TED Conversations


This conversation is closed.

Do right and wrong exist?

I'm curious about objective right and wrong. If you believe in God, this is a no-brainer. Some things are wrong, some things are right, simply because God says so and He knows. But if you don't believe in God, can you still believe in objective morality? I personally don't think you can. I mean, what do you base it off of? How do you find out what's objectively right or wrong? (By objective I mean "existing independent of thought or an observer as part of reality." from dictionary.com)
Sure, there's subjective morality. Any idea of right or wrong come up with by a human is by definition subjective. That's all well and good. Problem is that it only applies to people who believe in it and it gives them no authority to proclaim anything as "what we should be doing." Very often everybody disagrees with each other and we don't get anywhere. (Just look at Congress for an example of this.)
Maybe you disagree with me and you think there is objective morality but no God. That's fine. I would like to ask you to answer a question for me though. Let's pick an easy one. Why is rape objectively wrong? Don't misunderstand me, I can't think of a single instance where rape wouldn't be wrong. I believe very strongly that sexual abuse is one of the greatest evils in the world. Why is it evil? If you can answer me without using a God-based or subjective argument, I'll concede the point.
That point is this: Without God, there is no such thing as right and wrong, only the things we call right and wrong. And since nobody can agree on what to call what, we're all in a lot of trouble.


Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • thumb
    Mar 6 2013: No, I would not call it instinctive in the scientific sense. I would call the examples you site cultural. But I would posit that within each culture certain criteria exists that designate an innate feel for right and wrong. You seem to be wanting a universal definition of right and wrong. I am not addressing what I would consider lesser instances (i.e. "womenfolk to leave the house"). In my culture, that is not an issue. I am speaking to universal instances, like murder. I do realize their are cultures that condone murder for various reasons. If you examine those reasons, truly examine them, whether they are legal or not in each respective instance, the bottom line is that even in these instances of condoned murders (since we are grappling over right and wrong) there is an element of selfishness and control. Would you like to be on the receiving end? That is really all you have to ask yourself.

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.