Upon recent confrontation with the issue, I have decided to put my favorite thoughts into words, finally. Often times when I am alone, my mind wanders into thinking- I cannot help it! It seems that my mind’s favorite subject is defining right and wrong. I will, at last, place these thoughts into words as best I can.
A math problem can be wrong or right. End of story. Either 12 divided by 7 is equal to three or not, there is no in between, there exists only one correct answer. Science, too, may provide in some cases right or wrong answers- what a water molecule consists of, for instance. A water molecule cannot consist of Potassium, Oxygen and Nitrogen. Scientific inquiry, study and definition all dictate that such a thought would be simply wrong. It is in these contexts, and very few others, that the words Right and Wrong can be used properly. This is because there are people in the world other than those called Absolutists.
Absolutists believe in only one true answer- all other notions are wrong. Even if a notion has yet to be proved or will someday be disproved, it still holds an answer, and regardless of who knows it, that alone is the truth. So, to an absolutist, the earth revolves round the sun. The earth has always revolved around the sun, even though hundreds of years ago it was a crime to believe so. An absolutist knows that the people who believed other wise were wrong simply because they didn’t believe in the truth. Today, we might believe them to be wrong because it can be proven that the earth does in fact revolve around the sun. To an absolutist, the proof may or may not be necessary for a notion to be deemed right or wrong. It is in the mind of an absolutist to believe that common acceptance, reasoning and popular dispersal have no bearing on whether or not something is right.
There are, though, two other kinds of thinkers, of which I will focus on the Relativist. A relativist believes that truth is subject to change due to the time, age and location of the thinker. So to those who believed that the earth did not revolve around the sun, that was the truth. It was their truth, and so it was true. Whatever proof they had was proof enough that the earth was the center of the solar system. They may have considered themselves right. Until someone proved them wrong. And only through proof can that be done. Today, we know it to be wrong that the earth is the center. Today we know it to be wrong. We cannot know what thinkers will believe in the future, so can we say that we are honestly right?
If you have noticed the importance of the Relativist, then you may move on to the next paragraph; if not, explanation will follow. The relativist challenges the absolutist’s truths. He says that because we don’t know what new proof the future will hold, we cannot know the “absolute” truth, and because we don’t know the “absolute” truth, we cannot decide that any given fact is wrong.
You must see now how science is difficult to predict, and that although it can be proven, it can also be disproved. Hence, even those referring to scientific investigations should use caution when saying “Right” or “Wrong.” Math is different. Math can be proven, but it has yet to be revoked. Although it develops, it has not been undone- that is addition has not been proven false, etc. So I would advise that only in mathematical situations do the words of the day be used. They may be used in science as long as the user is aware that, although they are true now to us, they may someday have been false or will be false, and to some people are false. Simply because someone else may out-prove your theory.
If even the sciences are as sticky as they are, then the ethics are the worst place to use the words of the day. This is because ethics- of which I mean to include the arts, religion, language, and other “humanities” than I know very well are not under the ethical “umbrella;” I use this word to keep things concise- cannot ever truly be proven to the satisfaction of the majority. As much as it pains me to say this, we cannot call animal abuse wrong. We cannot call slavery wrong. We cannot call genocide wrong. Yet, before we move on I must establish that I condemn the aforementioned acts. These acts cannot be considered wrong because there is no way to prove… anything. What would your equation, experiment, look like? Beneficence versus harm? It simply could not work, for test would be to use the act in question. Even if someone could test “right,” what would he or she look for? (These are all questions I expect to be answered by the readers of this piece).
As I have established, truth as I see it is relative to time and place. Although we see genocide to be an atrocity, the man in charge of the most famous genocide actually did it because he thought it would better the human race. He killed millions of people because he thought it would help. To him and to his supporters, they were doing the right thing. To us, they were doing the wrong thing. So who can be proven right? How do we prove the value of the individual? We believe in it, we trust in it, but we cannot show it. Without prove, it is rendered unable to be labeled as right or wrong. Hence, no one can call another wrong for believing what they do. Immoral, sure. Inhumane, sure. But not wrong. Nor right.
To at last reinforce this idea, I will use the common debate of religion. God exists. God may exist. God may or may not exist. God is what you make, how you see, what you choose to believe. What you choose to believe. Since no one now or (I believe) EVER will be able to prove or disprove the existence of God, religion simply cannot be regarded as right or wrong. There are hundreds if not thousands of interpretations of religion in the world and most of them claim that only theirs are right. The followers know that theirs is the right one. But no one honestly knows which one it is, it could never be proven. So none are wrong, they haven’t been proven wrong. None have been proven right, either. If everyone holds their own truth, then their can be an infinite amount of truths. No one must be wrong- at least not until the moment when it is proven either way.
In conclusion, ethics, art, language, religion, politics, philosophy, and any other subject of the sorts cannot be considered wrong. They cannot be proven to irrefutable satisfaction and hence may never be answered. So every truth regarding them may be temporary, relative or absolute, but no one can know, there is simply no means to do so.
Notes at the end
Please respond, debate, challenge, question- it’s the only way we can each understand each other better.
Absolutists must of course disagree- please challenge me.
If an analysis of Right and Wrong is desired in History, I will post one.
The other way of thinking is Subjectivist.
Cecilia Vatera is an expression of ideas. I post my thoughts and inspirations here, in the expectation that those who read it will question and challenge it, pass it to trusted friends and family who will also challenge it, and then explain to me their contradictory thoughts. Please, let this compilation broaden your way of thinking.