A philosophical question: Good vs Right.

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    Aug 09, 2009 5:31 PM GMT
    I definitely believe in fostering Good. And that's a philosophical point I've written about: The difference between encouraging Good and doing Right. To me, Good is eternal - it goes beyond us as individuals. It is what it is, without regard to time and place. On the other hand, Right changes based on the culture/person that is examining how best to accomplish Good.

    No matter the time, place, or person, Good is universal (e.g. Love). However, totally dependent on time, place, and person is Right (e.g. cultural mores that regulate sexuality). What is Right to one person may not be Right to another. For example, Mass. 2009 does NOT have the same sense of Right as Mass. 1709. That state, in both times, is full of people who want to encourage Good, but this same place at different times has very different ideas about Right and how it leads to Good. Do you actually think a sect of Puritans would get away with hanging 21 people for "witchcraft" in this day and age? The Puritans thought they were Right. So did Hitler. So did the Inquisition. So did the Aztecs. So do the terrorists. In trying to encourage the ideal that is Good, they tried to do what they thought was Right. And that's the problem: I think people should encourage Good. I do not think people should do Right. Good is for everyone, but Right is only for a
    privileged few (and who wants that? BLAH!).

    Thoughts?
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    Aug 09, 2009 5:45 PM GMT


    Well considering both are open to interpretation I guess the the real value would be the intent behind your good or right. Hopefully it's without malice and driven by the do-good-er in you and does that not equate equal in meaning? But the road to hell is paved w/ people who fought for the rt's and good intentions of others.
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    Aug 09, 2009 9:39 PM GMT
    I don't believe in good and evil. What we perceive as good and evil are merely the different ways we interact socially as human beings, a large factor of which is our ability to actually detect the emotions of other human beings and our reactions to it. It only applies to the relationships of humans (or other sentient beings if they exist). A dog killing baby rabbits is not 'evil', nor is the sun bathing a field of flowers 'good'.

    My definition of good for example is trying to put yourself FULLY into another person's shoes and asking what you would like if you were him and then doing it for him. Empathy and Compassion, or perhaps Altruism (the closest word that describes this is probably the Buddhist term Mudita). The act of becoming the other person and doing your best to make him happy in that situation, and being happy yourself because of that.

    Note how I stress 'fully'. Ignoring or not knowing another being completely before attempting to do something becomes my idea of 'bad' or 'misguided good' because of the emotional response being an incomplete mirror of the original emotion. This is where your definition of 'Right' comes into. It's usually because people attempt to codify the good/evil into concrete terms. In doing so limits the reflected emotion. e.g. if a whore is raped and feeling pain, horror, and sadness, a passing person with religious objections against prostitution might stop and feel those very same emotions for a minute which would (normally) have driven him to help the raped whore as fully as he can. But he doesn't, because he has been conditioned by external factors into regarding whores as 'evil' people and thus he represses his mirror emotional response, becoming apathetic to the plight of the whore. OR in some cases, he may actually feel a very different response to the emotion of the whore, becoming angry at her for example despite her state and despite her just being raped.

    Other examples are cases like Honor Killings. Where people who have brought disgrace to the family are killed to preserve honor, thinking that it is also what they want for their families, when in reality they would rather have lived. Or the case of euthanasia, where a patient who requests to die is denied that because of a misguided sense that since killing is wrong, it is preferable to keep a suffering terminal patient alive for as long as possible. Clouded by rules, they can not feel the futile agony of the patient and the acceptance and desire for death.

    This kind of 'right' vs. 'wrong' is most commonly found in religions, strict governments, and strictly custom-bound cultures. Over time, it can be confused and become the idea of what is actually good and evil, replacing the normal emotional responses to other people regardless of circumstances. And yes I agree this right vs. wrong is neither good nor evil. They are often simply about reducing what in reality is a gradient of grays to distinct black and white definition of good and evil, making it easier for the collective but harder for the individual.

    And lastly, not bothering or being unable to know another at all is my idea of 'evil'. Denying full recognition of existence of others and a completely selfish viewpoint in life. As the case with the Nazi war criminals and the Jews. They never stopped to consider the situation from the Jewish viewpoint. Or serial killers who can coldly calculate the killing of another person for some inane reason. This actually describes Psychopathy and Schadenfreude. The former being the lack of a conscience. The inability to feel anything for the plight of other people while still having the ability to know what other people are feeling (hence most often, they are very adept at manipulating people knowingly by showing fake compassion). And the latter being the moral version of sadism. The actual enjoyment of causing harm to other people. But even that is not 'evil'. It's simply an abnormal mental state, that may or may not cause harm to other people. An abnormal kind of empathy.

    In the end, it's all really just depends on context. Nothing in actuality is good or evil (even if you murder a thousand women and children, reality will still go on), on the other hand, everything can be good or evil depending on who you are and what you believe in and how you react to the emotional states of other people.
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    Aug 10, 2009 2:43 AM GMT
    it isn't accurate to say that simply because something isn't good that it's bad, or because it's not right it must be wrong. there are examples of something being good but wrong, or conversely, being bad but right.
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    Aug 10, 2009 8:43 AM GMT
    I kind of see your (dancerjack) take and Sedative's as being complementary. In Sedative's view something is good or bad depending on the other to whom I am doing it or to whom I am affecting; but in the great scheme of things, all will go on in the universe even if an evil dictator manages to blow up the planet because there is no universal principle. But if it exists, I take you're saying that then some actions advance it and others hinder it, independently of the actions conformance or not to a given set of human moral standards.

    The problem with this kind of universal principle concepts is this: if it is really really universal then it is embedded in the nature of the universe (or existence); then, in theory we could no more violate it, advance it or hinder it than we could violate, advance or hinder the law of gravitation from a physical point of view. If we can violate or hinder the universal Good, then you end up with something pretty much like what the Christian church calls sin, or the Buddhist bad karma or imbalance, etc. and with things like "the problem of evil" and the need of justice or re-balance if you are naughty (whether it is hell or reincarnation as an unpleasant being).

    If you want the duality of the second option, then we deal with the "privileged few", that is, the ones dictating what is good and bad depending on their (well intentioned, more often than not) view of what harms or benefits other persons according to their understanding of the universal principle. If you want to change things, become one of the privileged few and hope that that doesn't change you.

    The non duality of the first option is a way bigger less charter territory in my view. We can either go with the Einsteinian "Morals are the business of humans, not gods" and acknowledge that morality is of utmost importance (because it is) but also acknowledge its "humanity" or... as I believe and what I believe you believe too... let that Universal Good be. and let it be through us. I do believe that's a matter of the heart, not the mind; of experience and not philosophy... and experience is personal so...

    I might take heat from the following, but I was raised a Christian, not a Buddhist or a Taoist; even if I am no longer that, these ideas serve me as a "language" of sorts for these things. The spirit of the 10 commandments is actually pretty much excellent in my view, so is Jesus' Sermon of the Mountain, I mean, who can argue with not stealing, not killing, not sleeping with someone else's husband, and so on. But at the end, Jesus said it all comes to love. Now forget I mentioned Jesus at all and just focus in love. I believe love is that principle, that Good you talk about, and is so obvious that we sometimes need to substantiate things a bit for the sake of our intellects and our egos, and in those additives you find the troubles, confusion and contradictions you speak about. I sometimes call that Love God. And sometimes depending of whom I am talking to I talk about it in Christian or Catholic or New Age or Humanistic language but is always the same, at least for me because I try to no longer dwell in the philosophy of it. So I guess, yes, you're right, Good/Love is for everyone... but let's try and not kill each other! icon_razz.gif
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    Aug 10, 2009 8:47 AM GMT
    My take on good vs right is a case by case basis. I don't think one is unconditionally better than the other. Unfortunately a lot of people believe they are good and right, even when everyone else generally disagrees. Former president George W Bush is a perfect example of this.
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    Aug 10, 2009 10:00 AM GMT
    I'm having trouble understanding your agreement, I'm not sure good and right are the best words.


    An action which is right is one which people have been socially conditioned into believing at the time is the proper and acceptable course of action in a given situation but may in retrospect of the outcome have not actually been.

    An action which is good is the moral/ethical superior action based on it's principals regardless of how it is viewed by society


    Am I on the right track?


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    Aug 10, 2009 10:36 AM GMT
    AuthorEngineer said
    The non duality of the first option is a way bigger less charter territory in my view. We can either go with the Einsteinian "Morals are the business of humans, not gods" and acknowledge that morality is of utmost importance (because it is) but also acknowledge its "humanity" or... as I believe and what I believe you believe too... let that Universal Good be. and let it be through us. I do believe that's a matter of the heart, not the mind; of experience and not philosophy... and experience is personal so...



    New age believers prefer to broaden the term into 'Loving-Kindness'. To differentiate it from romantic love (which is almost purely chemical anyway). But even that itself is also the result of evolution. Everything we view as 'good' serves a greater purpose for the advancement of the species. Be it intentional (like a man donating to charity) or vestigial from animal instincts (like the desire of certain women to nurture children, whether or not they are actually her offspring). All of which were pivotal in establishing the survival of the human species and life itself (The 'greater good'). While most of what we view as 'bad' are actually those which contradict the survival of the species (like murder, or war, or rudeness).

    They can change depending on circumstances, such as the way that childbirth and the harvest of natural resources was once encouraged and regarded as 'good' (Go to earth and multiply), but today is deemed 'bad' because of overpopulation and environmental concerns which would indeed be harmful to the species.

    The difference between Good/Bad and Right/Wrong is really... nothing. Good/Bad simply applies to the individual while Right/Wrong applies at the population level. Both are still undoubtedly tied to the human species, or in a broader sense, Earthly life.

    Nevertheless, yeah. Although it doesn't actually have a transcendent supernatural basis, it's still much more preferable to conform with the general idea of good/right rather than evil/wrong, because of advantages it confers on either self-survival or the survival of the species (or not even that, simply the visceral satisfaction that it gives most of us to see other people happy, which is perhaps instinctive). That is perhaps the foundation of secular humanism. It varies little from the religious view of the same principles with a marked difference: Secular Humanism focuses on the practical benefits of such stances rather than the nebulous rewards and punishments system of religious ideologies. It focuses more on good/evil rather than right/wrong.