General Question

svladcjelli's avatar

Is there always a right thing to do?

Asked by svladcjelli (92points) May 30th, 2009

We all live according to certain principles of right and wrong. We make choices that we believe are right or wrong. What is your moral code? Do you believe is there is a right thing to do?

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42 Answers

Blondesjon's avatar

There is only the best thing to do.

auspex's avatar

You’d be incorrect in assuming that everyone lives according to “right” and “wrong” principles. Many people live their lives with little thought for abstract morality and focus on the practical matters at hand: “How do I pay the bills this week?” “Should I study for this test?” etc etc. For them, the “right” choice is the one that keeps food on the table or in the bellies of their children.
However, my personal guideline is to gain the greatest benefit in the short-term while doing the smallest damage in the long-term.

AstroChuck's avatar

I suppose so, but as a liberal I prefer to always do the left thing.

StarsLikeDust's avatar

Yes there is a right thing to do. However you are unlikely to find many many folks that agree as to what that might be. Might want to check on something like this wiki article for a few perspectives:

AstroChuck's avatar

What is right and what is not is completely subjective. All that one can do is what they believe is true to one’s personal ethics.

Myndecho's avatar

No, thier is no universal meaning for anything and even if thier was why would we have to agree with that?

Wha isthe right answers as said by us you will have to read up on ethics.

YARNLADY's avatar

While the ethical arguements state “there is no universal ‘right and wrong’, there is a socially acceptable way to behave and to not behave. Without getting into any philosophical dissertations, most people do have a sense in their head about what that means, and it is usually instilled by the time they are 4 or 5 years old.

People do not stop and ponder every act they perform, every day, but there is a general behavior that they stick to, which is their ‘safety zone’. It is easy to determine what we want to happen and what we don’t want, and base our actions on that.

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

Define the right thing to do. “Right as in moral? Right as in opposition to wrong? I was in a head on collision many years ago. I am a good driver. Someone crossed the center line and hit me head on. I had no time to react, no time to swerve, no time to avoid the resulting crash. The best I could do was to position the car so that the other car hit mostly on my side and less on the passenger side, since my wife was riding with me. I positioned the car the protect her. My car was completely totalled in the process, but my wife escaped with only a bump on her head.

I’d always said that there was a solution to every problem in an accident situation. That collision proved me wrong. Sometimes all you can do is scream a quick obscenity, brace yourself and hang on for dear life! So my answer to your question is No.

YARNLADY's avatar

@evelyns_pet_zebra Good answer about obscenity; I was in an airplane that might crash land once, and my only thought was “Huh!, I’m going to die” I simply do not have obscenities in my vocabulary.

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

@YARNLADY I have a very vast collection of them, just ask, I’ll loan you one.

Blondesjon's avatar

@YARNLADY. . . i’d prefer you not use “HUH”. you may use language like that in your home but where i come from we like to keep it clean

YARNLADY's avatar

@evelyns_pet_zebra No you Plutoid, I’m one of those ‘make do, do it myself, do without’ kind of people

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

yes, if you live life according to whatever you believe is right and wrong and if you have integrity, you know there’s always a right thing to do – now, you may not know all the facts and it can always go awry, but to me, for example, yes there’s always the right thing to do- you’ll know it by the nagging feeling in your stomach if you didn’t do it

bea2345's avatar

Knowing what is right is one thing; doing it, and persevering with it, can be very hard.

Jeruba's avatar

No. It is quite possible to encounter or imagine situations where there is no clear path of right versus wrong. Lawrence Kohlberg created a series of such scenarios for use in testing the stages of moral development in people at different levels of maturity. Here is a quick summation. Because the situations are gray areas and not black and white, the person’s reasoning to arrive at a decision is supposedly an indicator of his or her moral development.

We also know that both cultures and individuals can have different codes and different standards of what is right and wrong or honorable and dishonorable. Polygamy, for instance, is the norm to some and morally reprehensible to others.

Huston Smith wrote compellingly on the subject of the things that are considered wrong by all societies because otherwise the societies don’t last very long. As I recall (from reading about 20 years ago) these are
– Thou shalt not steal. It’s okay to make as big a pile as you want, but don’t take anything off the other guy’s pile.
– Thou shalt not commit adultery. Messing with the other guy’s woman will always lead to trouble.
– Thou shalt not kill. Go around knocking each other off and your society won’t survive to tell about it.
– Thou shalt not bear false witness. You have to be able to insist on the truth in order to police the other three.

(Forgive any faults of memory, for which I am responsible and not Huston Smith.)

Beyond those things, you can expect a lot of cultural and personal variation on what is right and wrong. And if you view those four commandments as existing in order to preserve the society, one could argue that there is no real absolute standard there either.

However, I do believe that it is part of our human makeup to have a sense that some things are right and others are wrong—a conscience, if you will—even if we have no universal agreement on what those are.

rooeytoo's avatar

For me personally, in my head there is a right and wrong thing to do. It may not be right or wrong according to others’ way of thinking but to me it is. And to thine own self be true.

@Jeruba (love your new avatar) that piece you link is very interesting especially the part about the punishment and reward thought process in young children. Since it seems that it is no long pc to punish a child for bad behavior, only reward good, how do they learn the difference?

YARNLADY's avatar

@rooeytoo It’s easy. We give them a big hug and say nice things to them when they do what we expect, and ignore them or re-direct them when they don’t. They pick it up faster than language or walking. My just barely two year old grandson already looks at me before he tries things, to see if I have my happy face on. If I do, he continues and if I don’t, he moves away.

bea2345's avatar

No. There are times when the available options are limited, flawed in some way, etc. If you are a moral person, over time your decisions will tend to be “right” or at the very worst, “least bad”. More than that we cannot expect.

rooeytoo's avatar

@YARNLADY – Are you saying the information in the link provided by Jeruba is not valid?
A sad face is a better deterrent than a swat on the bottom?

NaturalMineralWater's avatar

What’s right and wrong for everyone else is irrelevant. You already know in your head what is right for you. So yes, there always is a right thing to do. It may not always be abundantly clear to you what that right thing is.. but it’s there.

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

@rooeytoo I don’t see how a swat on the bottom can be a detrimental form of punishment. Wait, are you wearing a belt?! AAAUUGGGHHH!!

rooeytoo's avatar

@evelyns_pet_zebra – stop being such a crybaby, there are no studs on the belt.

Crusader's avatar

‘Thou shall love the Lord the God with all thy heart and soul and thy neighbor as thyself.’ 11th commandment, Jesus

Assuming both principles incorporate a healthy self-image, -a diminished self-loathing, or exaggerated self-importance-the above statement enables all ethical grey areas to obtain focus and clarity.

Blondesjon's avatar

there were 11 commandments?

Crusader's avatar

‘Thou shall love the Lord thy God with all thy Heart and Soul and thy neighbor as thyself.’ 11th commandment.

Assuming both principles incorporate a healthy self-image, a diminished self-loathing, or exaggerated self-importance, the above statement enables all ethical grey areas to obtain focus and clarity.

Yes, @Blondesjon, there were, are, 11. As Jesus was the Son of Man and God, he and only he could deliver it.

Jeruba's avatar

@rooeytoo , I’‘m a bit puzzled by your remarks. I don’t see anything in the link about swatting on the bottom. There are all kinds of ways of punishing a child for misbehaving, and most of them do not involve spanking.

But the point of posting the link had nothing to do with child-rearing. It was to show that it’s possible to construct morally ambiguous situations where not the choice itself but the method of making the choice is thought to correlate to a person’s level of moral development. This is by way of example in answering the question of whether there is always a right thing to do.

dannyc's avatar

The thing being right or wrong is in your space and your perception. You hold the key, make the judgment, and hopefully honor your inner soul to do what feels is consistent with your principles. If you deny your feelings in doing anything, you will most likely make a decision that will produce inferior results. The right, the wrong, the compromise are just labels to our actions, not the actions in reality.

Crusader's avatar


Action Are reality, and have Real Consequence. This kind of exeistentialism went out with Carlos Castanada mysticism and abortion encouragement…The Dead tell no Tales after all..Until you are in judgement…

ABoyNamedBoobs03's avatar

so surprised this over beaten example hasn’t been thrown out there yet.

kill a baby with your bare hands and I’ll give you the cure for cancer….....

what do you do?

action causes immediate wrong.
inaction forces eventual travesty.

there is no right, there is no wrong, only logic.

YARNLADY's avatar

@rooeytoo @Jeruba I see no relationship between what I said and what the link says. I was answering your question “Since it seems that it is no long pc to punish a child for bad behavior, only reward good, how do they learn the difference?” And yes, a sad face is definitely a form of punishment to someone who wants a reward.

dannyc's avatar

@Crusader. Well, I believe what I wrote, thus it is real to me and thus not quite dead yet. But thanks for your feedback. I am no mystic, nor do I encourage anybody to change their mind, just respect people’s well thought out personal and difficult decisions. I am not one who judges anyone, including yourself.

rooeytoo's avatar

@Jeruba -the site that I was directed to used children as an example it said Kohlberg’s moral theory has 3 stages, infant, young children and older children and adults, then he goes on to say “If I got punished for it, or I expect to be punished for it, it’s wrong. If I get or expect to be rewarded for it, it’s right.”

So I said children are no long punished, so how will it work how will they know right from wrong, and Yarnlady says she makes happy faces and sad faces instead of a swat on the bottom.

All seems a logical progression to me. Was I somehow directed to a different link or do you think my progression is amiss?

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

@Blondesjon there were fifteen, but Moses dropped one of the tablets; what, you didn’t see Mel Brooks History of the World Part One?

ABoyNamedBoobs03's avatar

dude… crusader… you crazy holmes…. mucho loco esse`....

augustlan's avatar

In my life, I think there is almost always a right thing to do. When there isn’t, I try to pick that which will do the most good or the least harm.

Crusader's avatar


Most good or least harm sounds like Utilitarianism. A good approach. Are you familiar with non-consequencialism? Consequentialism?

Blondesjon's avatar

@evelyns_pet_zebra. . . <sings> The Inquisition, what a show, The Inquisition, here we go…

Jeruba's avatar

@rooeytoo, you seem to think “punished” means “spanked”. Of course children are punished. That’s why I said there are lots of ways of punishing children, only some of which are physical. Yarnlady mentioned another way. And plenty of parents still do practice physical punishment. So your statement that children are no longer punished is simply not true.

Regardless of how the child is punished, if the child thinks that punishing is what makes it wrong, that’s one level of reasoning. According to Kohlberg. It’s his theory, not mine. Getting into ways of punishing children really strays from the topic. The example at the site I linked uses children’s reasoning as an example to show how people’s thought process changes as they mature.

rooeytoo's avatar

@Jeruba – yeah, later I figured that was what you and Yarnlady were up about. It was just an aside, I didn’t mean to stray from the topic.

Guess someone better give me a sad face so I learn not to do it again!

CMaz's avatar

Yes. At least for today, it might not be right tomorrow.
Right and wrong is how you see it. No matter what others might tell you. Hopefully you are thinking clearly (in your mind) and make a decision that is best for you to live with. And, that is what is right.

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