Thursday, January 08, 2009

Yes, it is right. No, it is wrong

There was a good enjoyable discussion in the post below called “New Years Resolutions?” when BB-Idaho, being his usually impish self, added to the discussion that question of the Great American Think Off. The question being “ Is it ever right to do the wrong thing”? When you first read this question the first thing that comes to mind is that you wonder on which side of the creek the guy who thought this question up was born on.

The first problem that needs to be addressed is the idea of the meaning of right or wrong. We use those words so often when other words would be more accurate and clearer. We use the words in terms of morality, whether or not something is sinful. We use it terms of truthfulness, whether or not something said is true. We use it in many other instances also and any reader would be able to come up with their own.

For this discussion of the question, the meaning of it will be strictly in terms of morality and truth. I will use both because it seems to me that you can’t have one without the other. Moreover, it will address another issue at the same time, whether or not truth and morality is relative or absolute.

Experts of morality would say that thinking impure thoughts are acts of sinfulness but in my mind to have never even thought of an act of impurity would be impossibility. However, there would be many that would say that impure thoughts are the best of thoughts but only as long as they remain just thoughts.

War, though, is the best example we can use to examine whether or not there are times when doing the wrong thing is right. Pacifists will say that war is always wrong. Then you have those who will say that war should only be a last resort when diplomacy can no longer be the way to go. Then, of course, there are those who would go to war at the drop of the hat.

Is war ever justified or is it the greatest sin men can commit against each other? Jihadists seem to think waging war is an act favored by God. In the Old Testament, we read that God even chooses sides in a war. Then, of course we have the Crusades of the Middle Ages. While I would not argue with God himself, if He was to tell me that wars can be righteous at times, I’d still be hard pressed to say that wars can be just or righteous from these examples.

There are those that would come out and say wars are righteous if fought in self-defense. However, even this creates a dilemma because a war fought out of self-defense is also a war that is fought by the other side who attacked without a justifiable reason. Can just one side of a war declare the war itself as a justified war? How can any act be declared as justified or righteous unless all participants of that act are acting righteously?

We just fought two wars against different nations, nations that we attacked. Some would say we were justified in one but not the other. Both nations fought back in self-defense. So, from this it can be said that even a war fought in self-defense does not necessarily make a war righteous. So, what is it that we can use to declare wars can be declared as a righteous act?

We can add another element to this equation by remembering that we have recently declared a new concept of human rights. Rights that we consider as being of an universal nature and that no one should violate. You can’t have a war without both sides being declared as violating those rights. Even the idea of a proportional response to attacks would be in violation of these rights. There will always be the cry of innocent civilians being killed from both sides.

Yet, wars can be said as being the one constant throughout the age of mankind. Has there ever been a time when the lion laid peacefully along side of the lamb? I’ll have to admit that I do not have the answer. I will say though that it is my belief that war is one act where the answer to the question is yes but don’t ask if I can justify that answer because within myself I cannot.

I can only come up with one answer to that. That answer would be, that I fear the consequences that might result from the end results of not going to war. That in itself would demand that any war that we participated in must be a war that we resolve to be the winner of.

I will have to admit also that the question has one benefit. It gives reason for The Griper’s existence. He can gripe about it regardless of the answer. lol


Anonymous said...

"Is it ever right to do the wrong thing?" This is like, "Which came first, the chicken or the egg?" LOL

There are sometimes situations that are dilemmas of the "lesser of two evils." Basically, when faced with two unavoidable evils (the key word being "unavoidable", we are obligated to choose the lesser of the two.

What comes to mind here, also, is the scene from "The Dark Knight" in which the Joker gives the people on two different boats the detonators to blow up the other one. He tells them that if one doesn't blow the other up by a certain time, he'll blow them both. The great thing is, both group of people refuse to do it.

The Griper said...

there is a third option, karen, not choosing either one. if it was unavoidable then it will happen without making a choice and only one can occur. then the choice would be on how to address it so as to make it appear that it was not an evil.

BB-Idaho said...

A bit peculiar that the seat of this 'think-off" be a minor municipality in Otter Tail County, MN. Could it be the harsh winters give rise to controversy over context-dependent
philosophical quandries? Perhaps, too many hours sitting in the ice fishing hut? I pass by this town
a couple times a year on my annual trek to my 'roots', and I guess next time, I may run a stopsign while in deep thought. I agree that definitions of right and wrong are critical in this case; are we talking moral, legal, common sense? For example, you are rushing your very expectant wife to the hospital; you run a red light..did you do the right thing? Was it wrong? Certain religions preclude either pledging allegiance or serving under arms; by their lights they are right..others may perceive them as
wrong in giving aid to an enemy.
Still in the religous realm, we note deliniation between kill and murder, "Thou Shalt Not Kill"..but
what about self-defense or protecting your family? Out of sympathy, we have suffering pets
'put away', but decry euthanasia, even when some 85year old fellow shoots his wife at her request made in the agony of a tenth year of cancer. Thus morality and definitions (and typically personal POV) bear on our approach to the question. For sure, next time I go by the seat I will stop at their Subway, order a footlong and ponder futher....:)

The Griper said...

i think a book could be written on the topic and still you'd end up with a question still unanswered. it took me three days just to write what i did and i still left out thoughts. for it seemed to me that regardless of what i thought there was an obvious rebuttal to it that even i could see.

BB-Idaho said...

Sort of reminds me of those literature courses.."You have 45 minutes to address the question..and remember, there is no right answer.." In the genre of
"Did you stop beating your wife?"..or the second Socratic paradox; "No one errs or does wrong willingly.." Another oft-used example is the starving person stealing food, although that is the inverse..doing the wrong thing for the right reason.
There quite probably is no correct
answer. The secret to the contest
will be bribing the judges. :)

The Griper said...

"Did you stop beating your wife?". there is an answer to this one.

the answer is "no, i haven't stopped beating my wife."

i'll let you figure out why that is the correct answer now. :)

"Another oft-used example is the starving person stealing food,...."

funny you should use this example because if you remember the husband was seen in that very same dilemma in the Christmas poem that i used for a post on Christmas, remember?

"No one errs or does wrong willingly.."

seems to me this one deals more with the question of free will versus determination, wouldn't you say? it sounds as if Socrates did not believe in free will.

Average American said...

I think when all choices are wrong, one certainly can, and in fact, must be in the right to choose either option. Here's an example. Your beloved pet is dying--and suffering. It is wrong to make him suffer. It is wrong to kill him. Either action is the right one. How about if instead of your pet, it's your loved one? In my opinion, the same argument holds true. Mercy killing is wrong, but so is letting someone suffer needlessly. Is one of these options less wrong than the other? That depends on who you ask.

The Griper said...

hi AA,
welcome to the discussion. as for mercy killing we know that it is illegal but i think that whether or not it is morally wrong is still debatable. from a third person viewpoint it seems like an easier question than what it really is.

from a first person viewpoint (the sufferer) they must consider the consequences for the person assisting them in dying. is the sufferer willing to allow the loved one suffer the consequences of his assistance, both legally and morally if they believe in a God and if what they are doing is actually wrong?

BB-Idaho said...

"..the husband was seen in that very same dilemma in the Christmas poem that i used for a post on Christmas, remember?" I KNEW I heard it somewhere...I was thinking of Jean Valjean in Les Miserables, but then the Griper writing style is so similar to Victor Hugo's....mea culpa :)
[practicing for the liar contest, you know!!]

The Griper said...

hey, i've been putting what lying i've been practicing to work. i'm in the midst of negotiating an insurance settlement. lol

the agent has been lying thru her teeth. and my debate practice online sure has helped me see thru them. she's painting herself into a corner she will never get out of if i take this to court.

Gayle said...

"No, I haven't stopped beating my wife" is the correct answer because it doesn't merely mean that the husband beats his wife, it can also mean that he never started beating his wife in the first place. Do I get an "A", Griper? :)

As to the original question driving this post, I think you did a good job of answering it, considering that it's such a braintwister. I cannot see how war can be avoided if a country is at danger of being annihilated if it doesn't retaliate. I also agree that if a war is fought in self-defense that it should be fought to win, and that "proportionate retaliation" is moronic, but I guess that should be another post.

I'm going away now. All this before I've had my first cup of coffee makes my head hurt!

The Griper said...

you get an A+, gayle. the question itself presupposes that a man was beating his wife in the first place. and you cannot stop doing something you never started doing in the first place.

it is what i call a argument of conclusion rather then an evidential argument, meaning getting someone to focus on the end results or conclusion rather then focusing on the evidence to lead you to a conclusion.

Anonymous said...

That's why I said "UNAVOIDABLE", Griper-- in this scenario you wouldn't have an option to choose neither.

Here's an example: if your plane is crashing and you're the pilot, and you can either aim for a sparsely populated area or a densely populated area, the lesser of two evils principle dictates that you should aim for the former so as to cause death and injury to the fewest number of people. Does that make more sense?

The Griper said...

ahhhhhhhh karen you are taking me back in time to one of my college philosophy classes. lol

for your scenario to work like that it must presuppose one thing that is false. it must presuppose that we as human beings give equal value to the life of each and every human being. we do not. we give greater value to those closest to us and the value of a person's life diminishes as the relationship gets farther away.

to illustrate what i mean let's take your illustration but make one change. the people of that sparsely populated area are all members of your family. are you still willing to aim the plane at them knowing you will wipe out your whole family?

The Griper said...

remember one other thing too, karen. if we believe in God we always have hope of intervention if we do nothing. and from that hope we realize that since one or the other is inevitable we can allow Him to choose or that somehow a miracle will happen.

we must also consider something else in your scenario. a less populated area is also a more open area and gives you greater possibility of survival. so, would you be choosing to save a greater number of people or choosing to give yourself a greater chance of surviving?

BB-Idaho said...

".., would you be choosing to save a greater number of people or choosing to give yourself a greater chance of surviving?" It can be a noble choice...consider
Medal of Honor winners....

The Griper said...

i'll grant that, BB but it can also be a selfish one. wouldn't intent be in play here?

The Griper said...

we would also have to take into consideration the type of plane too, whether or not it was a commercial flight filled with passengers or just a small two-seater with just you in it.

The Griper said...

however you set up the scenario it illustrate that we do place greater value on some lives more than others. in fact, it illustrates that equality can only be practiced in a society where each of it residence are considered as having the least value.

in fact wars are very good examples of this. we are willing to kill the enemy only because of the value of life we place upon them where we could not be forced to kill a family member.

we even go so far as to give then demeaning names like gooks, krauts, jerrys yanks, rebs etc. every war had these.

BB-Idaho said...

"...gooks, krauts, jerrys yanks, rebs etc." Don't forget libs! :)
IMO, the decreasing value we place on human life, the further removed from immediate family, locale, friends, etc may be more than moral ethics, or even cultural influence. Biologists who study
such (The Selfish Gene, for example) posit a deep subconsious
goal of the individual to be protective of progeny, their progeny's progeny, etc. In humans, the family unit has existed for as long as we can tell. Mammals also, to some extent change personality when it comes to thier young..hence 'never, ever get between a mother bear and her cub!"
Interestingly, this parental bond was exhibited in some examples on the previous Mother's Day post...
As for villifying enemies, we are reminded of the admonition of Arabic mothers for many centuries,
"Be good or Malik Rik will get you!" Their evil Ricky being our
hero Richard the Lionhearted of the
Third Crusade. Other times, the enmity fades more quickly, for example, when I was at a mothballed arsenal being ramped up for the VN conflict, most of the wheeled material carts still bore
painting on the side such as "50 caliber zippers for slant-eyed nippers!" Tis interesting. :)

The Griper said...

ahhh yes, BB. that drive within us called self survival and the survival of the species that scientists declare that all life forms possess.

as for demeaning words i've found another phenomenon about them also.

1 they are meant to identify a group in a derogatory manner.
2 some groups accept the identity and even give the term respect. examples being the terms yank, reb, and cop. other won't and attempt to create a different identity to garner respect. some so far as to have created multiple identities, one after another. one example here might be the term queer or as you pointed out the term lib. look at how many terms black people have used.


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