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Blondesjon's avatar

Is the concept of "right and wrong" a universal truth or a means of keeping a naturally violence prone society cohesive?

Asked by Blondesjon (33974points) January 7th, 2009 from iPhone

I’ve always been facinated by the idea that we attach taboos to some incredibly silly things and refer to them as wrong. The converse is also true…but seldom as ridiculous. For example: curse words. Do you really think that the other species are uptight about the way you bark, or growl, or honk, or moo, or…well, you get the picture.

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36 Answers

Nimis's avatar

What do you mean by keeping a naturally violence prone society cohesive?
Cohesive how exactly? Also, I think you meant inverse.

cherryberry's avatar

Other species are very uptight about the way you “bark, growl, honk, etc. The sounds they make can communicate many things, including agression; very much like cursing.
Most taboos that we have are really about living comfortably together. There are alot of us…

Blondesjon's avatar

Inverse? Clever…jonsblond is my lovely wife. Cohesive in the sense that since we put restrictions on what we say and do to fool ourselves into the sense that society is held together by our mores.

gailcalled's avatar

@Knot; Interesting but not long enough.

Blond; Give us some examples of taboos that you think are silly and equate them to some universal concepts of right and wrong. I really don’t feel qualified to comment on whether other species are uptight or not, but that’s just me.

marinelife's avatar

Are all of us equally violence prone? I would argue not.

Since there are myriad moral codes, I don’t think we can regard them as universal truths. For example, in some cultures a woman who commits adultery can be stoned to death. Note: In those same cultures, that is not true for men.

One culture’s swear word is another culture’s every day usage.

There are common elements in moral codes. Killing someone is usually taboo (with a few culture-sanctioned exceptions). Stealing is another one common to almost all cultures.

So I think there is little doubt that societies develop moral codes to make society workable.

Beyond that, however, I think there is a baseline right and wrong. I don’t believe in anything goes anarchy. I don’t believe that might makes right.

Blondesjon's avatar

@gailcalled…Let’s stick with cursing. How can you have two words that mean the same thing but while one is cute and inoffensive the other is frowned upon. Example: poop and shit. Tell me which one is worse and why.

Nimis's avatar

Language is very much a cultural thing.
How a word is used adds to its meaning.
In this case, it’s dictated by kids. They say it a lot, so it’s cute.

Plus, it’s phonetically-inclined towards cuteness. Poop!

gailcalled's avatar

To me, neither is offensive. Shit is much more useful when I’m angry, however. Yelling,“Poop, poop, poop” just doesn’t cut the mustard. Humans are, however, the only species who can mix metaphors.

Knotmyday's avatar

@gail- that was the shortest one I could find…that was still really boring. The footnotes were nice.

How about the difference between “darn” and “damn?”

edit: @nimis- inverse. correctamundo!

Blondesjon's avatar

@gailcalled…language is simply an example. Besides, arguing semantics is an oxymoron. I think we all fool ourselves every day in little (and big) ways that we are not animals. This is in no way meant to be an insult to human nature, just a testament to our collective, engorged ego.

gailcalled's avatar

Everyone who believes also in the Id, wave your candles.

DrBill's avatar

The concept of “right and wrong” is a universal truth.

The issue is what is right? It depends on your point of view, and even thought everyone has an opinion of what is right, not everyone agrees.

If my grandfather had his way, we would elect only republicans, if my grandmother had her way, we would only elect democrats. Married over 60 years and they still don’t agree.

Every war that has ever been fought, both side thought they were right, and both sides knew they were doing the right thing.

So: Is the concept of “right and wrong” a universal truth? Yes it is.

Nimis's avatar

You’re throwing a lot of broad ideas around.
But not in a particularly ahem cohesive manner.

It seems that you wish to discuss how socially-constructed mores
are merely a means of differentiating humans from animals.

If this were a paper, you’d need to narrow your topic and choose a strong thesis.
A paragraph on poop and shit adds nothing to your paper.

Knotmyday's avatar

did I just hear…BINGO!!(?)

gailcalled's avatar

@Nimis; You can ghost-write anything for me, anytime.

Blondesjon's avatar

@nimis…I merely wish to point out we consider ourselves different, special, and separate from everything. Is this ego gailcalled? Maybe, maybe not if you wish to argue semantics. I think my most favoritest aspect of the ego is the way it instantly lashes out when it feels it’s being attacked. Why else would a fella post this question nimis? And your quip-fu is quite strong grasshopper. I believe your are ready to snatch this pebble from my hand.

cookieman's avatar

Dude, your talking in circles around some armchair psychology, pseudo sociology.

As nimis said, you need to focus the question.

all things considered, Marina sussed out the best answer

syz's avatar

I think the concept of right and wrong is indeed an artificial construct. But I am too tired at the moment to support my argument. I am, however, hugely enjoying this discussion, and the clever quippage within.

Blondesjon's avatar

@cprevite…lol…is there really any other psychology besides armchair? Any sociology besides psuedo? Again…the ego certainly defends itself.

cookieman's avatar

Yes, well that certainly cleared things up.

Blondesjon's avatar

@cprevite…are you saying that sarcasm is natural then or in a broader sense mamillian?

bodyhead's avatar

Trust me it’s mammalian. I know some sarcastic ass dolphins.

marinelife's avatar

@bodyhead And dogs. And cats. I have not had the pleasure of close-enough acquaintanceship with dolphins, but I am sure they are up to it.

One problem, I have been a victim of sarcastic crows, which may torpedo the mammalian theory.

Vinifera7's avatar

Is there a third choice? I am having difficulty answering this question in the way that it is worded.

First, the concept of “right and wrong” is subjective and arbitrary, which seems to be in contrast with what a “universal truth” would be. However the wording of your question implies that the only other option is that the idea of “right and wrong” is solely a vehicle of cohesion in a violence prone society. Who’s to say that those scenarios are mutually exclusive anyway?

You should really be asking two separate questions:
1) “Is ‘right and wrong’ a universal truth?”
2) “Is ‘right and wrong’ a means of keeping a naturally violence prone society cohesive?”

Mtl_zack's avatar

In my opinion, there is no right and wrong. Everything is relative. One word can be right in one society and wrong in another. The derivation of right and wrong is set up by the culture using the elements that build a society’s priorities in that culture. For instance, if I was part of a sun worshiping culture and cursed the sun, I would be punished because the sun is held in high value. If I insulted the sun in a society where people barely notice the sun, the people would be indifferent. Saying fuck is insulting in western culture because many of western values are based on Christianity which frown upon sex before marriage, but medieval monks would abstain from sex altogther to make themselves holier. The word fuck means to have sex. Because sex is frowned upon in Christian society (at least in the middle ages), it was a bad word. People taught their kids that saying fuck is bad, and this teaching of “saying fuck is bad” has lived on because the generation before told their kids to teach the same lesson.

Knotmyday's avatar

@zack- concerning no right or wrong; as Marina said, there has to be a baseline or standard; otherwise, society disintegrates. If there were no rules, the populace would live in abject fear. There would be no recognizable infrastructure.
Of course, laws and regulations need to be injected with a little common sense- something our legislators tend to ignore.
GA for your “fuck-splication.” have you cleaned your room yet? :^)

paradesgoby's avatar

I think most of what is right and what’s wrong are just concepts that society encourages us to believe just so we can maintain some sort of order that’s completely superficial, knowhwhatimean?

Mtl_zack's avatar

@Knotmyday The rules of right and wrong are based on already existing rules. Those rules are based on rules made before them. The first set of cultural rules were probably made evolutionary rules, such as the need to not die. Cremation helps prevent disease, which lets you live. Often in certain cultures that cremate the deceased, they sprinkle the ashes onto their land. They thought that the dead person was making their corn grow and think that the dead person is watching over them from the afterlife. Actually, the phosphates and nitrates in the ashes are making the corn grow.

These cultures that do this probably have rules against insulting the dead, or have rules that encourage cremation. “Your field won’t grow unless you cremate your dad.”

Knotmyday's avatar

No argument there. The whole “thou shalt not kill” thing is based on an innate desire for survival.
I can imagine the first negotiation, “Ok, I won’t kill you if you don’t kill me. Deal?” “Ok, but what if that guy over there wants to kill me?” “Yeah, you have a point. I don’t want that guy to kill me either.” “All right then, whaddya say we pay that other guy over there to watch that guy, and while he’s at it, keep an eye on y- I mean, us, and we’ll be cool?” “Ok.”

Sakata's avatar

A LOT of really big words have been used in this discussion and, in my opinion, ALL of ‘em are pointless except one… SUBJECTIVE. That’s the one word to cover the “universal truth part of the question.

As far as the “naturally violence prone society” part (shouldn’t violence prone be hyphenated? whatever) it doesn’t really matter since not all societies are violence (- ?) prone, and, in the ones that are, do the violent people really care about right & wrong anyway?

My 2¢

gailcalled's avatar

Jane Austin I trust. And she uses fairly short words; opening of Pride & Prejudice

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”

Mtl_zack's avatar

@gailcalled I do not acknowledge that.

gailcalled's avatar

Austen(1775 – 1817) was an English novelist whose realism, biting social commentary and masterful use of free indirect speech, burlesque and irony have earned her a place as one of the most widely read and most beloved writers in English literature.

Probably more people bought into that in the early 19th century in Britain.

Sakata's avatar

Heh, girls are funny

Kodiakk's avatar

Unfortunately, there is no real “Universal Right or Wrong”... our perceptions and morales are completely formulated by the society in which you are raised. Take cannibalism, for example… wrong in most societies, but in small, isolated areas, completely acceptable. It’s simply a matter of what the majority is willing to accept and what they will condemn.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but that’s just the way it is.

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