Determining Right and Wrong

Is right and wrong relative? How and why do we make judgments of ourselves and others? Is there a way to determine what is right and wrong? Let's think outside the box to find out more.

Determining the difference between right and wrong is one of the biggest struggles of society and within each of us. The problem though, is not determining what is right and wrong, it's understanding how our own beliefs and experiences have shaped what we view as right and wrong. So let's explore how we shape our own reality and where we choose to draw our own lines.

To start with, how and why do we make judgments between different things in life? Well, we need to communicate with each other, which lends us to create a structure of definitions and categories. In doing so, we make definitions and categories for everything that is unique. But, each definition, word, category, etc. can be interpreted however each of us perceive that meaning to our own experiences and realities. Even communities can create cultures and biases and positive or negative attachments to words. And over time, they can even become distorted due to attached stories and experiences.

To better illustrate how we all see the world different, we can look at how we actually see the world through our eyes. Cows see with dichromatic vision (they can only see in blues and yellows, or any color that combines these two colors) as opposed to human trichromatic vision (we have three base colors, red, yellow, and blue). If you asked a cow if an apple is red, it would actually see a different color spectrum than you do, but would agree the apple is red. Also, someone who is color blind, might also see a different color than another person. Each of us have our own unique view of colors, just as we each have different focusing abilities, some of us even need glasses to correct our vision.

So back to the cow analogy, we all learned and agreed upon the shade we ourselves see is called “red.” This agreement is what we end up calling a “definition” to share with others. The definition is used to communicate easier so we aren't using a tremendous amount of words to describe what we are seeing or thinking. We are merely agreeing that we will be labeling the shade we presently see to be “red,” so that everyone can be close enough to being on a similar page (agreement).

In reality, when we compare side by side, the cow actually sees the apple as some completely different color (probably a blackish color) than we do. We both call the color we see “red” and define it as such. Neither the cow or ourselves can tell what the other is one is actually seeing in a “universal” sense. For example, from our perspective, our definition of “black” is actually their definition of “red.” It is incredibly difficult to compare them side by side without a third party perspective. The problem is there is no third party perspective for the universal. No one can see or verify the universal. We can create extremely specific explanations of it, but we can never know what the true universal is. Only things like math can be universal.

So what happens, is we all end up with our own perspectives of nearly everything. To one person, something can be seen and interpreted completely different than someone else. We see this all the time with cultural differences, especially if you've ever been to another country and immersed yourself in their culture. So how can we tell what is the right or wrong perspective if everyone is interpreting everything different? Well, we try to figure that out through normalization amongst our closest groups, communities, cultures, etc. We try to decide what everyone's collective right and wrong is. Essentially what a majority of people agree on. This is the only “right” that we make a judgment about.

All we can do, is to make our own interpretation of what we experience and learn, use it to communicate with others, and let go of our belief that our reality must be the correct universal reality over anyone else's.

Also, just because society calls it “red,” doesn't mean anything unless each individual agrees to use that term AND definition for general communication purposes with each other. It's an agreement, not an absolute.

So what are we left to do with this information? simple, we should be trying to focus on understanding what we are trying to communicate to each other. To understand each other's perspectives, and share experiences that produce what each of us want in our lives, as well as those around us. Only then will we be able to partially understand how we can live and work together to benefit each of us at the same time.

“To use the same words is not a sufficient guarantee of understanding; one must use the same words for the same genus of inward experience; ultimately one must have one's experiences in common.” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche