I believe there are four challenges for us that are over our heads. These challenges I would describe as four roads: from might to right, from slavery to freedom, from mythology to science, and from theory of state to democracy of state. Let me explain.
This civilization that we live in—you may call it Western civilization, but it is a global civilization that we all share—its characteristics are by these four roles. Humanity fought for centuries to explain and to adopt the idea that the inter-human relationship must be based, not on the might of the master, but on the right of common people.
So this road from might to right I think is a challenge now. We supposedly live in the time of rights, of human rights—of the right, not of the might. From the Magna Carta until now, we may say that we are aware of our rights. But I am afraid that in this civilization and these circumstances in which we live, this idea of right is challenged again by the might.
The second road is the road from slavery to freedom. We live in the time of freedom. Slavery was canceled not a very long time ago. But, still, the idea of freedom is everybody's idea. You know that Aristotle lived his life believing that some people are born slaves and some are born masters. But now we all know that this is not true, that we are all born free.
The third road is the idea of going from mythology to science. We cannot live on the idea of myths. We know that science is something that we all share. But unfortunately I am afraid that we are again challenged. Some people like to go to mythology, to imagination, rather than to base their judgments on the science.
The third is the theory of state. Even now, Plato's The Republic on democracy and Al-Farabi, for example, the Muslim philosopher who wrote The Virtuous City and St. Augustine's book The City of God—all these books' political theories are utopian or a theory of the state. From this theory, we come to the legitimate state, which is based on democracy. Democracy is the principle on the basis of which we organize societies.
But I am afraid that these four very important achievements of this civilization are now challenged. I am afraid that right is almost losing its power to might, that science is losing its power to mythology, that freedom is losing its momentum to slavery, in different ways, and that even democracy is somehow becoming a frustration for many. There are theorists who like to talk about an imagined society and theory of the state rather than to correct what is called the democracy that I think we have no alternative to. This is the best of all the bad systems that we know.
This post was produced by The Huffington Post and Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs as part of the Council's Centennial Thought Leaders Forum. The series features thought leaders answering questions posed by Carnegie Council Senior Fellow Devin Stewart. For more information about Carnegie Council, click here.