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There are no Right and Wrong answers in Ethics?

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 1/30/2014 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 785 times Debate No: 44918
Debate Rounds (4)
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When we speak on the issue of ethics and question whether it"s right or wrong, as a person that lives in today"s society we have to choose in what we believe in and clearly I believe that right and wrong certainly do exist. I believe you have to be religious when you bring up an issue like this. Right and wrong are determined by the Bible. Individuals that do not go by, or believe in the Bible do not have any knowledge of right and wrong because no other religious books have clear ways of living. Without God, there is no such thing as right and wrong, only the things we call right and wrong. You might ask, well what is right and wrong, good and bad. The world as we know is full of crime and violence as Thomas Hobbes would say, we are all bad, evil people. Crime, drug abuse, killing, etc. each of these problems represents a collection of individual acts of wrongs, and as a person who does not believe in right and wrong ethics feels as if committing a crime isn't wrong, because there"s no physically evidence of someone saying its wrong. A person who goes against right and wrong doesn't believe in it, because in their mind no one holds that enough power to tell them committing a crime is wrong. Which introduce what people today believe is right doings. Obviously it must be the complete opposite of doing bad, example of right doings are like helping the society, protecting one another, and so forth. But we have to look back on our past ancestors that developed the "State of Nature" and basically what that consists of is giving up our right to do whatever we want. So there is a right and wrong ethic in history and today known as Laws. As humans I believe were born into sin, were born to be selfish, stingy, mean at times, I agree with Hobbes on this portion of his argument. Since were born into sin, does that give me the right to go outside in broad daylight and murder someone who I don"t like? No that"s considered wrong doing, that"s not the way of living. We gave up our freedom to do as we please for societal reasons, protection from the government, and many more reasons. Even though Philosopher Hobbes went on a rant about all humans being evil, Philosopher John Locke thought otherwise. Locke thought that we should have protection and security from the government, but we as people are good so we wouldn't"t need as much security because we wouldn't"t hurt each other. Locke believed that we are good people and that we know right from wrong, we know how to protect each other and ourselves, but what he failed to mention is that people are evil at times, more evil then good. If one is in survival mode, trying to find a place to sleep or eat for days on, that person will commit crime of the sort to get what they need, and a lot of this was going on in the State of Nature. I can relate good and wrong doings in today"s society. For example, if I harm my neighbor because she tried to harm my family, then that will be an eye for an eye, I believe my actions are right, I want revenge. If I"m trying to harm my neighbor because I don"t agree with what she/he are wearing, or she/he said something I didn't agree on then that"s wrong for me to participate in violent actions towards that person. What you believe is right to one person might not be right to the next, but right and wrong ethics do exist in today"s society.


While I would like to agree with the idea there are concepts of right and wrong in ethics, I must take the side that states there is no absolute right and wrong.

First, I'll try to define what morally right and morally wrong are. I'll use eating as an example. Eating provides sustenance and energy for our bodies. It enables us to function in everyday life, allows us to perform other actions, and helps us contribute to society. Eating falls under taking good care of one's self. That, in itself, is morally right. Conversely, overindulgence would be a morally wrong thing to do. The reasons behind it vary: it can be because one overeats for comfort; another reason may be one just loves food and can't help but take up that third helping, or it could just simply be one doesn't know or care when one ought to stop. Excessive eating leads to obesity and other various health problems, as well as costly expenses to try and get back to one's original weight (if they choose to try to go back at all.) So, once again, overindulgence is a morally wrong thing to do. However, in my next point, I'll show how these examples can become part of the "there are no right and wrong answers in ethics."

As it is all too clear in our world today, we have entered a moral "gray zone;" that is to say, we no longer bother to draw an absolute line between what could be considered morally right or wrong. Greed and pride are at an all-time high in the halls of our leaders in Washington D.C., as the gridlock between political parties continue. There is a general antipathy towards religious institutions and the moral laws they attempt to uphold. Understandably, there are those who do not wish to associate with them, since even a number of the leaders and members of these institutions are accused of child molestation and of attempting to cover up said accusations (ie, they look like hypocrites.) America itself has become a poster-child for obesity as well as becoming the trademark for apathy towards one's own health and society's overall well-being. Laws, whether they are in a holy book or created by a government, are disregarded for the sake of one's personal preferences (drug abuse, being one example.) Honestly, these examples aren't really new, but they're the most recent issues that I've personally witnessed.

With all these things that would be considered morally wrong, a majority of today's society has decided to throw responsibility away and simply say, "I'm doing what makes me happy, so 'right' or 'wrong' doesn't apply." Right or wrong are going to make someone feel bad for being what they are or for doing what they do. In order to maintain their comfort and the laissez-faire attitude towards their actions, they are eager for others to suspend judgment for the sake of one's own feelings. In short, a group with the same interest would rather make "right" and "wrong" irrelevant when it comes to their actions.

When "ethics," "right," and "wrong" become irrelevant, they cease to exist in a self-serving gray-zone society that does not want those black and white answers changing their status quo.
Debate Round No. 1


As children we learn what is right and wrong. We learn by physical or verbal punishment. For example, If were told not to touch the stove top because its hot and it will burn us, as children our curiosity kicks in and we go against what we were told. The punishment in this case is getting injured by the hot stove top. Eventually, we continue to learn through adolescent and early adulthood stages. Since my last argument, I stated what Thomas Hobbes thought about human beings and how evil we are. So if were evil, and we know what is wrong then punishment should occur right? We see that if someone commits a crime, the law takes effect and the offender is punished. Punishment happens to be what i think constructs the issue of right and wrong. If were right about something or we participate in right doings then someone or multiple people will acknowledge, praise us. On the hand if we do any wrong doing were punished for it. So when you go against the topic of not having right and wrong ethics, then whats the point of punishment. Why is punishment the cause of wrong doings, why punishment don't account for right doings. Any one who goes against not having right and wrong ethics should not be experiencing punishment at any point in their lives, but since everyone does experience this, then there has to be right and wrong ethics. As humans I believe were born into sin, were born to be selfish, stingy, mean at times, I agree with Hobbes on this portion of his argument. Locke believed were not born with so much evil as Hobbes thought, but Locke never was one sided on the issue. Locke believed that we were bad, but we as good people would not let the bad ruin the good we have inside us. In my opinion it doesn't matter how good and bad you truly are, because anyone in survival mode, especially with children will do anything in their power to survive. In this case people will steal, kill, etc. to get what they need, and even though its for a good purpose, its still wrong to commit crime towards another. State of Nature prohibits acts of violence. We gave up our freedom of committing harm to someone. Since our privilege of not harming or causing danger to someone exists, then punishment will be accounted for if act of violence is presented. The governments does have a say so in this issue as well because they are the ones who protects, secure, and honor the State of Nature. There is a right and wrong ethic in today's society, and I believe people will only turn towards this ethic of right and wrong when something they believe is unfair to them happens, then this rule of good and bad will be presented. As a psychology major, we are taught that people only speak up or educate themselves when something that's unfair to them happens and they want "justice". In this case justice means equality, absence of bias, protecting your freedom. Social Justice, which matters a lot in this topic is right and wrong. A lot of theorists and people have different inputs on social justice, but I believe its how people obey this ethic. If you think there's no right and wrong, then why does punishment exist. If you think right and wrong do exist, is it because you had to use this ethic to get social justice for yourself, or do you truly believe like i do there is a such thing as right and wrong.


"As children we learn what is right and wrong. We learn by physical or verbal punishment. For example, If were told not to touch the stove top because its hot and it will burn us, as children our curiosity kicks in and we go against what we were told. The punishment in this case is getting injured by the hot stove top."

With the example you used, the punishment is severe in that we hurt ourselves and physically learn why such an action is harmful. It isn't necessarily the case that touching a stove top is unethical or immoral, just physically harmful. But if we continue with your point-- that parents teach us the difference between right and wrong-- then I have a rebuttal.

Parents push for a certain behavior in their children and use "right" and "wrong" and "rewards" and "punishments" as ways to ingrain behavioral patterns. If a child is told to stay quiet and be good while Mom or Dad are on the phone, it isn't because it's morally right-- it's because Mom or Dad just want to speak in peace without being interrupted. Punishments are ways to curb behavioral patterns that do not coincide with a parent's personal preference. The same can be said of rewards: if a child gets high grades and is doing well in school, a parent will be eager to promote this behavior and ensure its continuance. It isn't because it's the "right" thing to do, it just means that making this behavior a habit will guarantee that the child will ALWAYS do well in school and thereby increasing their success later in life.

"...In this case people will steal, kill, etc. to get what they need, and even though its for a good purpose, its still wrong to commit crime towards another." Stealing is a good example for the point I'd like to make, so I'll go with that. A thief being punished follows along the same ideas as curbing a certain behavior. It isn't so much that he did something "wrong" as it is he committed an act that damages the overall welfare of the group and authority. The victim of the theft is more upset about the fact he had his things taken from him in the first place, rather than the idea of whether or not it's "wrong." The authority figures punish the thief because the victim (who obviously has more to give to the authorities than the man who was driven to theft in the first place) will make enough noise about the matter. The authority figures want to continue being the beneficiary of the victim's confidence and other assets.

In short, people aren't punished because they've committed a morally "wrong" act: they're punished because their self-serving act did not benefit everyone in the community and the punishment ensures to curb any future acts of the same nature. The same goes for praising or rewarding morally "good" behavior: a community will reinforce the act because it wants to continue benefiting positively from whatever item or service someone is providing.

If I'm understanding right, the goal of your argument is that the idea of right and wrong are inherent; that we have an instinctual comprehension of these concepts. What you're actually arguing for is a human's virtue, or decency. I don't disagree that we have an innate understanding of decency. What I do reject is the idea of something being labelled as morally "right" or "wrong" when different cultural groups all over the world each have an unique spectrum of what they deem "right" and "wrong."
Debate Round No. 2


When you address issues such as right and wrong, instead of defending what others may believe, you should go with what you think is right. Basically, if you"re going against right and wrong do you believe in God? I ask this because religion and who/what you believe in really matters in this case. If you do not believe in God then of course there will not be a right and wrong ethic, but someone like me who believes in God truly believes that there is something called right and wrong. Much of our morality came from the Bible. Since this debate is about ethics, let"s ask the question of "what is ethics"? Ethics to me questions what is right and wrong, and are we participating in right doings. You ask yourself if it"s a right doing by questioning whether the act is legal, or does it harm or offend anyone, and will you be honored or praised afterward. A great example of cultural right and wrong ethics is when cultures across the world practice fetal abduction. Fetal abduction is kidnapping an unborn child out of the mother"s womb. In their culture that"s acceptable, they believe this act of abduction is ok, but in our cultural we label that as wrong. The point I"m trying to reach is people who believe there is no right and wrong ethics should think what this culture is doing is perfectly fine, or doesn"t matter to them. My last debate I posted, I stated that people only bring up this ethic when it concerns them, so if the United States started abducting unborn babies without the mothers consent and right medical tools it would be perfectly fine? This right and wrong ethic only get presented when someone needs this ethic to prove a point, secure them and their family, etc. No one will question ethics until it involves their lives. Back to the example of fetal abduction, people of this specific culture believe that its ok to abduct unborn babies, but in reality it"s not, but what they believe is right might not be right to us but there"s still a right from wrong ethic presented. Another example of people using right and wrong ethics without noticing is when you find yourself questioning "what should I do?" When you ask yourself this question you"re allowing yourself to choose from right and wrong. Should I do the right act, or the wrong act? Today"s society believe in the scientific theory of where people will go once they die, but for a person that is religious, I believe you either go to hell or heaven. Heaven consists of the people who did good acts towards people, themselves, and environment. Hell results in the bad doings. But who am I to say who"s going to heaven or hell. I honestly feel like the people who go against this ethic really do not care about the crime that goes on in America, like rape, murder, etc. People will only care when something like rape or murder occurs in their family or to themselves and they want to find justice. But if you don"t believe in right and wrong ethics, shouldn't"t the man/women who committed the rape or crime be sent to jail, or should they be let free, and will you feel like it"s the right thing to throw them in jail or does it not matter to you whether or not he/she goes to jail or set free. Put yourself in predicaments where you would like to see justice presented in a court room. I truly believe you have to be religious and or dealt with unfair social justice to believe in right and wrong ethics.


What you bring up as 'wrong' under the direction of religion or society sounds closer to what taboo means. "Taboo: a social or religious custom prohibiting or forbidding discussion of a particular practice or forbidding association with a particular person, place, or thing." That's the key thing here. Taboo doesn't necessarily mean a practice is "wrong," just frowned upon by certain people (depending where you are, at least.) Of course, if you ask why something is considered taboo, the first reason anyone will try to give you is that its "wrong" and will assume that that's enough of a reason. Taboo should never be confused with the concept of "wrong." I'll give you examples.

A tribe in Papua, New Guinea holds a ceremony for the male members of the tribe in which they perform bodily mutilation. After being locked inside a "spirit house" for a number of weeks, the males (ranging from as young as 11 to over 30) submit themselves to having their skin cut all over the body in order to emulate the hide of a crocodile: an animal which this tribe reveres as sacred. It is an excruciating process, during which people have died, so it's a very risky thing to participate in. However, if they do not participate in this ceremony, they will never be seen as true men within the tribe. Source here:; Here, in America, we'd be absolutely appalled to see this ritual. We view bodily mutilation as taboo, as something no one should ever commit or talk about. We'd even be quick to call it "wrong." However, this ceremony isn't wrong to the tribe. This is natural, how things have always been, and always will be. They view this as a chance to learn from this opportunity and grow from it.

When faced with such a polarization between values, it's easy to get overwhelmed. However, it's important to realize this is also something we can learn and grow from: there can never be an absolute "right" and "wrong" in ethics because there are simply too many "rights" and "wrongs" to sort out! In order to define an absolute "right," you'd have to make the entire world agree with a certain idea. That's over 7 billion people you'd need to convert to that one single idea. And even then, there might be disagreements; someone might not be happy with the idea at all and won't conform to it. Well, without that one person, you don't have an absolute "right" answer.

As for the point you brought up earlier about fetal abduction, it's an interesting one; however I don't think religion has a particular bearing over it. From what I understood, it's a freak occurrence involving some pretty mentally disturbed women. According to Wikipedia, "Fetal abducting is the kidnapping of an unborn child by forcing a pregnant mother to comply with an early caesarean, and then taking the fetus directly from the mother's womb." The wiki also provided abduction cases, in which the primary aggressors are all women within the United States against randomly targeted mothers also in the US. It's a very disturbing and disheartening phenomena, I have to say, however I don't believe they are the result of the lack of religion in one's life. In fact, there's one case provided ( in which the aggressor plead "guilty but mentally ill."

In the end, I don't think religion is necessarily the best method to measure what is considered "right" or "wrong." I don't think it's necessary for God or any kind of higher power to exist in order for a person to choose between the concepts of "right" and "wrong" answers. There are atheists and agnostics out in the world who don't follow any particular creed and still make choices society would deem "good."
Debate Round No. 3


When you start to believe that religion or God is not a major factor in right and wrong ethics, then why do people follow the Ten Commandments. The Ten Commandments was made so us humans can abide by them and honor them all the days of our lives. If religion is not the cause or even a small factor of right and wrong, when people are being prosecuted in court they ask them to raise their hand and tell to announce the truth, nothing but the truth, and the whole truth so help me God. I used that quote because even in law, when lawyers prosecute the defendants, they tell them to ask God for help, why? Because they need God to help them make it out of this bad situation whether guilty of wrong doing or not. So even in our criminal justice bureau we use some form of religion and God, because that's who and what we turn to when we evaluate the true meaning of right and wrong ethics. Far as my last post about Fetal Abduction, my point I tried to get across was that it's wrong in our society to do such ritual, but it's not wrong to them, either way you analyze this ritual it's a right and wrong presented. Many people don't believe in a god, or don't have a specific religion and that's ok, but any moment in their life they do ask God for help. For example, "God help me" in any type situation where in and need some sort of blessing or power to help us get through we ask god. This is a human instinct for me, it's many Atheist that ask god for help when scared, or threatened, why? Because it's a human instinct for us to ask God for help. So when you say god and religion does not exist in this topics of right and wrong, why do people call on god when someone or something is presenting a wrong doing towards them. No one cares if someone is acting in the right manner around or towards them, god does not matter nor right and wrong! but when something bad happens! everyone screams out as like a choir for Gods help. You gave me great feedback on going against right and wrong, but I believe your only looking at the issue one sided. I presented social theorists, religion, State of nature, and plenty more factors that have a say so in this right and wrong issue. Wrong doings are meant to be punished right? If not, the world would be more chaotic then it already is. Since were born into sin, we cannot picture this world green grassed full of daisies. We are made to do wrong, we are made too sin, we are suppose to grow from our mistakes. Which brings me to another topic, mistakes. When we make mistakes, they might be wrong doing mistakes and we might feel guilty about them, but we're suppose to learn from our mistakes and grow. If punishment is not a key component of making wrong mistakes then what are we learning, how are we growing. We're born to make a foot print in this world whether following a good path or wrong path, and us humans know the right path from the wrong, why? Because right and wrong ethics does exist and it does exist in today's society, and always will exist until us humans can only do the right thing in this world.


Assuming it's true that the Ten Commandments are handed directly from God to Moses, these rules are biblical instructions laying out the guidelines for building and maintaining a close relationship with God Himself, not so much with mankind towards each other. However, that's assuming it's true they're from God. The only source which states so is from the Bible, and that in itself is not a direct source from God. "The Old Testament was compiled and edited by various men[3] over a period of centuries, with many scholars concluding that the Hebrew canon was solidified by about the 3rd century BC.[4][5]" ( The New Testament itself was written in the 300s AD to provide continuity and guidance for the newly-spreading Christianity. In the end, the Bible only dictates the taboos of the religion and does not necessarily point out what can be universally considered right and wrong.

The phrase "Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God" is, I think, a bit misleading when it comes to the legal system. It's not asking for any assistance from God, so much as it's threatening the wrath of God. It implies dire consequences to those who perjure while in court. For those who are religious, the phrase "so help you God" will remind them of the rules set in place by his or her credo. In short, it's an outdated phrase and while the goal of it is to make sure someone is being truthful, the goal of it does not necessarily guarantee the person will be truthful.

As for fetal abduction, you're right in that the aggressor's actions do not seem wrong to them. But that just reinforces my point: it's would be considered wrong to us, but they see it as entirely good and justified. Sure, there's a massive majority that disagrees with their point of view, but being the majority doesn't necessarily make a group of people right. There is no absolute right and wrong in ethics when both sides believe they're justified or correct.

When it comes to people calling out to God in times of chaos or trouble or when they need His help, I won't pretend it doesn't happen. I would hate to underestimate or undervalue a person's faith simply for the sake of a debate. But, I feel it's safe to say that it's not necessarily the case that it's a human instinct to look for answers in a higher power. Sometimes too, when frustrated, there are people who will invoke the name of God or any other deity simply because the phrases have become day-to-day slang. "Oh my god" and "Jesus Christ" (phrases used out of shock, fear, horror, anger, and even excitement) have little meaning today where Christianity no longer dominates the social strata.

You've brought up really interesting points and it's been a blast debating with you! I still have to say though that there are no absolute right and wrong answers in ethics because there are just too many answers in this world to pick and choose from. Even my answer isn't necessarily a right answer! That's the fun of ethics though: you can pick and choose what right and wrong answers you want to understand in your life and in the end, no one can really tell you whether you've picked right or wrong. That's for you to figure out as you go along in life.
Debate Round No. 4
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Posted by kbub 2 years ago
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