3 Kinds of Right & Wrong

Do you ever just wake up to a stroke of genius? Me neither, but I came close this morning. As I woke up, I found myself thinking through my position on "right" and "wrong." I don't know why I was doing this, but here's what came to me:

There are three kinds of right and wrong:

Absolute right and wrong
This kind is probably the most overblown and the least understood. Absolutes are a part of life. It's always true that murder (the malicious, unprovoked termination of life) is wrong. Always, there's no situation that changes the fact that murder is wrong. This is an absolute.

Contextual right and wrong
This is the one that's most debated. Contexts, like absolutes, are a part of life. To say that killing someone is always wrong is not correct. It really does depdn on the context, or the situation, at hand. Self-defense and war-time actions are two situations where killing someone is actually upheld by the law. Killing someone is sometimes a crime, and sometimes an action worthy of a medal, it just depends on the context.

Relational right and wrong
This more subtle form of right and wrong cannot be categorized by the other two, except to say that it is ultra-contextual. If you've ever heard someone say they did "what was right for the relationship," then you know what I'm talking about here. Switching metaphors, I'll take the example of the parent-child relationship. When the child is an infant, for the parent to not tend to the needs of their child is absolutely wrong, BUT as the relationship changes and the child grows, children need to be weened slowly off of total dependence on a parent.

Also, if you take the average male-female romantic relationship, right and wrong can change at the drop of a hat. One week, Girl is totally into Guy and tells him she likes him. Next week, Girl is no longer into Guy, but doesn't say anything for fear of breaking his heart. Is this wrong of her for holding back her feelings? Or is this right of her for protecting his heart, while hoping that she might like him again? This is why I believe this kind of right and wrong needs a category all its own.

So, there's my near stroke of genuis. Tell me what you think.


Nelson said...

Man, if brains have an "On/Off" switch, and your brain is set to "On", then could you please help me find my "On" button?

When I wake up in the morning and have a near-epiphony, it's about how to program my database to do nifty pretty things or how to tell my boss to give me a raise.

Maybe the whole "On/Off" brain switch is set up more like a dimmer switch. I just gotta find my switch and up the lighting.

shauna said...

Drew, interesting thoughts. I see where you're going with that. I agree. It seems like there's always this war between those who don't believe in absolutes (or at least they say they don't), and those who believe everything is absolute (the "there is one way for all" type people). But really so many situations are too delicate to judge so quickly with either of those mindsets. Regarding relational R and W, I agree with that as well. I've noticed, being married and all, that some couples are okay with something in the relationship, and other couples may not be okay with that same thing. Life is not as black and white as we may like.

Drew Caperton said...

Nelson, haven't you ever woken up to a brilliant thought only to lose it 15 seconds later, after you've shaken the sleepiness off? I'm a GENIUS 5 minutes before I wake up and about 10 seconds after, then I get dumb again.

Thanks for the comments, Shauna, it's good to know other people see what I see...