Many humans find solace in the company of animals because critters do not project. That is, they accept the world as it is, and do not create images in their heads that simplify it, then cram all the loose details under those abstract categories.
When we look at life through the eyes of a nihilist, we see a simple task: adapt to our environment and, if we can, thrive in it. This is realism, or looking at our goals and morals in terms of results instead of human projections.
We face the problem that projections are simple, and therefore like light focused in a laser, are powerful. A projection is a category that seems to make sense of everything at once, giving us a clear “good” and “bad” to orient ourselves, and an explanation for what we are and where we are going.
Consider the term justice. We think of justice as a reified projection, or a concept of the world that appeals to humans that we can force upon the world with our unity as a herd. But it does not exist in nature, and arguably does not exist at all.
What each human means by the term “justice” differs, and overlap is often elusive, especially when parties are at odds with each other. To each human, “justice” means what is good for them and bad for the other guy, and so these fanciful projections never meet.
Human justice tends to be individualistic. We like the idea that each person is treated fairly, even if we disagree on the term and it is never really defined. The symbol makes people happy, so in our utilitarian pacifistic mindset of keeping the peace, we celebrate it in its ambiguity.
The more we write down rules for justice, the more justice evades our estimates. Conditions we never thought of arise and break down our nice tidy categories, making instead vague general headings with tons of footnotes to give us some idea of how to apply them.
Even more, there is a public/private split, forming a text (public symbol) and subtext (private meanings). In public, we think “fairness” means everyone gets treated the same; in private, we want fairness to acknowledge our sufferings and unequal position.
We are throwing around words and symbols like magic spells, hoping they work even though they are designed for a far simpler planet where intention makes reality. Back here on Earth, it becomes clear that no one is fully innocent, and few are fully bad, so individualistic justice breaks down.
In nature, on the other hand, there is only the concept of survival. Whatever works will statistically predominate over time, and so billions of years after the birth of our planet, we have multitudes of interesting species which are good at what they do and specialized physically for those roles.
Humans are easily manipulated by symbols, constructions, and projections. Like the laser, these focus energy and make it powerful, but this is energy in our human minds and not in reality, where far greater forces like the sun, rain, wind, and topsoil dominate.
Since the establishment of permanent civilization, people have been obsessed by control, or ways which they can use to limit the methods that others use, therefore influencing their thought, generally toward a type of unity around symbols like justice.
The more intelligent humans reject this, since it is easy to manipulate people but it always backfires in the long term, so it is better to be honest, invest in social trust and wisdom, and act toward what benefits civilization as a whole and trickles down to its citizens as safer, saner, more prosperous living.
As our new age dawns, it becomes clear that ideology as a whole is mentally broken. These are phantasms of our minds that we are projecting on the world, instead of paying attention to what works. Morality follows the same path when it is based in humanity and not nature.
What matters is what works. Functionalism is the highest form of thought. It looks past the noise in our heads and pays attention to future, origins, and the connection between the two. Culture arose for a reason and tradition with it. We do not need to fetishize these things like armchair Republicans.
Philosophy should be like a hammer, instead of “philosophizing with a hammer” as Fred wrote. A good tool is fully adapted to its use and aims to be the simplest possible solution. Even a super high-tech civilization will have something like a hammer, or a broom.
So what is justice? Justice is what works. We cannot fix the world for everyone, but we can fix the world, and then those who are talented will rise, and the rest can settle their score with reality on their own terms.
Instead, humanity has chosen to — like a bull at a bullfight — chase after the red flag of symbols that make us feel warm sensations of unity, time after time. As democracy fades and fails, we have an opportunity to get off this destructive course and pursue functionalist realism instead.