Right and Wrong: Absolute or Relative? – Part 1

Greetings, my friend.

I still remember when I took my seat in my first International Human Rights lecture at my university, and my lecturer who has a wealth of knowledge asked us a simple, yet thought-provoking question: is human rights absolute or relative?  As we discussed this point in class, I thought about asking the same question in regards to what we know (or don’t know) about Right and Wrong.

Now I have to admit, I am not a Philosopher, (although I’d love to have all the know-how on Philosophy at my disposal; I imagine having different categories within the mental realms of the brain, flicking sources and information at will) and I am bound to my own understanding of philosophical concepts, nevertheless this challenges me to explore all these in my own time, and to share with you, of course. I may mix up philosophical concepts or, what would be unfortunate, get them wrong totally. To the philosophers out there, please leave your comments below so that I may learn and correct myself.

Keeping the focus on the concepts mentioned above, Absolutism, simply put, is something that is concrete and widespread; it cannot be changed or ignored without incurring some particular consequences, E.g we know that killing something is absolutely wrong. Relativism, again, in my own understanding is something that is permissible only within a set context, for example, one rule or way of life may be acceptable in one culture, but totally wrong in another. The best way I can explain this concept is the following statement that you’ve probably heard someone say: “Just because it’s right for you doesn’t mean it’s right for me.”

Now that the concepts have been explained, we can go forth and attempt to answer the question. As I am a Christian, my analysis will be from the Christian perspective. I will be writing a separate post illustrating my answer. Also, whilst writing this post, it had dawned on me how broad this subject is, and will condense it as much as I can.

I believe and have a strong conviction that Good and Bad are absolutes, even though elements of relativity can pop up here and there. I read a debate earlier on and an example of The Thief was used. The Contender illustrated that if she was a thief and was to steal money from the store, and left a note indicating that they would pay it back in a months time as she wanted the money for support, which will improve her life a lot and will strive to reimburse the funds, then is this truly a bad thing?

The Instigator whilst rebutting had stood his ground and said in this context that stealing from others is wrong. He added a few extra facts to The Contender’s illustration stating that the amount stolen, whether a great amount or not had placed his business in financial difficulty having only one day to pay his all debts. Unable to do so, he loses his business, and his wife and unfortunately commits suicide.

Having said all this, my thoughts are this:

An act which deprives another of a personal, emotional, financial, mental, physical is absolutely wrong. However, this statement is not an absolute statement. We can think of many situations where the overall benefit of an aspect of life is good, but given its own unique context, it is concluded that the act is not right and should be set aside.

A good example of this is two friends who both have feelings for each other and would want to establish a relationship. This is good. However, they both are aware of the inner conflicts that they have. We know that holding a relationship requires time, dedication and emotional maturity, whilst having to balance that with their own projects and ventures as individuals. Sure, being in a relationship is good, but for these individuals, it wouldn’t be the right choice, (unless they believe they could do it and juggle everything else simultaneously).

In the light of relationships, the answer is clear-cut. The concept as a whole, well, it’s not easy to give a definite answer.

As mentioned earlier, I will be writing a separate post on this matter, to illustrate this point even further, but I leave you with this same question. Let me know what you think in the comment section below.

Thank you for reading, friend.

Tunde T. Amao

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