“The unjust person acts against the gods. For insofar as the nature of the universe made rational creatures for the sake of each other, with an eye toward mutual benefit based on true value and never for harm, anyone breaking nature’s will obviously acts against the oldest of gods.”MARCUS AURELIUS, MEDITATIONS, 9.1.1
Today’s quote from Marcus Aurelius teaches us that justice, goodness, and fairness are all natural forces, part of the universe’s design. They are part of the very fabric of reality. This natural design intended rational thought to match with rational thought, for the sake of positive outcome for all.
Aurelius further states that people who try to go against this nature of the universe are in effect trying to run counter to the design of everything. As author Ryan Holiday points out, we often call these offenses “crimes against nature” because of how deeply this sense seems to be rooted in us.
There is a sense that “we hold these truths to be self-evident” (from the US Declaration of Independence) because of how core certain beliefs are to our understanding of the world. Certain truths are absolute, we believe. To break with that truth is to break against nature, against the very fabric of being.
Living in a post-truth world
Here in the United States in 2021, it’s not hard to be a little cynical about truth, especially after the events of the past few years in our country. It’s been said a lot recently that we’re living in a post-truth world.
Public figures now regularly cast doubt on the most basic of facts, and gleefully scorn scientific knowledge. Social media is rife with misinformation, much of it intentional. Artificial intelligence is on the cusp (or past it?) of surpassing human ability and possibly becoming sentient. Deepfake videos cast further doubt on what’s real and what’s not. Truth seems to have suddenly become very subjective.
In this light, does absolute truth continue to exist at all? Is it still possible to speak of a “natural order of things”, or even a “nature of the universe” as Marcus Aurelius put it? If he were here, I think he’d say yes! But I’d love to hear him explain it in our current world environment, because it’s very hard to see.