This week’s post will be a little short. For those who don’t know, Brooke and I are expecting a little girl to join our family this week or next! Brooke is just over 39 weeks pregnant and Scout LeAnne Stickles is highly anticipated!
With that being said, I did not have much time to prepare for this post.
I thought about what I should write on and the subject of morality came to mind. Morality and ethics are something everyone has thought about. There is an innate sense we have regarding moral actions, justice, and goodness. There have been many different answers as to why humanity has a sense of morality, but today’s post will focus on a simple aspect of the moral dialogue—the “good” and the “right”.
When people discuss moral issues, whether it is a historical issue or a current one, the conversation often confuses the terms “good” and “right”. Many think these things are the same thing, much in the same way as they think “bad” and “wrong” are synonymous. However, this would be a mistake. “Good’ and “bad” are value terms. They express the value of an action. This is probably what most people mean to indicate when they say “good” or “right”. Yet, “right” and “wrong” are action terms, or terms referring to one’s moral duty. So, from these definitions, we can see value and duty terms are not expressing the same thing. In fact, they are very different in their meaning.
At this point, some of you may be thinking that even though they express different kinds of things (value or duty), they could still be used the same way. For, what is good should be the right action and what is bad should be the wrong action. And, I would agree only in part with this estimation. Kicking a baby for the fun of it is a bad action. It is also a wrong action. No one should ever kick a baby for the fun of it. (Also, discussions of morality and ethics often use very dark examples. This is just to make a point easily show that the author is trying to make.) So, in this case, the bad and wrong can both be applied to the same action. Much like saving a baby from being kicked by someone who thinks it is fun is a good and right action.
So, what’s the problem?
The problem arises when there is a conflict of absolutes, or in other words a conflict of principles. This is when someone is faced with only bad options; which is the right choice? Now, not everyone agrees that conflicting absolutes ever happen. Perhaps there is a third, hidden choice. Though I will not argue against this position, I do think it would be very difficult to show that our moral principles are never conflicting in the diverse discourse of life.
Thus, let’s assume that our moral principles sometimes do conflict. We’ll use a fun example. In the third X-Men movie, The Last Stand, it is shown that Charles Xavier put mental blocks in Jean Grey’s mind in order to stop her alternate personality, the Phoenix, from taking over. Aside from brutally ruining the comic version of the Phoenix, Logan (Wolverine) is appalled at what the Professor has done. Logan proceeds to tell Xavier how bad of a person he was by putting mental blocks in Jean’s mind without her knowing. Xavier defends himself by saying, “I had to choose between the lesser of two evils.” What Professor X is saying is that he was given two choices and both were bad: 1) stop Jean’s alternate personality from killing multitudes of people by placing mental blocks, 2) allow Jean to continue to act as the Phoenix and kill more people. However, Professor X believed that he could choose the lesser of the two evils, which was placing the mental blocks. In this scenario, a bad choice was the right choice, according to Professor X. Additionally, he wasn’t saying that because both options were bad, he was justified in placing the mental blocks. He felt remorse for his actions. Instead, he chose the lesser of the evils and recognized it as evil.
A lesson to be learned here is that the right choice should not always be justified. Sometimes it is better to recognize an evil action as evil even if it is the right action.
So, in the case that moral principles do conflict, there will be times when moral actions are bad, but still the right decision. Yet, if an action is bad, what makes it the right one? In the X-Men case above, putting the mental blocks was the right action because it was the lesser of two evils. This, however, is not the only answer that could be given, but it is an answer that will suffice for now.
I hope the rest of your week goes well! And hopefully, our week goes well with the addition of a new member to our family! Until then, think well my friends.