Saturday, September 3, 2011

Right and wrong, good and bad

This is not an article in the philosophy of ethics and not meant to discuss the controversies in the meaning of the terms. It is about the attitude of people towards them in everyday life.
Most opinions, plans, solutions or actions are compound and have several aspects: good, bad and all grades in between. Good or right and bad or wrong are also relative. Good to somebody may not be so good or even bad for another. The same opinion may be praised by those who look at its positive aspects and deemed wrong by others who look at the negative aspects. The ultimate value of the opinion depends on the sum, the net result, of its various aspects. We generally label it good when the positive aspects prevail and bad when the negative aspects prevail. There are grades of goodness and badness or rightness and wrongness. Two opinions may be different. Nevertheless both may be right with an equal or a different degree of rightness. The good or the right in any matter is not necessarily one. You can go up the hill via different routes. You can move from point A to point B by more than one way and all may be right.
The problem is that many people think and behave according to a concept that any opinion is either right or wrong and if an opinion or plan is right then any one that differs from it is by necessity wrong. They do not conceive of the presence of grades of rightness or wrongness. They have duality of thinking: white and black, no shades of greyness in between. For them there is one right opinion about a specific subject, one right solution for a specific problem. I sometimes hear two people arguing violently, every one claiming his opponent is wrong when, to me as an observer, both opinions seem of similar value each having some positive and some negative aspects.
If these facts are realized and accepted many differences of opinion may be better tolerated.

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