‘Humanity Is Still In Its Infancy’
…The European: You mentioned identity. In Western states, identity is seen as the foundation for values, for moral principles such as decency, honesty or loyalty. But more and more people realise that these virtues are aspirational rather than real. So why do people still demand these characteristics from modern politicians, which are obviously unrealistic?
Grayling: I think in general terms we expect honesty, decency and trust-keeping from any human being, so these are not national or cultural identities, these are basic human requirements. You say they exist as aspirations and not as realties, but I think that they exist as realities in enough cases to allow the following wonderful phenomenon: that in most cities, towns and villages of the world today people keep their promises, do their job, keep trust, behave reasonably well. The rate of murder and rape is relatively speaking low in human transactions. The very fact that human society exists is evidence that those principles are generally operative. People who are in exposed positions with great responsibilities and therefore stresses might sometimes be more likely to yield to natural inclinations when they should not. It is a question of a generous understanding of human nature and not always thinking that the conventional requirements and moralities are black and white.