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The Problem Of Right And Wrong


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A Situational Argument:

 

The laws of the area in which John lives prohibit drinking alcoholic beverages while driving on public roads.

 

These laws are based on the fact that drinking alcohol impairs response time (among other factors) and the subsequent theory that drinking alcohol while driving is dangerous to the health of the driver and the health and welfare of others who are driving on the public roads.

 

John enjoys drinking alcohol and driving on public roads.

 

John does accept the theory concerning the danger to his health and the health of others.

 

John does not care about the health and welfare of others and enjoys risking his own.

 

John does not agree with the law against drinking and driving; he believes that such laws are human constructs which have no validity in any absolute sense.

 

Once John is riding in the back of the police cruiser the cop begins to tell john that what he did was wrong.

 

John asks the officer what he means by “wrong”.

 

The officer says that it is illegal.

 

John replies that the officer is using circular logic and/or being redundant. If the officer is saying that the action was illegal because it was illegal then he is being redundant. If the officer is saying that the action was wrong because it was illegal then he is still leaving out a definition of wrong, implying that it is wrong because it is wrong, which would be circular.

 

The officer says that ‘wrong’ is what the society has deemed inappropriate behavior, thus making it illegal.

 

John replies that the officer is appealing to the majority of people, as if he could possibly know what so many people actually believe, and as if such a tally of opinions could make something so in an absolute sense.

 

The officer responds that what John did was not necessarily wrong in an absolute sense, but by societal standards and laws.

 

John argues that if this is the case, the officer is again being redundant by saying that John’s action had violated societal standards because it was in opposition to societal standards.

 

BEAT

 

John tells the officer that he disagrees with societal standards and so his action was not actually wrong, but merely illegal and against societal standards. John suggests that the officer is being lazy by using a one syllable word in place of multiple syllable words, or that the officer actually does believe in an absolute righteousness concerning behavior.

 

With this situation I am suggesting that ‘right and wrong’ is often used, not a simplistic rephrasing of ‘legal and illicit’ or ’acceptable and unjust’, but rather as a phrase concerning an absolutist judgment on human behavior.

 

-

 

Right and Wrong: Points of Contention

 

1- Words used to state the obvious.

 

“That is wrong”.

 

If something actually is wrong, then one is stating the obvious; e.g., watching a news program and saying “that is a news program”.

 

Is it a pointless exclamation (e.g., “My God”)?

 

If it is not stating the obvious or a pointless exclamation, then what is it? Is one trying to prove a point? What is the point?

 

2- Words used in place of other words.

 

That is wrong; i.e., that is illegal.

 

Even to say that there are species central universal ‘rights’ and ‘wrongs’ (are there?) and that one is merely referencing these is either stating the obvious or being redundant/circular (e.g., “That is wrong because we have evolved to believe that it is wrong”).

 

3- They are labels motivated by a need to feel in control of things that one finds disturbing, unpleasant and is not in control of (specifically concerning the assumed non-determined actions of others). They allow an emotional judgment to be vocalized giving a sense of control that doesn’t actually exist.

 

4- Confusing words.

 

Many people have many differing meanings for such words and so they are vague and confuse rather than clarify whatever point one is attempting to make.

 

What does ‘right’ mean? What does ‘wrong’ mean? Specifically? Wouldn’t it be far more logical/rational to use more specific and truly universal terminology when discussing matters concerning human behavior?

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Right and wrong are defined socially because they're memes used by a society in order to further the existence of that society.  Those societies with better memes outlast the ones with worse memes, or

The ratification/approval of a nations constitution by the nations people, via majority yes votes at referendum's, binds the people to the laws created by duly elected federal and state governments as

You have stated many times that evolution is random, it is not, it is deterministic via natural selection, gene pools are plastic to the environment, they do not change by random chance or by accident

Better circularly - those societies which continue on have better memes (or have had their worse memes change into better memes, or be replaced by better memes, or be dropped, etc.). 

Consider, for example, the Shakers, who believed that procreation was immoral.  There's no universal truth that procreation is right or wrong, but unsurprisingly there are far fewer Shakers than there are Catholics.  The believe that procreation is not immoral is a "better" meme than the belief that it is immoral.  

Similarly, the belief that someone should not drink and drive is a meme that tends to ensure less death (and societies can reasonably expect that less death -> increased members -> greater chance of continued survival) which is why it is relatively strong.  

Edited by pgrmdave
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Is belief a meme? Seems a bit pointless and redundant. Not really a fan of the word (or Dawkins for that matter), but to each his/her own. I suppose you could apply it just about anything.

 

I still don’t think that such terms, whether or not they contribute to survival, are useful in rational discourse.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Personally I just see "right" and "wrong" as being completely subjective according to the 5 W's (who, what, when, where and why). I would say their actual use is more akin to "beneficial" and "unbeneficial" according to the action(s) and the corresponding consequence(s) brought about in relation to societal standards and expectations.

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I am often encountering people who use the terms "right" and "wrong" in reference to personal emotional response and judgment rather than perceived benefit or detriment.

 

An example: A woman operating the register in a checkout line at a grocery store, "I can understand if someone has a mental or physical disability, but just sitting around all day is wrong".

 

This is not an exact quote, but the expression seemed to have less to do with the possible negative effects of sitting around all day on an individual or society in general than it did a sense of personal disgust.

 

For the sake of clear rational discussion, I prefer words that have a clear rational meaning. I don't think that words such as "good", "bad", "right" and "wrong" can ever truly qualify. I also take issue with the judgmental aspect which seems inherent to such terminology (of course I would not suggest that this aspect makes it "wrong" to use such terms; just not beneficial).

Edited by motherengine
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A Situational Argument:

 

The laws of the area in which John lives prohibit drinking alcoholic beverages while driving on public roads.

 

These laws are based on the fact that drinking alcohol impairs response time (among other factors) and the subsequent theory that drinking alcohol while driving is dangerous to the health of the driver and the health and welfare of others who are driving on the public roads.

 

John enjoys drinking alcohol and driving on public roads.

 

John does accept the theory concerning the danger to his health and the health of others.

 

John does not care about the health and welfare of others and enjoys risking his own.

 

John does not agree with the law against drinking and driving; he believes that such laws are human constructs which have no validity in any absolute sense.

 

Once John is riding in the back of the police cruiser the cop begins to tell john that what he did was wrong.

 

John asks the officer what he means by “wrong”.

 

The officer says that it is illegal.

 

John replies that the officer is using circular logic and/or being redundant. If the officer is saying that the action was illegal because it was illegal then he is being redundant. If the officer is saying that the action was wrong because it was illegal then he is still leaving out a definition of wrong, implying that it is wrong because it is wrong, which would be circular.

 

The officer says that ‘wrong’ is what the society has deemed inappropriate behavior, thus making it illegal.

 

John replies that the officer is appealing to the majority of people, as if he could possibly know what so many people actually believe, and as if such a tally of opinions could make something so in an absolute sense.

 

The officer responds that what John did was not necessarily wrong in an absolute sense, but by societal standards and laws.

 

John argues that if this is the case, the officer is again being redundant by saying that John’s action had violated societal standards because it was in opposition to societal standards.

 

BEAT

 

John tells the officer that he disagrees with societal standards and so his action was not actually wrong, but merely illegal and against societal standards. John suggests that the officer is being lazy by using a one syllable word in place of multiple syllable words, or that the officer actually does believe in an absolute righteousness concerning behavior.

 

With this situation I am suggesting that ‘right and wrong’ is often used, not a simplistic rephrasing of ‘legal and illicit’ or ’acceptable and unjust’, but rather as a phrase concerning an absolutist judgment on human behavior.

 

-

 

Right and Wrong: Points of Contention

 

1- Words used to state the obvious.

 

“That is wrong”.

 

If something actually is wrong, then one is stating the obvious; e.g., watching a news program and saying “that is a news program”.

 

Is it a pointless exclamation (e.g., “My God”)?

 

If it is not stating the obvious or a pointless exclamation, then what is it? Is one trying to prove a point? What is the point?

 

2- Words used in place of other words.

 

That is wrong; i.e., that is illegal.

 

Even to say that there are species central universal ‘rights’ and ‘wrongs’ (are there?) and that one is merely referencing these is either stating the obvious or being redundant/circular (e.g., “That is wrong because we have evolved to believe that it is wrong”).

 

3- They are labels motivated by a need to feel in control of things that one finds disturbing, unpleasant and is not in control of (specifically concerning the assumed non-determined actions of others). They allow an emotional judgment to be vocalized giving a sense of control that doesn’t actually exist.

 

4- Confusing words.

 

Many people have many differing meanings for such words and so they are vague and confuse rather than clarify whatever point one is attempting to make.

 

What does ‘right’ mean? What does ‘wrong’ mean? Specifically? Wouldn’t it be far more logical/rational to use more specific and truly universal terminology when discussing matters concerning human behavior?

 

 

John is an idiot, he is arguing with the wrong person. The police officer has no say in what is right or wrong he just does his job, which is enforcing the law....

Edited by Moontanman
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John is a hypothetical character. You seem to be just trying to argue without any actual argument.

Then he is a hypothetical idiot. You seem to have a problem with right and wrong, society decides what is right and wrong, no objective standard exists, John, if he thinks the laws is incorrect should do something besides argue with a police officer.

Edited by Moontanman
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Though it's true that society determines what can be considered "right" and "wrong", how can society judge these two things when right and wrong have no meaning other than their circumstantial applications?

Governments set the social standards, and as such the definition of right and wrong, or "law". However, governments also tend to do things that, by their implied standards, would be considered wrong. How then are we to accept the notion of right and wrong when those that deem something as such do not fully understand, or follow, the concepts themselves?

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Though it's true that society determines what can be considered "right" and "wrong", how can society judge these two things when right and wrong have no meaning other than their circumstantial applications?

Governments set the social standards, and as such the definition of right and wrong, or "law". However, governments also tend to do things that, by their implied standards, would be considered wrong. How then are we to accept the notion of right and wrong when those that deem something as such do not fully understand, or follow, the concepts themselves?

 

The ratification/approval of a nations constitution by the nations people, via majority yes votes at referendum's, binds the people to the laws created by duly elected federal and state governments as long as those laws do not conflict with the nations constitution. 

 

Hypothetical John doesn't have a legal leg to stand on.

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Though it's true that society determines what can be considered "right" and "wrong", how can society judge these two things when right and wrong have no meaning other than their circumstantial applications?

Governments set the social standards, and as such the definition of right and wrong, or "law". However, governments also tend to do things that, by their implied standards, would be considered wrong. How then are we to accept the notion of right and wrong when those that deem something as such do not fully understand, or follow, the concepts themselves?

 

 

Right and wrong are not decided by societies in a vacuum, it may seem that way to us since the rules were set before we were born but if enough people decide a rule is wrong it can be changed in our society. This is true in any society but it is somewhat easier in some than others... 

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Though it's true that society determines what can be considered "right" and "wrong", how can society judge these two things when right and wrong have no meaning other than their circumstantial applications?

Society judges what's right and wrong based on what society things is right and wrong.  It's a very simple idea once you stop trying to force the concept of a universal morality system into it.  

 

Once you recognize that morality is an evolving standard in the same sense that biology is an evolving standard then you can recognize that "don't murder" is as universal a value as "have a circulatory system".  There's no more objective reason for having "don't murder" as a value than there is an objective reason for life to have a circulatory system.  But that doesn't mean that there aren't benefits to having it, or detriments to not having it, or that having it doesn't make it more likely for that society/species to continue its own existence.

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Society judges what's right and wrong based on what society things is right and wrong.  It's a very simple idea once you stop trying to force the concept of a universal morality system into it.  

 

Once you recognize that morality is an evolving standard in the same sense that biology is an evolving standard then you can recognize that "don't murder" is as universal a value as "have a circulatory system".  There's no more objective reason for having "don't murder" as a value than there is an objective reason for life to have a circulatory system.  But that doesn't mean that there aren't benefits to having it, or detriments to not having it, or that having it doesn't make it more likely for that society/species to continue its own existence.

 

 

So right and wrong are, in actuality, as I mentioned earlier: "more akin to 'beneficial' and 'unbeneficial'", or useful and useless, with the added undertone of morality, containing little substance on a small scale but greater substance on a large scale with regards to continued existence.

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Then he is a hypothetical idiot. You seem to have a problem with right and wrong, society decides what is right and wrong, no objective standard exists, John, if he thinks the laws is incorrect should do something besides argue with a police officer.

What are you smoking? This is a hypothetical situation used to illustrate why I have a problem with words like "right" and "wrong". If you don't like it, than ignore it.

 

Society "decides" nothing at all. And there are many societies, with many contrasting 'rights' and 'wrongs'.

 

Do you even have an argument?

Edited by motherengine
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