I truly believe that individuals can make a difference in society. Since periods of change such as the present one come so rarely in human history, it is up to each of us to make the best use of our time to help create a happier world.— Dalai Lama
Society is always taken by surprise at any new example of common sense.— Ralph Waldo Emerson
Kant proposed the notion of the categorical imperative, the idea that even without religion, there is a set of moral rules that societies tend towards. Unlike hypothetical imperatives, such as having to eat when you are hungry, categorical imperatives remain true regardless of the situation. Marcus Aurelius championed stoicism, which echoed the same belief that we should strive to seek the consistency between actions regardless of the situation. This signals a maturity that we have surpassed having separate responses depending on the situation. Instead we have reached the point where a certain set of long-reaching motivations have reached a universality that are not tempered by the temporality of the current situation.
Peterson and Seligman compiled in their book Character Strengths and Virtues a survey of major cultures and religions across the world and different time periods in order to see if there are a number of traits that were universally held in esteem. Their findings were that a set of virtues were represented in almost all cultures and religions with a few that were represented in most. They categorize these into the major categories wisdom and knowledge, courage, humanity, justice, temperance, and transcendence with a number of traits constituting each one. They go on to explore each one and highlight esteemed contemporary and historical figures as examples of personification of each one. The consistency of virtues regardless of culture and time, some of which developed independently of each other, supports Kant’s idea of the categorical imperative.
In Plato’s The Republic, he argues that one of the weaknesses of societies is its inherent shortcomings in justice. In his kallipolis, he argued that philosophers should rule based on knowledge and not power.