Right and Wrong

might makes right ...


From one perspective right-and-wrong appears simple enough to be branded as cliche. From another angle, however, its solid persona literally melts into the ether.

Simply put, might makes right (and therefore, wrong).

No matter how hard we might try, we cannot get past this. (And as sometime philosophers, we have tried our best to get past it, over it, under it and around it, but we always find ourselves right back in the same spot, as if we had been running in circles.)

If we propose, for example, that whatever God says is right, we ipso facto find ourselves looking square in the face of the biggest might of all, what we are prone to refer to as the Almighty.

Would we truly care about anything that God said if we did not believe He was omnipotent? (If someone demands our money, do we really care if they are not pointing a gun at us, or holding a knife at our throat?)

We also find ourselves at the same place if we embrace the majority-rule perspective. If there were only ten people in the whole world and eight of them said that adultery was perfectly okay, then that would make it so. Adultery would be a completely acceptable behavior. And the only reason it would be so is because a majority constitutes a form of might.

This is precisely what is going on with the whole gay marriage thing. It is only wrong because the majority is claiming that it is wrong.

And for no other reason!

There is no way it could be inherently wrong. There is no such thing. Wrongness is applied to something from the outside, like a coat of paint.

Depending upon our personal sensibilities, it can be a bit disturbing to see it this way. But in the interest of total honesty, it is difficult to see how it could be any other way.

The very idea of right and wrong is just that: an idea, a purely social concept. As with religion, it is nothing but a product of the human imagination. It is not, after all, something that we find in the natural world. We sense not so much as an inkling of right-and-wrong in the animal kingdom. It appears only within the context of human beings in groups, who create it (it seems) out of thin air (and in most cases on the basis of little more than their personal tastes).

As discomfiting as it may sound, it nonetheless must be so. Might is the immediate cause of our very existence. How did we get here? As the result of might, the might of a single spermatozoon.

At our conception (as opposed to another individual's who could have come to be if the conception had taken place but a mere moment sooner, or later) how is it that we were the one conceived and not someone else? That which we are is the result of a particular arrangement of chromosomes contributed by our parents, at a particular moment in time.

How many sperm cells were swimming toward our mother's ovum? Which one made it? Was it right that that particular one was first to cross the finish line? Should another one have won the race? Is it wrong for you to be here? Is it right?

These questions are both absurd and profound. The particular spermatozoon that did make it, at the precise instant that resulted in us being made, created the person we call ourself. A different spermatozoon, at a different moment in time, would have caused a different person to form. Our brothers and sisters (from the same parents of course) are proof of it.

If we feel we have some sort of right to be here it can only be so because of the might of one spermatozoon that just happened to win the race to the ovum at the precise moment at which it occurred.

Might makes right. The whole universe says so.

August 28, 2004

Ethical Nihilism


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