What’s left?

That was a pun. “What’s left” was my insanely punny way of saying “what’s wrong?”

I won’t be able to reproduce the arguments exactly, or at all, really. And I hope Bee’s okay with my posting of it here.

On the train ride home today, with Fel and Bee, Bee started a discussion about the Saudi Arabians stoning women to death for a certain reason within their society. I think it was as a sort of punishment for committing a crime but I really can’t remember.

Bee put to us that we really shouldn’t (or rather, not “shouldn’t” but that it doesn’t really achieve anything if we) decide and see whether it is “right” or “wrong” for them to do this. Their society and culture does not view it as “wrong” and we only see it as such because we were brought up to see it that way.

My basic argument had been that it is wrong and we can say that it is wrong even without understanding fully their culture because every human has a intrinsic right to live, and to take away that right (or the “arbitrary deprivation of their lives”) is intrinsically wrong.

Bee countered (along with Fel) that it is not actually our “right” to live. “Rights” were  a convention set up by society. Sure, we have the “will” to live, but in certain situations that will to live does not amount to anything significant.

(This, by the way, is a horrendously abridged version of the debate we had, and in the wrong chronological order as well.)

Thus, by convention, we believe that the stoning of these women are “wrong”. Are they actually “wrong”? And what is “wrong”? By saying that such acts are wrong, it does not do anything to help or stop it from happening, and really “it’s just them complaining” (in the slightly paraphrased words of Bianca herself).

I then put to her that, “Yes, it is just complaining. But by complaining you are at least giving that slight possibility of something BEING done, whereas if you don’t complain nothing will be done and that’s that. It’s like a kid complaining to his mom about being hit by his brother. Complaining about it MIGHT get the mom to tell the brother off, or the brother to stop, but not complaining about it will just make him keep going, or make the situation worse.”

That stopped Bianca for while, but we’d also gone on to another topic.

Are humans intrinsically evil?

I’d put that, yes, humans are intrinsically evil. Take for example the Stanford Experiment. When given the power and the authority, all humans will inevitably start relishing in the power, and abusing it and whomever their power grants them command over.

Fel had argued that while humans may have evil parts in them, intrinsically, it is also true that there are purely good parts in everyone. Absolutely everyone. Bianca agreed, saying that even Hitler had good parts in him, because despite what his actions really were, to him they were the “right thing” (and here is that term again) and his acting upon these beliefs show he is a good person (was that your point, Bianca?)

The discussion then petered out at that point. No one “won” per se but I think Bianca had the slight upper hand in the end, regarding the Saudi Arabian argument.

What is it that you believe? Were those actions wrong? Were those actions justified by the cultural differences? Is society to blame? Is there actually no way of determining whether those actions are right because, in the end, there is no such thing as “right”?


P.S. I’m not going to be patronizing, just helpful. If by chance anyone who read this wasn’t sure what “intrinsically” actually means:

Princeton: belonging to a thing by its very nature; “form was treated as something intrinsic, as the very essence of the thing”- John Dewey

So sort of like saying “water is intrinsically wet”. Sort of.

9 thoughts on “What’s left?

  1. It took me approximately six and a half hours to see the pun in the title, I am that slow.
    Uh, I’m not too familiar with the stoning in Saudi Arabia but I think it happens to women who cheat on their husbands or something like that. And I’m asking, do men get stoned for committing the same crime? If it’s only punishable for women, then you really can’t justify this form of punishment because only a selected few (guessing males) decide what is ‘right’. So isn’t the concept of what is ‘right’ also a “convention set up by society”? For something to be deemed as the ‘right’ thing to do, it would have to be commonly accepted across society ot else it wouldn’t be entirely ‘right’.

    As for where the blame lies, I don’t think it’s with society.They have internet access in Saudi Arabia, no? I’m pretty sure the ‘stoners’ are aware of the more ‘civilised’ forms of punishment but then again, it’s their traditinal way of killing so I it might upset some people that they aren’t allowed to inflic pain on others. Just gonna throw it out there but I think the ‘stoners’ are just people who have been consumed by schadenfreude.

    A lot of people don’t believe some bits of the law is “right” but they still have to abide by it because by convention it is the “right thing to do”, to abide by the law. And I was going to ask Dom but I’ll ask you instead: What is Schadenfreude?

  2. omg! i learnt what schadenfreude was last week in english class..
    anyway ill think of a good anwswer later.. its kinda late and i should sleep =]

  3. scha⋅den⋅freu⋅de
    /ˈʃɑdnˌfrɔɪdə/ [shahd-n-froi-duh]
    satisfaction or pleasure felt at someone else’s misfortune.

    Good word, ey?

    Why is it so hard to pronounce a word that totally describes me?

  4. okay i know this is an old post but yeah i don’t know who this Bee/Bianca is
    but her logic is a bit wacked in my honest opinion
    how can anybody possibly say that hitler was a good person, he believed that ethnically cleansing his country was for the better of it! I believe he loved germany, that i do not doubt, but the holocaust pretty much erases any good he had in him.
    and re: her saying we do not have the right to live
    i guess because we are brought into this world out of our will this is somewhat true, fine, let’s say we don’t have this right. but nobody has the right to end lives (re: saudi arabians, re: hitler, re: anybody)

    sorry to get worked up about it, i’m sure she didn’t mean any of this in a malicious way, i’m sure she was trying to be open minded about cultures and such

    Don’t apologize, it’s a sign of weakness. And hold on while I email Bee to come read this comment. You two both did/do Revs so you understand more shit than me. Oh and you do know Bee. You should.

  5. omgsh my ipol essay topics just got released this morning
    one of them is “human rights are a form of western imperialism”
    just thinking all the different viewpoints is a total mindfuck argh fail

    Is that bad? I mean…is it that hard?

  6. do you mean is uni that hard? it really isn’t, just a little stressful when assessments come around (much like at macrob, y’know) i dunno how it is in arts, but because all the media comm students are all ridiculously smart and articulate and well spoken, you feel like you need to step up like a billion (that’s just me anyway, i have NO IDEA how i got into this course or how i intend to keep earning my place here)
    if you meant is that essay topic hard? well not really actually, the essay’s only 1000 words so it should be a cinch 😉 lucky you and no exams!

    Don’t scare me honey, I’m wanting to get into Media and Comm next year! With you! Haha but actually.

  7. firstly, I took the position of devils advocate for this. cause I mean, what discussion is any fun if everyone just agreeing with each other? (plus I hadn’t done philo that day so was itching for something controversial to pop up)

    what I was saying about hitler though was this: he was born like any of us. He was a child at one point, just as innocent as any child. something happened along the way, nobody’s certain what, but he became the Hitler we know today. And he had beliefs, strong beliefs that manifested themselves in his policy and in his commands. I’m not trying to excuse what he did, but I’m trying to understand it.

    Everyone has good in them, no matter how bad they are, they have good in them. and no matter how “good” they are, they have evil in them too. This is my claim: that the world is centered around balance and therefore, opposites must exist in equal measures. hence for the amount of evil there was in Hitler, there was that same amount of good in him. now, there is debate about how much of what happened was on his order and how much of it was his ministers. but think about this, once you hear the explanation of what happened in an accident from the two parties, you become seriously concerned about history. the fact is, we don’t know what happened, and we will never really know who was responsible for how much. the fact remains that people are not intrinsically evil.

    Ultimately, the right to live is decided upon by the ones in power. And they will enforce that belief onto others in society and whether you believe it or not is not the question, because you may not have the power to stop it. If you do, then it’s your choice to act on it but the general moral standing on matters like this is ultimately up to the authority. France was a prime example. The changing expectations of what was acceptable fluctuated alarmingly, in just those few years of revolution. killing on that scale would hardly be acceptable anywhere in the world now, but then it was because people didn’t have the power to stop it. we live in fear, basically. and we will act out of fear as long as we are in the ‘herd’ (society). this is a nietzschian view, btw.

    and I guess I’ll end there. but if you want to continue, please do. I enjoy it. 🙂

  8. i don’t disagree with you, but for the sake of ruyi who requested i try to argue with you (despite my extreme lack of conviction) i shall try my best 🙂
    re: people are not intrinsically evil
    i guess it depends on what side of the nature vs. nurture debate you subscribe to. in being open minded, i tend to believe its a combination of the two. but then i also believe that people don’t choose their sexuality, they are simply born with their orientation (sure they may “experiment” but ultimately they know) but i digress. or (now this is a bit of a weak argument) just in the same way some people are simply born with a natural gift for violin/piano/singing, others are simply born a bad seed.
    okay i don’t remember what my original point was and now i keep thinking back to john wade argh
    see, i told you ruyi it wouldn’t work!

    No it’s good! It’s good! You refered to John Wade you’re good!

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