Is there a universal way of clearly knowing the difference between right and wrong?

There’s a certain struggle that each of us can relate to when it comes to decision-making because of its frequent way of popping up in our daily lives. This subconscious fight is the one we battle in our minds regardless of gender, ethnicity, occupation and age. Each day, we all tend to come across at least one instance where we need to decide which choice is best. Usually, most people want to make the right decision and we want to believe that every choice we make is the best one. We ask ourselves simple questions, mentally mapping the best route to take and just hope that we make out okay in the end.

There’s a mystery behind the difference between good actions and bad ones. Every person has a different opinion when it comes down to ethics. It can be based on various reasons such as upbringing and surroundings, but is there a better way, a more universal plan of action to answer all of life’s complex issues? Can we all come to a clear understanding of what is right and what is wrong?

Two types of perspectives which ask and evaluate questions about ethics and the differences people have on morals and principles are normative and virtue ethics:

– Normative ethics argues that actions have no moral worth in themselves. They acquire moral worth when they stand in a certain relation with a principle.

– Virtue ethics considers the problem of what a person’s conduct says about their character.

The Science of Ethics

Virtue ethics is solely interested in the moral character of a person and their positive development through life. Honesty is believed to be part of the virtues list, and if I were to be examined by this perspective on my fictions lie to my grandmother, I would be deemed as morally wrong. Now, if I were to be judged by the normative ethical ruler, they would not judge my lie – they would evaluate the principle behind the lie.

Same goes for stealing. If I were to get caught for theft, even if I was stealing food to feed the eight siblings that I am the sole guardian for, most people who stand by virtue ethics, would call the cops because of the action itself. The sales associate is more than likely not studying aesthetics and wouldn’t be interested in my motive; they would only care about the act and the result that pertains to and follows that specific action. They wouldn’t sit me down in their back office to find out why I stole in the first place.

When looking at virtue ethics on paper, the perspective seems flawless; it asks questions about a person’s character. However, take a magnifying glass to the fine print and use some sort of caution because it’s pretty easy to misinterpret –
A person’s actions are judged first, which then leaves people to their own conclusion, without knowing the motive first.

What’s believed to be good and what’s wrong depends on the intent behind the action. But what if a motive seems good to the person who is acting on their intent, but bad to someone else? Is there really a way to find balance in a world where there are millions of people, with millions of different mindsets?

Evaluative judgments (also known as, normative judgments) base their judgments on the reasoning behind the action, and in a sense, this seems applicable to society. It’s not as if normative theory attempts to prove and rationalize the behavior of people, it wants to comprehend and grasp the true sense as to the reason people do what they do. They tend to ask many questions for the sole purpose of understanding the nature behind the action and whether it is something that can be improved.

Choosing between the theories of virtuous ethics and evaluative judgments, at first, seemed like an easy choice when trying to decide which view should be adopted on all moral problems. I immediately thought that virtuous ethics would be the best method in addressing certain issues, but when making a list of the two philosophies and grasped the notion of normative judgments, I quickly changed my mind.

It’s rather easy and normal for humans to pass judgment on one another. For some odd reason, it’s a part of human nature to do so. Difference in opinion and the basic mystery of the unknown causes more indifference in the world, which will simmer until it bursts into a moral problem that people cannot agree on. It became even more clear when thinking about specific moral issues like the examples presented earlier. Lying and theft are easy to understand the motives behind, unless you’re stealing from your wife and lying to her about it. Normative judgment would assess the husband’s motive, and if he can think of a good, selfless reason as to why he steals from his wife, then his behavior can be logically explained, not justified.

So is there a definite right or wrong answer?

Life is neither black nor white. It’s at best, grey, blue, red, yellow, and every other color in-between – as is life. Morality and the judgment calls of people are not black or white, either. When it comes to life, whether it impacts the world in a big way or affects an individual in a small positive way, problems that affect society should always be clearly examined to gain better insight on.

Can you adopt a normative perspective on all moral problems? Or can we find balance adopting a virtue perspective? The majority of moral issues should be viewed from a normative standpoint in order to give people the chance to stay moral. Not every illegal and criminal act is done out of negative intent and shouldn’t everyone get the chance to explain, not justify, their reasoning.

People don’t always make the right judgment calls, because sometimes things aren’t always so black and white in life. There’s this grey area that exists, and I think this middle part seems like it should be a good balance, but because things aren’t black and white, we shouldn’t just come up with a single law, or principle to guide us through each problem that arises. Every problem should be assessed with detail, without the clouds of bias judgment in the air.


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