Regaining Society’s Fundamentals

November 2, 2015

Regaining Society’s Fundamentals

by Jahaberdeen Mohamed Yunoos

I am now in Ruby Koi Farm, the biggest Koi fish distributor in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, sipping the famous cafe soda while being soothed by sounds of the water flowing into the Koi pond. Sitting here watching the fish swimming, all the positive thoughts enter your mind and you wonder why is it that some people who are more blessed than others make life difficult for many more.


The world is always shaped by a select minority for the silent and passive majority. The so-called educated ones in a society are usually about three per cent of the population. This small percentage then ends up filling up important positions in society as government servants, lawyers, doctors, teachers, religious and political leaders, judges, corporate managers and so on.

These are the people who are not only going to shape society but also determine the “habitat” under which the rest of us are going to live. It is not only their educational qualifications that will determine whether our general quality of life will be better but more importantly, it will be the attitudes and the values that they have.

In this sense, therefore, the quality and content of our educational system are important. The standard of the curriculum is important to ensure that we produce high quality graduates who are not only efficient and knowledgeable in their respective fields but also have creative thinking abilities.

Creative thinking is necessary to ensure research abilities and adaptability and upgrading of one’s knowledge as knowledge develops in the respective fields. If our educational levels and standards are inferior, we will be producing mediocre graduates who will in turn make the society suffer because of their mediocrity.

Can you imagine what happens to the quality of life of the general masses if we have a mediocre minister or a mediocre ketua pengarah in important positions?

Society will suffer

Quite apart from pure educational qualifications, a strong sense of ethics, good values and humanistic attitudes is fundamental. By this, please do not think that I am referring to blatant religious indoctrination.

My own observation over the years tells me that religious indoctrination actually leads to another form of oppression and gives the follower a completely warped perspective of life. I am referring to time-tested universal values such as compassion, empathy, honesty, diligence, humility, sense of humanity, and recognition that the environment and us are inter-twined.

These are values that are able to curb evil activities such as corruption, abuse of power, wastage of resources, irresponsibility or even indolence.

We seriously and urgently need to infuse these values into our school system by focusing on them through a Malaysian lens and not through so-called moral classes for non-Muslims and religious classes for Muslims. We have to embark and work on it so that it will become a national culture. Most often, it is our current, general “informal” pervasive culture that prevents us from becoming the best human being possible.

These values are vital to prevent us from building a nation like a metaphorical luxurious looking house, full of termites infesting the structure behind the facade. Slowly but surely, the nation collapses in the long run and the people will suffer.

However, for these values to be a national culture, since the majority are silent most of the time, there must be political will among the leaders. Will our current crop of political leaders be courageous, consistent and diligent enough to push for a humanistic and ethical national culture that embodies the values I alluded to earlier? Can the general masses be persuaded to understand its significance? These are the challenges.

It is equally unfortunate that in the past 35 years or so, in our quest for physical development, we seem to have side-stepped the development of the “human” in us. We have allowed our society to be consumptive, superficial and non-critical in culture and, our Malaysia bolehness does not seem to encompass the achievement of greater ideals and values.

We have made a big mistake and continue to allow religiosity, ala Middle Eastern cultures, to permeate into our culture.

I observe that, due to political tensions and contests, the country has been sliding downhill for the past 16 years in many ways, including losing a culture of empathy and compassion. Unfortunately, this has been artificially engineered by politicians for pure political ends.

We keep witnessing the worse expression of human behaviour among our so-called community leaders and even religious leaders. It is as if these select few want the country ablaze with general hatred and for all of us to lose our sense of humanity.

It becomes urgent to keep the discourse on the nature and content of the national culture alive and active until it slowly evolves into a reality that we can be proud of. Hopefully, one day when I come back to Ruby Koi Farm, they have love and respect for me instantaneously simply because I am Malaysian.

Now, that will also be the best door opener for forging international and business relationships.

The Necessity of Freedom, according to Jean Jacques Rousseau

November 2, 2015

University_of_CambodiaThanks, Dr. Phua. By sheer coincidence I discussed the ideas of JeanDin Merican@Rosler Jacques Rousseau today (November 1)  with my graduate students in Techo Sen School of Government and International Relations at the conclusion of my University of Cambodia political philosophy course.

Why Rousseau? The Swiss Philosopher happens to be one of my favourites, whose books, Discourse on the Arts and Sciences, (1750) Discourse on the Origins and the Foundations of Inequality among Men (Second Discourse, 1755), On The Social Contract and Emile  (1762) are classics. He had a major intellectual influence on Immanuel Kant and Alexis de Tocqueville and others.


The three-month course took my graduate students and I on an intellectual journey guided by Yale Professor Steven B. Smith’s excellent book, Political Philosophy (New Haven: Yale University,2012) which led us to Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Tocqueville, Hegel, Kant, Neitzsche, Arendt, Leo Strauss, Rawls, Amartya Sen, Norzick and others.

I wish to acknowledge Professor Smith (picture above) for his assistance in making our course  an exhilarating and useful one to enable us to appreciate political philosophy as a “rare and distinctive form of thinking” about “the permanent problems of political life”.

It was John Maynard Keynes, the great British Economist who reminded us of the power of ideas to shape our world, when he said:

“The ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood. Practical men who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influences, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist. Madmen in authority, who hear voices in the air, are distilling their frenzy from some academic scribbler  of a few years back”. (Smith, p.3)

If you are student of economics, you can think of names like  Maynard Keynes, Friedman, Gary Becker, Paul Samuelson, Amartya Sen, Ludwig von Mises, Schumpeter, Frederich von Hayek, Stiglitz, Paul Krugman et. al whose ideas have entered the minds of Presidents and Prime Ministers around the world, and shaped their policies. I agree with Professor Smith that [P]olitical philosophy is ” the study of the deepest, most intractable, and most enduring problems of political life.”(op.cit p.3). That is why questions and issues raised by men of antiquity like Socrates, Plato and Aristotle continue to concern us today. It is about the nature and structure of regimes and statecraft. As Professor Smith says

” When we act to advance some idea or opinion of the good and when we act politically we do so to advance some idea of the political good or the common good…The oldest, the most fundamental, of all questions of political life is ‘what is the best regime regime?'” (Smith, p.5)

Think of Plato’s Republic (politea) or read Aristotle’s Politics.  It is government and governance. But it is more than a set of formal political institutions. As Professor Smith says,

“It consists of the entire way of life–moral and religious practices, habits,customs,and sentiments–that make a people what they are. The regime constitutes what Aristotle called an ethos,that is a distinctive character that nurtures distinctive human types”.(Smith,p.6)

Thinkers like Plato, Machiavelli and Rousseau are of the view that regimes can be founded through deliberate acts of great statesmen. Tocqueville saw regimes as institutions embedded in deep structures of human history while Hamilton believed that the making and shaping of regimes can be deliberate acts of statecraft.–Din Merican

The Necessity of Freedom, according to Jay Jay Rousseau

Rousseau Quote

In his work, Rousseau addresses freedom more than any other problem of political philosophy and aims to explain how man in the state of nature is blessed with an enviable total freedom.

This freedom is total for two reasons. First, natural man is physically free because he is not constrained by a repressive state apparatus or dominated by his fellow men. Second, he is psychologically and spiritually free because he is not enslaved to any of the artificial needs that characterize modern society. This second sense of freedom, the freedom from need, makes up a particularly insightful and revolutionary component of Rousseau’s philosophy. Rousseau believed modern man’s enslavement to his own needs was responsible for all sorts of societal ills, from exploitation and domination of others to poor self-esteem and depression.

 Rousseau believed that good government must have the freedom of all its citizens as its most fundamental objective. The Social Contract in particular is Rousseau’s attempt to imagine the form of government that best affirms the individual freedom of all its citizens, with certain constraints inherent to a complex, modern, civil society. Rousseau acknowledged that as long as property and laws exist, people can never be as entirely free in modern society as they are in the state of nature, a point later echoed by Marx and many other Communist and anarchist social philosophers. Nonetheless, Rousseau strongly believed in the existence of certain principles of government that, if enacted, can afford the members of society a level of freedom that at least approximates the freedom enjoyed in the state of nature. In The Social Contract and his other works of political philosophy, Rousseau is devoted to outlining these principles and how they may be given expression in a functional modern state.

Defining the Natural and the State of Nature

For Rousseau to succeed in determining which societal institutions and structures contradict man’s natural goodness and freedom, he must first define the ”natural”. Rousseau strips away all the ideas that centuries of development have imposed on the true nature of man and concludes that many of the ideas we take for granted, such as property, law, and moral inequality, actually have no basis in nature. For Rousseau, modern society generally compares unfavorably to the ”state of nature.”

As Rousseau discusses in the Discourse on Inequality and The Social Contract, the state of nature is the hypothetical, prehistoric place and time where human beings live uncorrupted by society. The most important characteristic of the state of nature is that people have complete physical freedom and are at liberty to do essentially as they wish. That said, the state of nature also carries the drawback that human beings have not yet discovered rationality or morality. In different works, Rousseau alternately emphasizes the benefits and shortfalls of the state of nature, but by and large he reveres it for the physical freedom it grants people, allowing them to be unencumbered by the coercive influence of the state and society. In this regard, Rousseau’s conception of the state of nature is entirely more positive than Hobbes’s conception of the same idea, as Hobbes, who originated the term, viewed the state of nature as essentially a state of war and savagery. This difference in definition indicates the two philosophers’ differing views of human nature, which Rousseau viewed as essentially good and Hobbes as essentially base and brutal. Finally, Rousseau acknowledged that although we can never return to the state of nature, understanding it is essential for society’s members to more fully realize their natural goodness.

The Danger of Need

Rousseau includes an analysis of human need as one element in his comparison of modern society and the state of nature. According to Rousseau, “needs” result from the passions, which make people desire an object or activity. In the state of nature, human needs are strictly limited to those things that ensure survival and reproduction, including food, sleep, and sex. By contrast, as cooperation and division of labor develop in modern society, the needs of men multiply to include many nonessential things, such as friends, entertainment, and luxury goods. As time goes by and these sorts of needs increasingly become a part of everyday life, they become necessities. Although many of these needs are initially pleasurable and even good for human beings, men in modern society eventually become slaves to these superfluous needs, and the whole of society is bound together and shaped by their pursuit. As such, unnecessary needs are the foundation of modern “moral inequality,” in that the pursuit of needs inevitably means that some will be forced to work to fulfill the needs of others and some will dominate their fellows when in a position to do so.

Rousseau’s conception of need, and especially the more artificial types that dominate modern society, are a particularly applicable element of his philosophy for the present time. Given the immense wealth that exists in a country such as the United States and the extent to which consumerism is the driving force behind its economy, Rousseau’s insights should provoke reflection for anyone concerned about the ways the American culture nurtures a population of people increasingly enslaved by artificial needs.

The Possibility of Authenticity in Modern Life

 Linked to Rousseau’s general attempt to understand how modern life differs from life in the state of nature is his particular focus on the question of how authentic the life of man is in modern society. By authentic, Rousseau essentially means how closely the life of modern man reflects the positive attributes of his natural self. Not surprisingly, Rousseau feels that people in modern society generally live quite inauthentic lives.

In the state of nature, man is free to simply attend to his own natural needs and has few occasions to interact with other people. He can simply “be,” while modern man must often “appear” as much as “be” so as to deviously realize his ridiculous needs.

The entire system of artificial needs that governs the life of civil society makes authenticity or truth in the dealings of people with one another almost impossible. Since individuals are always trying to deceive and/or dominate their fellow citizens to realize their own individual needs, they rarely act in an authentic way toward their fellow human beings. Even more damningly, the fact that modern people organize their lives around artificial needs means that they are inauthentic and untrue to themselves as well. To Rousseau’s mind, the origin of civil society itself can be traced to an act of deception, when one man invented the notion of private property by enclosing a piece of land and convincing his simple neighbors “this is mine,” while having no truthful basis whatsoever to do so. Given this fact, the modern society that has sprung forth from this act can be nothing but inauthentic to the core.

The Unnaturalness of Inequality

For Rousseau, the questions of why and how human beings are naturally equal and unequal, if they are unequal at all, are fundamental to his larger philosophical enquiry. To form his critique of modern society’s problems, he must show that many of the forms of inequality endemic to society are in fact not natural and can therefore be remedied. His conclusions and larger line of reasoning in this argument are laid out in the Discourse on Inequality, but the basic thrust of his argument is that human inequality as we know it does not exist in the state of nature. In fact, the only kind of natural inequality, according to Rousseau, is the physical inequality that exists among men in the state of nature who may be more or less able to provide for themselves according to their physical attributes.

Accordingly, all the inequalities we recognize in modern society are characterized by the existence of different classes or the domination and exploitation of some people by others. Rousseau terms these kinds of inequalities moral inequalities, and he devotes much of his political philosophy to identifying the ways in which a just government can seek to overturn them. In general, Rousseau’s meditations on inequality, as well as his radical assertion of the notion that all men are by-and-large equal in their natural state, were important inspirations for both the American and French Revolutions.

The General Will and the Common Good

Perhaps the most difficult and quasi-metaphysical concept in Rousseau’s political philosophy is the principle of the general will. As Rousseau explains, the general will is the will of the sovereign, or all the people together, that aims at the common good—what is best for the state as a whole. Although each individual may have his or her own particular will that expresses what is good for him or her, in a healthy state, where people correctly value the collective good of all over their own personal good, the amalgamation of all particular wills, the “will of all,” is equivalent to the general will. In a state where the vulgarities of private interest prevail over the common interests of the collective, the will of all can be something quite different from the general will. The most concrete manifestation of the general will in a healthy state comes in the form of law. To Rousseau, laws should always record what the people collectively desire (the general will) and should always be universally applicable to all members of the state. Further, they should exist to ensure that people’s individual freedom is upheld, thereby guaranteeing that people remain loyal to the sovereign at all times.

Rousseau’s abstract conception of the general will raises some difficult questions. The first is, how can we know that the will of all is really equivalent with the common good? The second is, assuming that the general will is existent and can be expressed in laws, what are the institutions that can accurately gauge and codify the general will at any given time? Tackling these complex dilemmas occupied a large portion of Rousseau’s political thought, and he attempts to answer them in The Social Contract, among other places.

The Idea of Collective Sovereignty

Until Rousseau’s time, the sovereign in any given state was regarded as the central authority in that society, responsible for enacting and enforcing all laws. Most often, the sovereign took the form of an authoritative monarch who possessed absolute dominion over his or her subjects. In Rousseau’s work, however, sovereignty takes on a different meaning, as sovereignty is said to reside in all the people of the society as a collective. The people, as a sovereign entity, express their sovereignty through their general will and must never have their sovereignty abrogated by anyone or anything outside their collective self. In this regard, sovereignty is not identified with the government but is instead opposed against it. The government’s function is thus only to enforce and respect the sovereign will of the people and in no way seek to repress or dominate the general will.

The Mind, Master-Mind and Conscience in Dispensing Justice.

October 25, 2015

6th Logan Memorial Lecture 2015
James Logan Memorial Lecture 2015

The Mind, Master-Mind and Conscience in Dispensing Justice.

by  Justice Dato Syed Ahmad Idid

Justice Dato Syed Ahmad IdidJames Richardson Logan “should not be forgotten. ..had much to do with making Penang what it is today” (Penang Economic Monthly by Shakila Rajendra in 2010). He “even petitioned for prominent secret societies to be recognised as organisations”. He coined the name “Indonesia”.

Logan’s memorial expounds the four cardinal virtues of justice, prudence, temperance and fortitude. I hope our conversation this evening will encapsulate some of the virtues that human beings crave to achieve.

I understand all of you are very busy. The time, after Friday prayers, is now for you to rush to where you can find love .. at home or elsewhere! And you are in jovial mood, all primed for the happy evening!

Most lectures let the guest speaker talk on and on. But, with your co-operation, let us change this to one where you respond, contribute ideas and answers and enjoy the session. I understand it will be sinful if I go over 6.00pm. We must not commit any sin today.

But uppermost in our minds must be the desire to cover and finish discussions on the topic. You must have wondered if the topic is on psychology and that only the psychiatrists will be keen to learn. You may be right or, in the infamous video, “correct correct correct”. Here we shall try to “korek korek korek” (did dig dig for) information regarding some aspects of human values which are necessary in the administration of the judicial & legal system and in those entrusted to dispense justice.

Some of you say that this topic is very difficult. All of us realise the intricacy of the human mind. Can I claim that no speaker (in Malaysia or the World) has dealt with it or talked on it? I shall do my best to interest you and hopefully bring a fresh perspective to the justice system.

I could have chosen to speak on “Court Jesters”. You know many! Or on “justice by night” or the Sexy Judge or “Hukuman Hitam” or something which we can easily respond to. Instead I have specially selected to converse on “Roles of the Mind, Master-mind and Conscience in Dispensing Justice”.

There seems to be two near-impossible actions: {One} is to put someone else’s money into your pocket. (cf James Freedman).And {two} to plant your ideas in someone else’s head (or brain or mind).

Loke Thye Kee Restaurant, Kopitiam & The Bridge Grill, where we are, is well known and popular on this beautiful island. PLAC has selected this spot for the dishes it serves! Let me offer you some food for thought!

Principles of Law (Civil and Criminal)

One of the first principles in contract law is “consensus ad idem” (meeting of the minds). Yet in dispensing justice there is no such consensus. And there is no agreement by both parties or their counsel that the Judge is right. And we all go on with our lives!

Before a judge decides in a criminal case, he or she considers the elements of criminal responsibility. This must have the actus reus (the act or omission that forms the physical component of the crime) and mens rea (the intention or knowledge of wrongdoing that is part of the criminal act). Those not versed in Latin may be forgiven if they misspell this as the “men’s rear”…(example: sodomy and un-natural act with a cow.)

Let me quote Latin: “actus reus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea” or the act is not culpable unless the mind is guilty (“guilty mind”). Remember Blackstone’s formulation: “It is better that 10 guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer”. Don’t you prefer that all ten guilty persons be properly convicted and suffer their due punishment?

What roles do the claimants vs defendants (respondents), prosecutors vs the accused/defendants, counsel for the Prosecution vs those for the defence/the other party, court clerks, Research Officers, Registrars and any others involved legitimately in the administration of the judicial system .. with one objective: to achieve justice (and not “just” “ice”).

I must confess my topic may not have much to do with the contents in the Books. One is “How Judges Think” by Richard A Posner (Appellate Court Judge). I am thankful to my US arbitrator friend, Mr Michael Heihre, who presented me this Book when he heard that I was going to write a Book on “How Judicial Decisions Are Arrived at” (or something around that issue). In Posner’s book, among other matters, he discusses (i) the mind of the legislating judge and (ii) judges are not law professors.

The second Book is by Steven Pinker “How the Mind Works” where, among several more, he discusses (i) Thinking Machine, (ii) The Mind’s Eye and (iii) Hot heads, Family Values. The third may be nearer your home. This is written by Britain’s former senior Law Lord,. Tom Bingham’s The Rule of Law (Winner of the Orwell Prize for Best Political Book 2011). This was presented to me by a retired English Judge, John Beashel, who studied law with me in London in late 1960s. We had not met for 42 years. And then he visited this island the year before. We met for dinner at your E & O. We visited Frasers Hills. See how our minds worked!

Brain? Mind?

Brain is that “3 pounds of convoluted mass of grey and white matter” and it “refers to the machine made of neurons and a live mind is the product of that machine”. Brain and mind are not the same. Brain can be seen (and held in your hand!) and it is the tangible part of the body. Mind is invisible.

{Take an orange .. about the size of a brain. “I change my mind”. Take an apple. Brain has a definite shape but mind does not. When one is angry with a subordinate, one tends to utter or shout “I will give you a piece of my mind”. And if one gives away pieces, nothing should remain! Is that not so?} But no part of the mind can be given away!

I was at a dinner on 19th at the Malaysian Petroleum Club on Level 42 of the Twin Towers. I met an old Arbitration friend from the UK, Professor Jeffrey Blum. With us were Tuan Haji Abdul Rahman Azubir (senior lawyer and host) and Mr Wan Idris Wan Ibrahim, a chartered accountant.

During our conversation the Professor and I exchanged information on latest arbitration “defences”. He had just landed in KLIA without his luggage which was still in Abu Dhabi. He was pleased to share with us, from his h/p, a voice of the mind:

“If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchanged apples, then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea and we exchange these ideas then each of us will have two ideas” (George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) Irish playwright and journalist. (Within the Winning Behaviours – Creating a Winning Culture).

To many people, brain and mind are the same and oftentimes used interchangeably. Mind is related to the brain. Brain is physical while mind is mental. We shall not argue over the semantics or the characteristics of each or of language but, for purpose of our conversation, can we add that mind refers to the part of oneself that is capable of thinking. To use the computer lingo, brain is the hardware while the mind is the software.

The Mind likes to see patterns. In Courts, we permit our Judges to refer to old cases and hail them as a principle of “stare decisis” or judicial Precedence. But in the World Court or the ICJ at The Hague judges may depart from previous pattern (decisions) and decide differently. Put this in another way, we say that “one important function of the brain/mind is to make sense of the situation”.

Brain/Mind stitches together the various information (in court we call this “evidence” and the statements as “testimony”). It is said the judges use their senses and their minds to fill in the gaps, guess what is out there. Conscious mind is a product of one’s brain.

In days gone by (and in several societies) threats of ghosts and danger and harm can over-power weak minds. People then obey and do what their parents place upon the children or political leaders on the voters and the nation. Remember the old Justice who committed suicide here in Penang? Some stress or heavy burden must have overcome him until he could not control his mind to remain calm and rational.

Here you can see that Judges, being human beings, can lose control of their minds. And the resultant decision(s) may be those he/she, in normal circumstances, would not have come to. Please give me a few examples of judgments which have gone haywire or which did not follow logic or the law. (You do have a lot!)

At a Round-table Forum, a former Bar Council Chairman shared his personal experience of a case where the Court of Appeal “did not know the law” .. and he intervened to help them with the law. In order to know the law and to apply, Judges must have clean and clear minds. And knowledge is power. Judges (and the AG) must know the law constantly.

I know this aspect will interest you. I have much material on it . We can talk/discuss for a week! So our mind now tells us: “Move on dear Guest Speaker. We cannot risk going to our dinner late” . On that my mind tells me we skip this and go back on “the pattern” and discuss what concerns the topic!

Jiddu Krishnamurti talked of the mind and mentioned “biological density, computers, Mind Control and how the Communists tried that”. The mind is the most powerful tool. You must have heard of “The Power of the Mind”. But you do not hear of the “Power of the Brain? Of the Leg? Of the Ears?”

I read that 98% is sub-conscious mind. What shapes that? Can the computer soon enough develop a mind of its own? We have AI or Artificial Intelligence. We can develop a computer into which the Courts input the evidence (for and against, and hopefully truthfully and in full) and the computer then churns out a decision or verdict! Until that time, our Judges have to juggle with the intricate evidence (especially in complex cases with complicated data) and decide. Let us pray and hope our Judges have the capacity and capability to perform this essential task with honour and honesty.

You will say that judges must possess empathy and so feel the emotion of others, identify and understand the feelings and motives and see the situation from their (Counsel’s, witnesses’) perspective and then mix and turn and reach a sound decision! {Even in this simple example, the parties and their counsel can be at loggerheads with one party, usually the losing side, not accepting what the judges say!)

I read Jonathan Turley of The George Washington University article on “9 Greatest Supreme Court Justices of the US” among about 120. He stated that “only a few managed to see a legal horizon far beyond what their contemporaries could”.

So perhaps Justice Sonia Sotomayor may not fit the bill because to her “judging is keeping an open mind limited to what the law says”. There is no standard profile for the selection of great justices. I once addressed the Bar Council’s International Conference a dozen or more years past where I set out the criteria.

One is health. You cannot have judges who sleep while the trial or proceeding is on. You cannot have a judge suffering from piles or High Blood Pressure. He’ll yell at you when the pains come on. These instances show you that external factors can impinge on the mind to act in ways you do not want in the people who must dispense justice.

Coming back to the “US 9” the writer added that “among the 9 there was the ability to use their MINDS, to rise above conventional thinking and prejudices”.

We are strapped for time. I shall distribute a brief paper outlining their decisions which set them apart. Among the others, some were mediocre in the US. We can bring up our Malaysian judges who were or are incorruptible and made/make sound decisions. And to quote Turley these judges (in the US) “possessed extraordinary insight (minds) that allowed them to transcend their time and articulate far-reaching views of the laws”.

Another instance where I decided on discussing the MIND is the story of China’s Submarine tests before the WW2. I have not found any authority on this but from gossips when I visited (and stayed in Kunming for a month) it appeared that the Chinese Naval Command trained their submarine crew in the Poyang Lake, its largest fresh-water lake covering 3500 sq km (or 1400 sq miles) … to mislead the US whose planes were flying on the coastal seas to spot these submarines! . {Qinghai Lake (or Mongolian “kokonor”) meaning Blue Lake is the largest lake but it has saline}

Here in War (and Peace) enemies and friends mislead one another. But I submit in the service towards justice, the lawyers, witnesses, court staff/officials and judges must never mislead nor put in wrong information or false testimony. Remember: ours is the honourable profession.

You might have been the subject of anger or hatred of a judge. You found that you had difficulty when you appeared in his/her court. Decisions made by any court (or tribunal) against a party just because the judge or arbitrator harbours hatred or anger can never be good or rational. If a judge places his personal feelings and/or extraneous factors in coming to a decision, that ipso facto brings disrepute to the Judiciary. The mind of such a judge or arbitrator is skewed. He/she must be removed.

A recently retired CA Judge, in the Sabah Daily Express, said that a “judge must not decide a case in accordance with his religious or political leanings”.

I was invited to a very interesting historical building in KL .. the Loke Mansion … on Friday 16th. The Law firm of Cheang & Ariff, together with other law firms, hosted the “dinner honouring Dato’ Mohd Hishamudin Mohd Yunus” (who made the statement which I just quoted!) .. My wife and I were at Dato’ Ariff’s table together with Prof Emeritus Datuk Dr Shad Saleem Faruqi and another retired CA Judge Dato’ Syed Ahmad Helmi and his Datin. What did our minds discuss?

In India, there is a different story. According to a September 22, 2015 Supreme Court notice, the Chief Justice of India, HL Dattu , rebuked the lawyers of the Madras High Court for instilling a “fear psychosis” in the minds of the judges, with a constant threat that these lawyers with “mob mentality” might enter Court rooms and shout slogans.

Can we permit the Judges to change their minds? See Fed Ct Lombard Commodities v Alam Vegetable (2010) 1 CLJ 137. Someone said my lecture at the ALA conference in Hanoi (Recognition of Foreign Judgments) managed to balance the minds of one judge from his earlier (wrong?) decision?

Judges must never react. The new Google CEO, Sundar Pichai, expounded the “Cockroach theory”. He reminded us (and more so our Judges) that “reactions are instinctive whereas responses are well thought-out”.

This plainly is the reason why those who appear before the Courts should be given a written “ground of judgment”. The written piece can show the MIND of the judge. And before that, those prosecuting must show their MINDS in the way they present their evidence. Is it not a crime if the people prosecuting especially serious crimes have haphazard thinking and are lacking in enthusiasm in their work? Say a man, accused of murder, has eight elements present in the charge but the prosecutor only offers evidence on three or four AND, in dereliction of duty, purposely hides the other 5 or 4. The Court pronounces the murderer “Not Guilty”. Quite rightly for lack of evidence. The minds of the prosecutors must be examined and the intention to torpedo the case uncovered (and, if not too late, be cured or remedied in each and every case).

Did the prosecutor benefit financially from such inaction? Or did a Master-mind instruct him to do so? In a recent disclosure, via Sky-NEWS, +“Cowardice” sent wrong man to Death Row+. There a prosecutor confessed that his failure to follow up alternative leads in the robbery and murder of a jeweller led to a man being wrongly put on death row for nearly 30 years. The prosecutor admitted: “I was arrogant, narcissistic .. caught up in the culture of winning.”

In the US, the DOJ has constantly monitored such misconduct and rated them as crimes. (Watch Korea’s “Blood Thirsty Prosecutor” (Isn’t he more an Investigator?) in the Kix Movies). Get more information on “What our eyes can’t see, the brains fill in” from researchers in the University of Glasgow : Institute of Neuroscience and Psychology. This is heavy stuff for our session today !

Again we meet the MIND … the wrongful thinking; the misuse of the brain. The extrinsic thought should not play any role in the decision. That is why judges cannot agree with the Management Guru’s lesson of “Thinking Outside the Box” for Judges. They must consider all but within the principles, the facts, customs and the tenets of justice. See “US 9” above.( Remember what Sotomayor said above? She limits herself)

Can we permit the Judges to change their minds? See Fed Ct Lombard Commodities v Alam Vegetable (2010) 1 CLJ 137. Someone said my lecture at the ALA conference in Hanoi (Recognition of Foreign Judgments) managed to balance the minds of one judge from his earlier (wrong?) decision?

Judges must never react. The new Google CEO, Sundar Pichai, expounded the “Cockroach theory”. He reminded us (and more so our Judges) that “reactions are instinctive whereas responses are well thought-out”.

This plainly is the reason why those who appear before the Courts should be given a written “ground of judgment”. The written piece can show the MIND of the judge. And before that, those prosecuting must show their MINDS in the way they present their evidence. Is it not a crime if the people prosecuting especially serious crimes have haphazard thinking and are lacking in enthusiasm in their work? Say a man, accused of murder, has eight elements present in the charge but the prosecutor only offers evidence on three or four AND, in dereliction of duty, purposely hides the other 5 or 4. The Court pronounces the murderer “Not Guilty”.

Quite rightly for lack of evidence. The minds of the prosecutors must be examined and the intention to torpedo the case uncovered (and, if not too late, be cured or remedied in each and every case).

Did the prosecutor benefit financially from such inaction? Or did a Master-mind instruct him to do so? In a recent disclosure, via Sky-NEWS, +“Cowardice” sent wrong man to Death Row+. There a prosecutor confessed that his failure to follow up alternative leads in the robbery and murder of a jeweller led to a man being wrongly put on death row for nearly 30 years. The prosecutor admitted: “I was arrogant, narcissistic .. caught up in the culture of winning.”

In the US, the DOJ has constantly monitored such misconduct and rated them as crimes. (Watch Korea’s “Blood Thirsty Prosecutor” (Isn’t he more an Investigator?) in the Kix Movies). Get more information on “What our eyes can’t see, the brains fill in” from researchers in the University of Glasgow : Institute of Neuroscience and Psychology. This is heavy stuff for our session today !

Let us try a small case:

A 45-year old woman was charged for “possession and custody of narcotics, 2kgm” found hidden among fruits in an unsealed box placed under her seat in a bus from Thailand to Malaysia. Her defence: “I am an old woman, this is my first journey to visit Haadyai. I bought the fruits (oranges, apples and durians) for my grand-children. I do not know who placed the drugs in the box. It was not sealed and anybody could have hidden the drugs in my box”.

Verdict: Not guilty. (Doubts .. unsealed box, so accessible to anyone to put in the narcotics.) But proper investigations revealed (but the Prosecutors did not place the evidence in Court):

From her passport and immigration stamping, she was a regular visitor to Thailand. She chooses to be a passenger on the bus, and selects the same seat. She herself placed the box of fruits under the seat. Nobody could gain access to the box. Intelligence collected indicated she met narcotics gang in Thailand and , upon her return to Malaysia, would bring the box to an address which the Customs had been shadowing as a contact point for narcotics. How will your MIND now respond?

What I can say is that the Minds of a Judge, a Politician and a Businessman are different. The Judge essentially must protect and comfort all humanity with true justice. The politicians are expected to render services and make people’s lives worthwhile. Or they will be voted out if there are leakages and renters. But the businessmen’s first priority is the bottom line. They cannot care less for ethics. They cut corners when they grope for profits. I am sure you know of other differences.

Let us move on to the Master-Mind. Usually the description is used in bad or negative sense. But there are companies who hold out as master-minds. (Research on Mastermind Group Sdn Bhd and Mastermind Training Academy – audience may wish to look into these and others merely as a matter of intellectual exercise.).

It is said that “the mastermind is greater than the sum of the individual minds” or that it is “creative intelligence”. Or that he has outstanding intellect. If he is in the spirit to help build a nation or country selflessly and as a contribution to humankind, that is a good Master-mind.

If his ideas are towards corruption, evil, crimes and harming other people, then he must be the usual “master-mind” that most novels portray. But in real life, they exist and survive and seem to thrive.

You can include someone who can plan and execute, especially skilfully a complex activity, (in real life in Europe and the US bank robberies .. do you know of Ocean’s 13? … in such details to ensure success? There is the Bali 9 where Andrew Chan was described as either the master-mind or Kingpin or Godfather .. and currently on one of the channels you have the Blacklist and its “hero” Raymond “Rex” Reddington is the mastermind.)

A group has selected 20 of the “Greatest Tech Masterminds” for us. Twitter 3 founders, then Mark Zuckerberg, Google 2 founders, the inventor of flash USB drives, then the Brit who give us e-mail-wifi-World Wide Web, Father of the internet: Steve Jobs, and then Bill Gates (who prefers “Windows”). Then the inventor of the Industrial Robot, father of cell-phones, Intel co-founder.  To be fair to the ladies, one Tall Person among the greats was COBOL Common Business Oriented Language Rear Admiral Grace Hopper of the US Navy.

The U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Hopper is named for her. Can we name our submarine after any Malaysian lady? We should ! Can you pick out any or many Malaysian females with minds or intellect so outstanding that you consider they can be listed as “master-minds”?

There is a Malaysian Chinese who could be credited as an inventor but he sold out too quick, too cheaply. Check the list above and tell me which item he “invented”! (USB=(first single chip) Universal Serial Bus/Pen drive.)

Some studies had been made of the characteristics of the master-minds. First they are clear headed. They are well ahead in brain-storming sessions by giving the approaches to situations and how to come up top. I like to add that they are logical and pragmatic as well as attentive. They do not usually lead unless they are invited. They can plan (this is obvious as master-minds must have an excellent mind) and they can articulate their decisions. (Thanks to Wikipedia.)

With such qualities should not all judges be master-minds in arriving at their decisions judiciously and in good time? Do you have any names of judges of this calibre in Penang? In the other States? In Putrajaya?

But wait! .. master-minds are also top-class people! And they learn how to get their tasks done at professional level of quality. So some of the names you pick out may now have to be dropped (?). They are driven to solve complex problems and to create organised solutions. Masterminds tend to make positive statements instead of negative ones. Again here you will have to drop other names as some of the decisions and the way they structure their judgments call for huge and urgent improvements! And now you may drop all other names because Masterminds insist on researching all the available data

Or do you consider your list has people in the class of Isaac Newton? Ben Bernanke? Dwight D Eisenhower? Stephen Hawking? (from Wikipedia). I am sure the list is not exhaustive and may not have considered Judges from the US, UK. Europe including Russia, Australia & New Zealand, China, India, Philippines and other Asian countries like Indonesia, Taiwan, Singapore and our Malaysia. (Shall we call ourselves “3-in-1”).

It is already accepted procedure that there are appeals from the High Courts (HC) to the Courts of Appeals (CA) and thence on to the Federal Court (Fed Ct). There are cases where the CA disagree with the HC decisions and then the Fed Ct may or may not agree with the decision of the CA.

But the worrying piece is where, like in the Soviet era in Russia and its satellites, the courts can only decide as outlined by a hidden hand (the Master-mind Supremo). I used to laugh out loud when I heard this whilst reading for the Bar at the Inner Temple in London. I said to myself “This cannot be because Judges must be true humans with the clean inner core and God above”. But later I was told the Courts could claim to be Open Courts and could receive testimony and evidence. But the Supremo would decide the outcome! The members of the Supremo/”Committee” (or Trio?) were not in the court to listen to the parties! They consciously decided on political considerations.

Hence many cases in favour of the accused or, in civil cases in favour of the defendants, were decided against the body of evidence. A guilty man, in league with the Prosecutors or the Ministers, would go scot free while an innocent man, arrested but nowhere connected to the crime, was convicted. The Commissar/Supremo telephoned the Judge simply to say “Find him Guilty” (or “Claimant must win”) and the Judge had to write and twirl and twizzle some sort of “grounds” to support that decision.

So you see some of those decisions were clearly unsupportable by facts and law. Yet the party was wronged (by the State). This was the way the Master-Minds worked in the Courts in some countries.(Not in Malaysia)

I hope I can end your suffering soon when we finish discussing on Conscience! My authority is the Merriam Webster. “Conscience – that part of the mind that makes you aware of your actions as being either morally right or wrong” or “a feeling that something you have done is morally wrong”.

Let me digress briefly to the politician. According to Al Gore in his “An Inconvenient Truth 2006”, “It is a politician’s natural instinct to avoid taking any stand that seems controversial unless and until voters demand it or conscience absolutely requires it”.

Henry Fielding: “Conscience is the only incorruptible thing about us”. And a German proverb says: “A clear conscience is a soft pillow”. Madame Anne Louise Germaine de Stael: “The voice of conscience is so delicate that it is easy to stifle it; but it is also so clear that it is impossible to mistake it.”

Martin Luther warned: “It is neither right nor safe to go against conscience”. And American Martin Luther King Jr added: “There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe nor politic nor popular but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right”.

And Albert Einstein also cautioned in similar vein: “Never do anything against conscience even if the State demands it”. It is the inner sense of what is right or wrong in one’s conduct or motives, impelling one towards the right action. Also it involves the complex ethical and moral principles of right thinking people. I say “right thinking” because if we get the “wrong-thinking” groups then we are in grave trouble.

And surprise! Surprise! Jessel MR in Re-National Funds Assurance Co (1878) declared that “the Court is not, as I have often said, a court of conscience but a Court of Law”. There you are. One can easily take this stand and decide within the narrow parameters of law and facts. But if our Courts are Courts of Justice, then judges need to do more.

“Justice is conscience, not a personal conscience but the conscience of the whole of humanity. Those who clearly recognise the voice of their own conscience usually recognise also the voice of justice”. (Alexander Salzhenitsyn 1967).

If we go back thousands of years, it was known as Solomon (or Sulayman) Wisdom. But today, except for the barbaric and inhuman corrupt regimes of the world, civilised nations adhere to laws and the constitution. The major worth is to achieve justice. As I said some years ago and repeated a few minutes ago, it is NOT “just” “ice”.

Mahatma Gandhi said: “There is a higher court than Courts of Justice and that is the Court of Conscience. It supersedes all other courts”. Stokely Carmichael: “There is a higher law than the law of Government, This is the law of conscience.”

Toba Beta warns: “Betrayal is common for men with no conscience”. So anyone involved in the administration of justice must have his/her conscience and obey it. If they decide not to bow to conscience then they are open to committing crimes. They can betray our Nation. Watch out for those on the pedestal (“ivory tower”) while the pedestal swings about!

And those in the administration of justice who do not believe in conscience do not also believe in justice. They are most dangerous. Perhaps they want to make money while on the Bench? And live a life of sheer luxury with palaces and castles and maids, drivers and Spas? But be warned by a Chinese proverb: “He who sacrifices his conscience to ambition burns a picture to obtain the ashes”. What is this discussion all about?

Take a case. At the High Court, the Judge makes a decision. The CA reverses it. If that is a criminal case it ends there. In Civil/Constitutional matters, it goes to the Fed Ct.

Where in that structure would the Master-minds enter the picture? If every judge possesses a strong conscience would the master-mind be able to “interfere” and undermine? With the entrance of the master-mind even an iota of justice will fly away. What if I add that the master-mind need not be political or anyone in the Government. What if we agree the master-mind is a business tycoon handing out bribes, either by his “macai” or his counsel, and altering the decision?

We shall not test your collection of cases where injustice has occurred (and more cases can be forthcoming?) where, through master-minds the courts were (or will continue to be) made the instruments to destroy people and families. The Bar, the Judiciary and the Public have to “stand and stare” (William Henry Davies).. and “let the heavens fall”? {Fiat Justitia ruat calum}Do you care? I sincerely hope you do!

Just before we conclude – in the Courts, people are the most important!mIf we select the wrong type, we certainly will pay a high price for our folly. I shall just add here a hypothetical scenario of three “groups”. We must avoid descriptions of race, colour, creed, religion, ethnicity or nationality. Who will you select?

But cannot the persons in the group change and improve?NGroup A: When alone, he tours his own country. When in pairs he tours foreign lands. If they become three or more, they colonise other countries.

Group B: When alone he reads and learns. When in pairs, they begin trade in their land. And when they become three, they visit foreign lands to internationalise their business. Group C: When alone he sleeps. When they are two, they waste time in petty talks. When they become three, they quarrel.

This is to encourage participants to think seriously of person’s MINDS and how, by their actions, they influence their habits and intellect and so conduct their business or duty. It is the MIND that makes the difference between judges and others, between greatness and the mediocre, between bad and good and between true calibre and a hoax. If this talk leads you to thinking after this session, then I am very happy for you.

As a final statement on this session, may I say that people involved in the administration and dispensing of justice must be men of quality and integrity and with the best MINDS the nation can nurture. We have good people in you. (Note Warren Buffet’s 3 qualities .. integrity is topmost.)

In concluding, I have a personal secret which I am anxious to share with you. When I was first approached by Mr Abdul Fareed bin Abdul Gafoor to address Penang lawyers, I was motivated. You must have passed by the Tengku Syed Hussain Idid mosque (now re-named the Masjid Lebuh Aceh or Penang’s Acheen Street Mosque). The wakaf was created in 1820 by my Great3 (or great great great) grand-father.


It was Captain Francis Light who invited my Great3 Grand-father “to move from Aceh to Penang to help spur the island’s economic growth”. Wong Chin Hooi, in the NST of August 30 1993: “Achenese, Bugis, Dayaks, Javanese and Indian Muslims fostered an urban society and lived in harmony in the Islamic spirit”.. and alongside the Chinese, Indians, English, Europeans and others.

And what do we know! My Great3 Grand-father arrived from Aceh in 1792 and passed away in Penang in 1840. James Logan was born in 1819 in Scotland. He moved to Penang in 1839 where he died in 1869. This can mean that both my Great3 Grand-father and Logan were on this island in 1839 and 1840. My My! Those “pendatangs” left their hallmarks.

You do remember that Penang was conferred “City” status twice, first by the British Monarch QE2 and lately by the Federal Government! This is rare and something the residents of this island can be proud of.

It now leaves me to sincerely thank you and the Organisers for inviting me here to meet you. I thank you for your participation. I hope this is fruitful for you. I have gained from your views and thoughts. I certainly will input many of them in my Book. I hope it can be on “How Judges Make their Decisions”.

Education: Need for Critical Thinking

October 15, 2015

Education: Need for Critical Thinking

by Rabbi Dr. Shmuly Yanklowitz

Martin Luther King on Critical ThinkingAccording to the ancient Greeks, dialogue is the most advanced form of thought (Vygotsky, 1978). Critical thinking and dialogue are often made manifest in the form of argument. Dialectical arguments require an appeal to beliefs and values to make crucial decisions, what Aristotle referred to as endoxa (Walton, Reed, & Macagno, 2008).–Rabbi Yanklowitz

Researchers have shown that most students today are weak in critical thinking skills. They do poorly on simple logical reasoning tests (Evans, 2002). Only a fraction of graduating high school seniors (6 percent of 12th graders) can make informed, critical judgments about written text (Perie, Grigg, and Donahue, 2005). This problem applies to both reading and writing. Only 15 percent of 12th graders demonstrate the proficiency to write well-organized essays that consisted of clear arguments (Perie et al., 2005).

Critical thinking and argument skills — the abilities to both generate and critique arguments — are crucial elements in decision-making (Byrnes, 1998; Klaczynski, 2004; Halpern 1998). When applied to academic settings, argumentation may promote the long-term understanding and retention of course content (Adriessen, 2006; Nussbaum, 2008a). According to the ancient Greeks, dialogue is the most advanced form of thought (Vygotsky, 1978). Critical thinking and dialogue are often made manifest in the form of argument. Dialectical arguments require an appeal to beliefs and values to make crucial decisions, what Aristotle referred to as endoxa (Walton, Reed, & Macagno, 2008).

In all careers, academic classes, and relationships, argument skills can be used to enhance learning when we treat reasoning as a process of argumentation (Kuhn, 1992, 1993), as fundamentally dialogical (Bakhtin, 1981, 1986; Wertsch, 1991), and as metacognitive (Hofer & Pintrich, 1997). Significant differences in approach have emerged as to how best cultivate the skills necessary to form, present and defend an argument. Differences have emerged as to whether the best practices include the use of computers, writing exercises, metacognitive activities, debates, modeling, or frontal instruction. To many “argument” sounds combative and negative but the use of argument can be constructive and generative.

Critical ThinkingEpistemological understanding becomes most evident when an individual is confronted with uncertain or controversial knowledge claims (Chandler et al., 1990; King and Kitchener, 1994; Kuhn et al., 2000; Leadbeater and Kuhn, 1989). It is imperative that high school students, of diverse personal, moral and intellectual commitments, become prepared to confront multiple perspectives on unclear and controversial issues when they move on to college and their careers. This is not only important for assuring students are equipped to compete in the marketplace of ideas but also to maximize their own cognitive development more broadly. Longitudinal studies focused on high school students (Schommer et al., 1997) show a positive correlation between educational level and epistemological level. Cross-sectional studies demonstrate that educational experiences influence epistemological development and that it is the quality of education and not age or gender that contributes to different developmental levels of epistemological understanding (Chandler et al., 1990; Leadbeater and Kuhn, 1989). Education is therefore key.

Argument is a more complex and challenging cognitive skill for students than other genres of reading and writing, such as exposition or narration. It is also more challenging for most teachers who may not have the knowledge or experience of working with argumentive reading and writing (Hillocks, 1999, 2010). In addition, most teachers try to avoid conflict when it comes to learning (Powell, Farrar, and Cohen, 1985).

Critical Thinking 2Many teachers have observed that students sitting in classrooms today are bored by the frontal authoritarian model of learning. For years, as a student, I was told to take out my notebook and copy what was written on the board. A curriculum in which they are active participants and engaged in democratic, and cognitively challenging for students works better. In the frontal model, teachers provide the questions and answers. In the argument model, the students provide the questions and the answers while the teachers provide the structure, the facilitation, and the guidance. Students gain the necessary skills to be critical thinkers in a complex society with many different agendas, facts, and perspectives.

Some argue that too much autonomy is given to students in a student-centered environment. But the risk is much greater with frontal lecture education: that our students master content but do not gain the cognitive, moral, and epistemic development necessary to become autonomous critical thinkers. The choice of reading matter for students is also an important factor. Students are unlikely to develop critical thinking skills naturally when their class reading assignments consist only of narrative and explanatory texts, as opposed to argumentive texts (Calfee & Chambliss, 1987).

The goal of an argument curriculum is to enhance the development of the responsible citizens and the pedagogical methodology consists of cultivating argument skills, epistemic development, and moral development. School-based nurturance of this development will lead to students’ autonomous critical thinking and their formation as responsible citizens. We must invest in the education of our youth. They are our future!<

Rabbi Dr. Shmuly Yanklowitz is the Executive Director of the Valley Beit Midrash, the Founder & President of Uri L’Tzedek, the Founder and CEO of The Shamayim V’Aretz Institute and the author of “Jewish Ethics & Social Justice: A Guide for the 21st Century.” Newsweek named Rav Shmuly one of the top 50 rabbis in America.”

The Big University

October 7, 2015

The Big University

by David Brooks

John HarvardJohn Harvard-Founder

“Education…means emancipation. “It means light and liberty. It means the uplifting of the soul of man into the glorious light of truth, the light only by which men can be free. To deny education to any people is one of the greatest crimes against human nature.”–Frederick Douglass

Many American universities were founded as religious institutions, explicitly designed to cultivate their students’ spiritual and moral natures. But over the course of the 20th century they became officially or effectively secular.

Religious rituals like mandatory chapel services were dropped. Academic research and teaching replaced character formation at the core of the university’s mission.

Administrators and professors dropped spiritual language and moral prescription either because they didn’t know what to say or because they didn’t want to alienate any part of their diversifying constituencies. The humanities departments became less important, while parents ratcheted up the pressure for career training.

Universities are more professional and glittering than ever, but in some ways there is emptiness deep down. Students are taught how to do things, but many are not forced to reflect on why they should do them or what we are here for. They are given many career options, but they are on their own when it comes to developing criteria to determine which vocation would lead to the fullest life.

But things are changing. On almost every campus faculty members and administrators are trying to stem the careerist tide and to widen the system’s narrow definition of achievement. Institutes are popping up — with interdisciplinary humanities programs and even meditation centers — designed to cultivate the whole student: the emotional, spiritual and moral sides and not just the intellectual.

Yale CampusYale University@New Haven

Technology is also forcing change. Online courses make the transmission of information a commodity. If colleges are going to justify themselves, they are going to have to thrive at those things that require physical proximity. That includes moral and spiritual development. Very few of us cultivate our souls as hermits. We do it through small groups and relationships and in social contexts.

In short, for the past many decades colleges narrowed down to focus on professional academic disciplines, but now there are a series of forces leading them to widen out so that they leave a mark on the full human being.

The trick is to find a way to talk about moral and spiritual things while respecting diversity. Universities might do that by taking responsibility for four important tasks.

University-of-Chicago-Becker-Friedman-Institute-courtesy-Ann-Beha-ArchitectsUniversity of Chicago–Becker-Friedman Institute

First, reveal moral options. We’re the inheritors of an array of moral traditions. There’s the Greek tradition emphasizing honor, glory and courage, the Jewish tradition emphasizing justice and law, the Christian tradition emphasizing surrender and grace, the scientific tradition emphasizing reason and logic, and so on.

Colleges can insist that students at least become familiar with these different moral ecologies. Then it’s up to the students to figure out which one or which combination is best to live by.

Second, foster transcendent experiences. If a student spends four years in regular and concentrated contact with beauty — with poetry or music, extended time in a cathedral, serving a child with Down syndrome, waking up with loving friends on a mountain — there’s a good chance something transcendent and imagination-altering will happen.

Stanford@Palo AltoStanford University@ Palo Alto, California

Third, investigate current loves and teach new things to love. On her great blog, Brain Pickings, Maria Popova quotes a passage from Nietzsche on how to find your identity: “Let the young soul survey its own life with a view of the following question: ‘What have you truly loved thus far? What has ever uplifted your soul, what has dominated and delighted it at the same time?’ ” Line up these revered objects in a row, Nietzsche says, and they will reveal your fundamental self.

To lead a full future life, meanwhile, students have to find new things to love: a field of interest, an activity, a spouse, community, philosophy or faith. College is about exposing students to many things and creating an aphrodisiac atmosphere so that they might fall in lifelong love with a few.

Fourth, apply the humanities. The social sciences are not shy about applying their disciplines to real life. But literary critics, philosophers and art historians are shy about applying their knowledge to real life because it might seem too Oprahesque or self-helpy. They are afraid of being prescriptive because they idolize individual choice.

But the great works of art and literature have a lot to say on how to tackle the concrete challenges of living, like how to escape the chains of public opinion, how to cope with grief or how to build loving friendships. Instead of organizing classes around academic concepts — 19th-century French literature — more could be organized around the concrete challenges students will face in the first decade after graduation.

It’s tough to know how much philosophical instruction anybody can absorb at age 20, before most of life has happened, but seeds can be planted. Universities could more intentionally provide those enchanted goods that the marketplace doesn’t offer. If that happens, the future of the university will be found in its original moral and spiritual mission, but secularized, and in an open and aspiring way.

A version of this op-ed appears in print on October 6, 2015, on page A31 of the New York edition with the headline: The Big University.

Building a well formed mind: Dr. Shashi Tharoor

October 1, 2015

Dr. Shashi Tharoor On Education

Listen to Dr. Tharoor, an eloquent Educator and maybe we can begin to learn about a well formed mind.

Right now, we teach children by example of the present leadership that cash is king and there is nothing wrong about accepting bribes or becoming a crony or a proxy of some corrupt politician like Dr. Khir Toyo, former Menteri Besar of Selangor who is in Kajang as guest of Duli Yang Maha Mulia Yang DiPertuan Agong. Once a powerful man, Dr. Khir is now a felon who must pay the price for being utterly corrupt. There are still a lot of politicians out there who have yet to suffer the same fate as our convicted broom giver.

It is time we start thinking outside the box and come out with innovative ways of educating our young and showing them ways to lead meaningful and ethical lives. As Socrates said, lead an examined life. Only those engaged in the continual struggle to clarify their thinking and remove the clutter, confusion and incoherence can be said to live free and worthwhile lives. But not all of us are great thinkers or philosophers like Socrates, Plato and Aristotle.

The majority of us like me are simple folks who seek to lead a happy life, taking the good with the bad and overcoming adversity by staying always on the side of the affirmative and rejecting the negative and anything in between like the late Sam Berns.

Sam Berns was a Junior at Foxboro High School in Foxboro, Massachusetts, where he  achieved highest honors and was a percussion section leader in the high school marching band. He achieved the rank of Eagle Scout in the Boy Scouts of America. Sam was diagnosed with Progeria, a rare, rapid aging disease, at the age of 2. Listen to him. –Din Merican