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Short Summary

The author highlights the differences between the needs of individuals and those of institutions. Individuals can use subjective ethical references to meet their needs for survival, reproduction and living together while institutions need objective and universal benchmarks to deliver the “common good” for which they are established.

His search for universal values rests on the laws of nature. The natural forces (gravity, electromagnetism, weak and strong interactions) have submitted to symmetries for more than 13.7 billion years. The matter around us and the spirit that moves us form a unique nature governed by the same forces and are subjected to the same kind of symmetry principles.

However there is a small difference between reality and the principles that govern it! Various models of thought have marked our recent history; the author mentions two which reflect our worldview:

  1. The former, who conceived the world as very symmetrical or “determined” and leaving no room for freedom and evolution.
  2. The new, derived from the quantum revolution that changed the old concept by demonstrating that we live in an “undetermined” world where symmetries break spontaneously and produce a differentiated living and evolving world, scalable and richer.

The author suggests we can build new ethics on “slightly broken symmetries”. It will be indefinite, yet infinitely richer, more universal, more objective and oriented towards the necessities of life.

The author reviews various types of symmetries and suggests analogies with certain moral values of symmetrical nature. He offers a personal view of where freedom comes from. He recalls that the forces are working in unison and therefore ethical (moral) values cannot be chosen separately according to our mood or desires. They are part of a whole.

Finally he questions the meaning in life to observe that “the meaning is lost in the asymmetry” and that “good flourishes around symmetries while evil spits its venom in asymmetric relations and force ratios”.

“In short, choosing the right system of reference (life) and working towards slightly broken symmetries is to find a certain harmony”.