Friday Question: What’s ‘Right’ and What’s ‘Wrong?’

 

Hello again,

It’s Friday, which can only mean one thing, at least on this blog: the Friday Question.

I’ve been pondering about a thought lately that I’d like to pose to you. I want to hear your responses.

What’s right, and what’s wrong?

Case O' Guns

For me, there is something fundamental not-right about this picture. (Photo credit: Gregory Wild-Smith)

I’ve been musing this question for quite some time. I have gut reactions where I immediately see things as good or bad, as right or wrong as correct or incorrect. And I would like to understand these reactions better. Sometimes I love something, or strongly like it, instantly. When I first became a writer, I felt an immediate pull to the art form, and I knew in that moment, that it was a passion of mine. At the same time, there are things I’ve always inexplicably disliked or have found morally wrong – guns in general, for example. Things that, from an outside perspective, I really shouldn’t have a problem with. But I do.

It’s a similar situation for right vs. wrong. I’ve always seen gay rights as something that is necessary in this society, while I’ve always thought that the wars that America, or any country for that matter, engage in are awful and cause only death and harm. There are certainly those that will disagree with both of those points, though.

Which leads me to ask this question: what is “right”, and what is “wrong”? What do you think? Like last week, anyone can reply.

Looking forward to see what you guys think.

–mrprose

 

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27 thoughts on “Friday Question: What’s ‘Right’ and What’s ‘Wrong?’

  1. Like a famous Supreme Court Justice once said about porn “I know it when I see it.” maybe that is all there is to right and wrong – our opinion. Although, being truthful with you, I don’t really believe what I just said. It’s too easy an answer. Maybe if I have something profound to say ill write again.

  2. Well I think that objective moral values do exist for living beings. These moral values are the result of our evolution. Due to our evolution, we have gained the capacity of self-awareness. This capacity combined with the rest of our thinking mechanism allows us to empathize with other life forms. We can discern between right and wrong. An evolutionary trait that has been embedded into us is that by avoiding hurting other beings we can avoid them hurting us. So in order to protect ourselves, this has been an essential trait. This has also led us to put ourselves in the position of other beings, because we managed to realize that if harm can happen to another being it also can happen to us. If we see an animal suffering, we feel hurt, because our brain anticipates that if such suffering can happen to that animal, then it may also happen to us. If we don’t want it to happen to us, we should prevent it from happening to the animal. If we want someone to help us, then we should help the animal. Thus what’s right and wrong depends on what’s good and bad for life. That which is life-affirmative is good, and that which is life-denying is bad.

    • I agree with everything you say, except “Objective” moral values. Society/reality is socially constructed. We have a social contract and we human beings agree to abide by that contract. It is not objective but subjective. Empathy and compassion for all living things, perhaps all things in general, rule that contract. (although some people choose not to abide by the contract. Go figure).

    • You’ll have to persuade me a bit more on this object moral value thing, because I don’t believe that we can so easily find it. Firstly, what constitutes “objective”, and where does that kind of view on life come from? Also, not all feel pain when seeing an animal in pain. Some willingly inflict it, for pleasure or some sort of entertainment. What do you say to that?

      I know that you said we have a little voice in our heads telling us what is objectively right, but couldn’t that voice easily be telling us to get what gives us material/physical pleasure, or to avoid pain? Isn’t that rather likely, when you consider man?

      • Well ok, by objective I don’t mean that it exists without a subject which is what usually is understood. A value cannot exist if there’s no subject to value it, so moral values can’t be absolutely subjective. But I mean that moral values are not based on the subjectivity of the individual, but rather the subjectivity of life. Life prefers life and detests non-life. This is the result of evolution.

  3. This is a very complex discussion. I recently did a post on Nietzshe’s view of objective morality: http://philosophyblogs.wordpress.com/2012/08/23/54/ I try not to include my personal opinion in my blog, so that I can provide readers with a reasoned and objective view of the world. I love that you ask a question every week as this allows me to express my opinion. There is no objective measure of right and wrong but it can be said that an action is wrong when someone or something is harmed. By harm I mean a state in which a being is worse off. This complicates matters of what is right. Because what you may think is right may harm me. Therefore, ‘right’ can only be defined as ‘that which is not wrong’. What is ‘right’ may not be morally desirable, such as producing porn, but if it causes no harm it is justifiable.

    • I like what was said in your piece, as well as what you say on the matter itself. I struggle to see something as right if it is simply “not wrong”. Have you consider the importances/role of motive or energy? I feel like the things that cannot be seen often mean the most.

      • I understand where you come from with the idea of motives, but this proves that there can be no objective morality. If we rely on motives, we rely on context and this poses problems for your question. So instead of trying to define what is ‘right’, I simply define ‘wrong’ (in a virtually objective sense) and say that which is not wrong must be the opposite. It may not be ‘right’ in a pure sense but it provides us with an objective measure of what is right. I hope this clarifies what I mean. 🙂

      • I get what you are saying, but I don’t see anything that isn’t wrong as being right. And I do believe there is no objective morality. It is something that is a part of us as humans, and nothing more. That’s not to say it’s not a huge part of our lives, but it’s something that exists only through our eyes.
        The reason for why I believe this is because I don’t believe God, or the universe itself for that matter, has any sort of capacity to judge morals. I view don’t God in an orthodox way, and thus, I don’t see God as judging my actions when I die. Thus, I do not believe there is objective morality.
        As for your belief, it’s pretty neat actually. If that’s how you see things, that’s how you see things. I just have to ask, do you really see things as being “right” if they’re not wrong? Does that resonate with you, or are you just discovering things that way?

  4. Nietzsche, ya gotta love him. At the end of his life he was observed to be “insane”living in a frilly, femininely decorated home, dancing naked with himself!!!!

    Porn. I personally think it is wrong because it degrades humanity. It doesnt ask us as humans to strive to be our best. It encourages us to sink to a base level. That makes me sad.

    Utilitarian philosophy says that right is doing the most good for the most people. Maybe that is the best we can expect (although we can still hope for better) in a multicultural world full of billions of people with differing life experiences and views that don’t seem easily reconcilable with one another.

    • I agree with you in saying that porn sometimes degrades humanity. Although sex can be an art.

      And although doing the most good for the most people may be seen as “good”, what about those few that don’t luck out? What if they get the bad end of the deal? Is it still even “good” or “right” in that kind of circumstance?

      • Oh, Prose, I am not saying Utilitarianism is right, I’m just conversing with you. I don’t think there is a satisfactory answer to the question of right and wrong. I’m not even sure that the concepts of right and wrong exist outside of the human mind. I think our problem is the human mind asks unanswerable questions sometimes. And that’s because that’s just how the human mind works – It likes to get itself all mixed up in thinking because it thinks it’s a big shot because it is capable of thinking! Thus, I think the mind is very egotistical!

        Right and wrong are concepts devised by the human mind. Very admirable and important concepts I might add, but I’m not sure if they reside outside of the human mind. Thus they are subject to the weaknesses and failings of the human mind as well and may ultimately be impossible to answer in any way that is satisfactory to every human being past, present or future.

        Eewww, poorly written but I think you’ll get my drift…

        Oh, regarding sex, you are definitely right that it is an art but I’m not sure most people know that.

        Ah, good, we have defined something as “right” after all!

      • You’re answers are filled with much needed humor sometimes!

        It’s actually quite interesting that you say what you did, because much of what you just wrote, I wrote last night for my piece today. Although, being the topic that it is, I struggled a little to explain myself.

  5. Neitchze (sp) ya gotta love a man whose final days are spent dancing naked in his frilly& flowery decorated home.

    Porn. It is not aspirational, it debases humanity. Truth is, a lot of humanity likes debasing itself.

    Utilitarian philosophy says doing the most good for the most people is right. In a billion-people multicultural world finding consensus is hard.

  6. Sorry I ain’t funny ’nuff for you Prose! Philosophy isnt usually funny in my experience. But I still find it interesting.

    Here is my final answer to the question of how do we know what is right and what is wrong?

    A: The Golden Rule. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

    To use the internet as an example, Don’t do stuff like eavesdrop, scare, stalk, hack, etc.

    • No you are! This week’s conversation has been quite a bit more lighthearted.

      And I like that answer a lot. If you read my piece from today, I said something similar…. We can disagree, but we don’t have to hate each other.

  7. What is right? And what exactly is wrong? What I consider right may seem outrageous to you. And what you consider right may seem outrageous to me. It is all a matter of perception when it comes to it.
    When you think about us, most of us think ourselves to be right, even if others deem us wrong. I think that perhaps this is the reason for most of our world’s conflicts.
    Most people go out to do what they see right, even if others see it as evil. We all have our own views. Some people go out, and kill countless innocents thinking that they are doing right, thinking they are contributing to the “greater good” when in reality what they are doing is downright crazy (in my opinion),
    But in reality there aren’t many people out there that are actually evil. Corrupt yes. Damaged yes. Crazed most likely but in their minds they see what their doing to be right.
    Even Hitler. I know, I know he was “evil” but do you think he thought of himself that way? In his deranged mind he saw what he was doing was right and was helping the greater good. In reality it was a mass genocide that destroyed so many lives, for countless generations. I can see that it was wrong, I’m sure you can see it was wrong but he honestly thought he was doing right.
    It is all a matter of perception.
    Not many wars are one sided. Both sides are fighting for their own cause thinking they are right, but in the end it will be the side that won that ends up being “right” and it will be written down in history that they were right.
    Even the most innocent of actions can end up in disaster. The greatest harm can result from the best intentions. If you meet a begger on the street who insists he needs the money to feed his family, you will probably give him the money, well if you are kind of heart. But the begger could then go and use that money to get drunk, get in a fight and in a fit of lunacy kill a man. The man being murdered is not your fault, but the harm did spring forth from your good intentions. If you had instead used the money to buy the man food the murder would never have occurred.
    In a world as diverse as ours, with so many people and so many cultures who can really dictate what is really right and what really is wrong.
    All we can do is stick to our guns I guess, and try not to judge others to harshly by their actions.

    http://secretkeepitx.blogspot.ie/

    • I completely get where you’re coming from and totally agree. I felt like I was reading a blog post actually, haha. It is a most definitely matter of perception.

      To add to your point, I would say that what can be done as well as not judge others so harshly is to try to open your mind and seen things from others’ perspectives. This can be very difficult, but it’s possible, and would go a long ways to helping us see from the same window, even if we all believe in looking through different windows (if that makes any sense).

      Thank you for reading. Seeing that you put so much time into writing this, you may want to check out my follow up post on this question, to read how I see things. And you can also check out the other comments, because some interesting points are being made.

      Thanks again!

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