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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.

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  • Mar 5 2013: Continued from previous post :

    Ex1: It is right to drive on the right-hand side of road in New York and it is wrong to drive so in New Delhi. As per the practice implemented in those cities, you can drive safe on the RH side of the road in NYC but you get killed in New Delhi as you are expected to drive on the LH side. So a rule or law would have been enacted to implement this ‘right’ behaviour based on the convention followed in that place.

    Ex-2: Over a decade back it was ‘less-acceptable’ for a man to travel in shorts or pyjamas on a commercial airline but now none cares if you are dressed casual.

    Ex3: Many are okay to eat meat and many others who are decisively against it. Even among those who eat meat, some would go to the extent of killing you if you present a plate full of cow’s meat or pork as it would be against their religion.

    Ex 4: One is allowed to marry many girls and for another more than one wife is wrong, because their religions allow it and their governments endorse it. In both cases having a relationship with somebody else’s wife or husband is wrong.

    To conclude, the largely accepted ‘rights and wrongs’ are better left so if they help in our lives and amply justified by the past. It is okay to change the wrongs to right or differentiate them according to the user (as in examples 2, 3 and 4) if it does not hurt the social fabric.
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      Mar 6 2013: If i understand your conclusion, i disagree. If human societies are to improve they should constantly examine their values and be open to changes that improve human wellbeing.

      Otherwise there would still be slaves and the caste system unchallenged. No democracy or human rights.
      • Mar 7 2013: Please ask yourselves : if you take some 100 'rights and wrong' as we learnt from our religion or forefathers, how many of them would you find a need to reexamin just for the sake of reexamination ? I opined that there would always be some (largely accepted ‘rights and wrongs’) we would continue to accept the way they were when examined with a rational and open mind even if one CAN go against that just for the sake of taking an opposite view. Example : if your religion disallows consuming pork, why would you want to change that practice among all those following it ? or if you want to consume it would you still want to identify yourselves with that religion ?
        If one group of people have one practice that they consider as right and that too since ages, I feel that, there is no need to seek a change far as it worked perfectly well. There will always be believes or practices of the past unsuitable to the current time which one should try and alter without any guilt attached. Hope this it more clear.
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          Mar 8 2013: Again, since we are talking about morality here, it does not make sense to mix moral philosophy with traditions/customs/religions. The former, though incomplete, is fundamentally reason-based, and constantly questions its own axioms. Respect for traditions without questioning its functions and purpose promotes resistance towards any ideas of change, some of which may be progressive. It may be said that anyone is free to join a religion that forbids pork consumption. Such freedom does not imply that the practice of not consuming pork has any rational or moral basis. If we must err in the search for moral truth, we must err knowing we have tried our best not to err by exploring our moral premises down to their very roots (at least the philosophers must do their job). The failure to do so is even worse than doing wrong.

          Peace.

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