned beliefs and behaviors. Harari believes that such shared myths are necessary for sustaining large societies born from the Agricultural Revolution. He defines this shared myth of justice as one rooted in social hierarchy and inequality. Since these “just” myths are so volatile, subject to the times and societal beliefs, previously just means often reveal discrimination upon further inspection. For example, Harari cites the Code of Hammurabi as a widely accepted imagined order in Babylonian society that was discriminatory on the basis of sex and socio-economic status. What was once socially accepted in it’s conviction for justice is rightfully detested among today’s standards and holds no merit. Likewise, American society today is seeing a cultural shift of inter-subjective beliefs. We now strive for greater equality against a long-established (yet hypocritical) American myth of “liberty”, created by the Declaration of Independence. If “justice” is ever changing in our society, what current day imagined orders do you think will fail against the test of time?

  70. Justice is a share fiction created by human to maintain some kind of stability in society. One important idea that has gone through Harari’s book Sapiens is that people rely on the share myth, fiction, religion so that they could work together to build up current society all around the world, even though they are strangers to each other. Justice, therefore, is one of the shared fictions created to protect another shared fiction, which is the idea of “right”. People believe that everyone is born with the same rights and it is necessary to take actions to make sure everyone’s rights’ are protected. Justice is just like a vision statement for human society. It is the final goal of all humankind but it could hardly be achieved due to enormous predictable and unpredictable factors.

  71. Yuval Noah Harari says that justice is just an “imagined order”, something that has taken over and created our civilization since the beginning, but it’s a concept that’s intangible. Justice exists because our imagination allows it to, along with millions of people who share the same imagination. As we are brought into this world, we have no innate sense of what is right and wrong, and as we grow up, we are nurtured by our surroundings. All these concepts alter what and how the individual thinks. We see that now, when topics about abortion or the death penalty arises and it creates a debate because an individuals view on justice will be determined by their own personal experiences. We create our own definition of right and wrong because we believe justice is important but really, it’s not, we just convince ourselves that it is just like how we convince ourselves money has value when it’s just a piece of paper. That’s why justice is a shared fiction, it’s just a pigment of our imagination.

  72. Justice is a shared fiction since it is created by homo sapiens. The definition of justice in the dictionary is that the fair and reasonable treatment of people. We created this definition and settled it to be the social norm. However, can people distinguish what is wrong and what is right at the beginning of the world? According to the evolutionary theory, we, the homo sapiens, are evolved from ape and became up-right as time goes by. The main goals of all species on the planet are finding more food and living longer. There is no judge in the court to arrest a wolf for his/her “wrongdoing” of eating an innocent sheep. There is no legal system to punish two homo sapiens since they fight or kill others because of the territory. Every creature followed the rule of nature with a peaceful balance until homo sapiens broke it. Therefore, we need to create a new shared fiction to restrain us. In my view, there is never justice existed since “ justice” is created by humans. Our achievements today among all other creatures are based on many sufferings and destructions.

    • Sara, I like this sentence: “There is no judge in the court to arrest a wolf for his/her “wrongdoing” of eating an innocent sheep.”

  73. In Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, the author Harari argues that the idea of justice is in fact an imagined order and the success of this belief is through the reinforced education over and over again. According to Harari, people who believe in the shared myths tend to easily develop associations between each other. But how to make people believe in the imagined order generation by generation? A major method is through education. When people are born into the environment of believing in their society’s social norms. Basically, the ideas of these shared norms are reinforced repeatedly through all kinds of education.

    While people’s belief of justice is subject to change as time goes on and the idea of justice gets refreshed, education is also a very larger part of this transformation for our modern society. Just like Harari says in Sapiens, from the moment they are born, people have constantly reminded “the principles of the imagined order, which are incorporated into anything and everything”(101). All these beliefs people want you to praise are embedded in your everyday life. When you are listening to fairy tales when you are a little kid, reading books at school, and browsing websites and social media, you are able to find these core values of equality and justice everywhere. Social media as well as education nowadays all encourage and set the standards of equality which make their citizens think it’s a normal thing to do and that’s the right thing to do.

  74. Justice is a Shard Fiction that the ruling class, the “superior” which is also a shared fiction in some society, utilized to maintained social orders and to preserve their privileges. The definition of justice is the “condition of being morally correct or fair.” However, if we put away what we been taught, what is right? what is wrong? what is meant to be morally correct or fair?
    In chapter six of the Sapiens, Harari claimed that the social norms that sustained the cities of ancient Mesopotamia to the Qin and Roman empires were based primarily on belief in shared myths. These myths sustained the entire empire by conceiving an imagined superior, like gods Anu in the Babylonian Empire, who make justice prevail in the land and punished the evil by appointing a role model on the human land to practice these collections of judicial decision across the empire. By connecting the natural disaster with the power of these “Gods,” humans became more convinced by the promises that if they act according to these sacred principles, they will be granted.

  75. I do agree with Harari on the point where he defines our justice as a shared fiction. The values of our society changes and therefore our views on what defines to be just changes all the time and everywhere in the world. However, that still classified as a fiction because the values themselves do not exist in the physical world. It is merely our own perception and ideals about the world.
    I thought that it was cruel but true when he defined what we taught to be “just” when we were young are merely a continuity of the adult or previous worlds. Unfortunately, it seemed that our societies would always require this imagined hierarchies and unjust discrimination. This makes me a little lost that I realized that I am just functioning under the norms of the society and neglects my personal uniqueness and what I see to be “fair”.

  76. Justice is a shared fiction because as Harari points out, hierarchy and equality are all based on an ‘imagined order’, which is the social norm that sustained them were based neither on ingrained instincts nor on personal acquaintances, but rather on belief in shared myths. Take the code of Hammurabi, the collection of laws and judicial decisions that aimed to teach future generations what justice is and how a just king acts, as an example. According to the code, hierarchy played a crucial role, and laws divided people into different gender and classes. In that era, the status and value of men and women, slaves and commoners, children and their parents were very unfair, which may seem strange now but Hammurabi and Babylonians thought that was perfectly just. The reason is that there was a fiction behind the code, which is if the king’s subjects all accepted their positions in the hierarchy and acted accordingly, the empire’s million inhabitants would be able to cooperate effectively. However, in 1776, the most cardinal principle dictated in the American declaration of independence is that all men were created equal. Hence, there is no distinct and accurate definition of justice. It is the order and norm that a group of people of their era believed in, which is also the fiction that changes with the introduction of education, the development of society, and the progress of the times.

  77. Harari points out in “Sapiens” that humans created a system called an “imagined order”. This imagined order thus led to the creation of the idea of justice and laws. I agree with Harari in that humans created an “imagined order” to set boundaries for people so that we are able to control one group from another. Laws and justice are intangible to the physical touch, but they are very evident in the lives we live today. Over thousands of years, humans have tinkered with imagined order, making it more refined and complicated, to bring about control and order in the human race with intangible tools such as laws and justice.

  78. Harari in his book Sapiens explains that most things in the world are what he calls “an imagined order.” This means that along with the tangible things such as people there are also imagined or untangible things such as justice, Boston University and more. The importance of an imagined order is that it maintains society. Harari introduces the concept of monkeys versus humans. Monkeys can’t have an imaginary order or myths, and because of this their society remains small. On the other hand, humans can have societies of millions of people because of the shared imaginary order such as justice and laws. Justice is a concept, meaning it is not tangible. Their is a concept in American law that speaks about justice and how if you commit a crime, you deserve to be punished and the victim deserves justice. You can’t have justice because it’s not tangible but people strive for it all the time.

  79. In my opinion, justice is a shared fiction in some contemporary societies. For example, Harari discussed in his literary work that the emergence of private property led to the development of social classes. With the development of social classes came biological, behavioral, and racist reasons for keeping the lower classes down in society. In some societies, however, the higher-class individuals believe in the inherent good of all humans which results in the idea of justice for all. The justice is rooted in the individual’s humanity, not in their race or behavior. For example, many countries have functional court systems that can punish wrongdoers for their actions against vulnerable individuals. However, even in the 21st century there are countries who do not share in the idea of justice. There are still countries that believe in archaic caste systems with no social mobility. There are still countries that believe in the brutal killings of innocent civilians.

    Therefore, while justice is indeed a shared fiction since it began as a result of the emergence of private property, it is definitely not universally believed in.

  80. Was the cognitive revolution an inevitability? If it is, was today’s society a necessary consequence of the cognitive revolution? Was there other possibilities, or was this the logical conclusion of a human society?

  81. Since we have decided that Justice is a shared fiction and I would say that justice is and will forever be evolving and changing. Do you think that future societies thousands of years in the future will look back at our current day societies in a similar manner to the way we are examining Ancient Mesopotamia and Ancient Egypt or do you think that it will be different since we are more advanced than that time period? Especially in the way of justice, politics, and social practices.

  82. Harari makes a point of saying that large, complex human societies depend on shared fictions, which includes the notion of justice. In his eyes, justice itself is a concept of human creation, and cannot be proven to be objectively true, thereby disallowing us to determine whether things are right or wrong. However, though this is true; we are unable to concretely prove the morals by which our idea of justice abides by, there are two main points of contention to be made. First, whether our justice is universally objective is of no consequence when passing judgement within an individual or group that shares intersubjective truths. Secondly, there may indeed be moral axioms upon which justice of all sorts can be based upon.

  83. Yuvan Harari talks a lot about the fact that justice is a “shared fiction.” With what we know about the morality of old civilization, such as Mesopotamia, do you think if their history was different in the fact that achieving justice was not the driving force in their “imagined order,” and instead based on creating order a different way, would the order of current society be different?

  84. Yuval Noah Harari explained the importance of intersubjective truths and shared myths, which allow us to believe in his “imagined order.” These shared truths allow us as humans today to stay loyal to other humans. An example of this is the ability to come together and follow an established set of laws such as the constitution. And it didn’t start now; this idea of shared myths has helped human advancement throughout history, even with the Code of Hammurabi. It helps us trust each other, even if we don’t know each other. We as people understand that this will prevent violence and, in extension, human bloodshed. We choose to believe in something for the greater good collectively.

    -Is it possible the agricultural revolution would have occurred without the cognitive revolution?

  85. Justice is a shared fiction for me. However, it alters in everyone’s mind and in different part of the world, but people can reach an agreement for some part, so justice is able to have function in the society. According to the revolution theory of Darwin, in the world of animal, the strong survive, which is also applicable for human beings, where one kind of human beings may have a sense of superiority to the minor groups. Thus, some people will be sacrificed to fulfill the need of the society. Because of the little influence and chance for the weak to express, the shared fiction of justice is decided by the upper and influential class of human beings, and most people will be persuaded in some way and accept the ideas decided by those people.

  86. I believe that justice, one of many moral and ethical principles we have in society, is a shared fiction. It is not a tangible thing, it is merely an idea that all of us together in society believe in. We as a society made up this word and made up its definition and we as a society believe in it. The need for “justice” stems from inequality or inequity brought on by social stratification and the existence of hierarchies. In prehistoric hunter gatherer societies, although I cannot say for certain, they didn’t have social classes or hierarchies, everyone simply worked together toward a common goal. Once society started advancing and the number of individuals in a group reached hundreds, then thousands, then hundreds of thousands, we began seeing clear division where one group was deemed superior. I think at this point we started seeing the need for “justice” as lower classes, deemed inferior, weren’t treated the same. This idea of justice in a way united those in lower classes and allowed them to fight for what is just. It was a common myth they all believed in. Even today, with Black Lives Matter movements across the country, we see thousands of people, many of whom don’t know each others names, unite together to fight for “justice” a social fiction they all believe in together. This belief in justice, a myth and social fiction, is what allows great numbers of individuals to cooperate and work toward a common goal.

  87. Justice is a shared fiction, and, like justice, social hierarchies are as well. In chapter 6, Harari explains that the principles of justice, like equality, only exist in people’s minds. He also writes that people don’t realize that shared fiction is imagined because it shapes their desires, it’s embedded in the world, and it’s intersubjective. When Harari says that all social hierarchies are unjust, he’s basing his opinion on factors that society has deemed to be “unjust.” In Chapter 8, Harari goes in depth on different social hierarchies, like the caste system and slavery in America; he would say that these social hierarchies are “unjust” because there’s no room social mobility, and it is unequal, which is also a shared fiction. This could also lead to the conversation of morality and what society considers to be moral.
    With that being said, how did humans ultimately decide on what was considered just and unjust, moral and immoral? What led premodern humans to need shared fictions like justice?

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