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Clutch Munny
03-06-2007, 05:06 PM
I can't see any redeeming feature in this saying.

What is the point of asserting that two wrongs don’t make a right in a discussion? Notice that, for the most part, this platitude is said to (or said about) someone who doesn’t think the act in question wrong at all, given that some previous wrong has been committed already. So the point in dispute ought to be whether that act is wrong, not whether two admittedly wrong acts amount to a right act.

For example, to someone who believes in retributive justice (i.e., putting someone in prison as a form of punishment, and not just for rehabilitation or to protect the public) there is no point in explaining that depriving someone of their liberty is wrong, and that even though a criminal has committed a wrong, two wrongs don’t make a right. That person’s position, after all, is that depriving a convicted criminal of liberty, at least for a time, is not a wrong. So the cliché is simply irrelevant.

The advocate of retributive justice doesn’t believe that two wrongs do make a right; she believes that an act of retributive justice is right. Saying to this person that two wrongs don’t make a right really amounts to a way of saying: “This act is wrong, whatever you may think.” But that pronouncement doesn’t carry any of the satisfying weight of folk wisdom that the cliché seems to possess. A substantial argument in such a situation will focus instead on the speaker’s reasons for thinking that the act in question is wrong, rather than on an empty slogan that simply presupposes this.

Dragar
03-06-2007, 06:32 PM
I hate typing out retributive justice already, so I'm calling it RJ to shorten things.

What if the person normally doesn't consider RJ to be good, but at the time finds it really desirable. Revenge is a powerful motivator.

Now, sometimes the mere act of pointing out that it's not a Good Thing in terms of all these other values they might hold (like Mercy and Being Nice) can cause a shift of perspective. Or pointing out that just because the other guy was a jerk doesn't change that it's not a Good Thing in terms of other values.

Or maybe not; I'm just throwing out thoughts here.

Clutch Munny
03-06-2007, 07:12 PM
Sure. People sometimes do things they believe are wrong -- out of emotion, weakness of will, or what have you. When there's evidence that this is what's going on, it's fair enough to point out: what you're doing is wrong by your own lights. Even there the cliché is needless, though.

I believe in any event that the overwhelming majority of cases are those in which RJ (or analogue) is taken to be situationally defensible. And being situationally defensible, it's not held to be wrong in that context. However frequent such cases are, though, "two wrongs don't make a right" doesn't apply to them.

California Tanker
03-06-2007, 08:18 PM
I think your argument is correct in the individual sense, but less so in the collective sense.

You have hit the nail on the head with the concept of perception. Someone who believes that the second act is not, in fact, wrong, will not be affected by the 'TWMAR' comment, and may not see it apply to them. The question becomes one of a larger scale: Joe Homie over there may not see anything wrong with shooting Smitty for dissing his girl, but collective society as a whole does. Sometimes the divider between what's right and what's wrong is pretty clear-cut, sometimes less so. The clearer the case, the more applicable the TWMAR comment is.

NTM

Dingfod
03-06-2007, 09:35 PM
Let's say two wrongs do make a right. That means one wrong is equal to one half a right. Can there even be such a thing as something that is half right? Half right is still wrong in my opinion. Therefore, a wrong is equal to something that is wrong and two wrongs are twice as wrong as one.


The above has been brought to you by the migraine-addled mind of a sick man.

Clutch Munny
03-06-2007, 09:40 PM
I think your argument is correct in the individual sense, but less so in the collective sense.

You have hit the nail on the head with the concept of perception. Someone who believes that the second act is not, in fact, wrong, will not be affected by the 'TWMAR' comment, and may not see it apply to them. The question becomes one of a larger scale: Joe Homie over there may not see anything wrong with shooting Smitty for dissing his girl, but collective society as a whole does.

In which case, already believing that the shooting is wrong all things considered, they are unilluminated by being told that two wrongs don't make a right.

Sometimes the divider between what's right and what's wrong is pretty clear-cut, sometimes less so. The clearer the case, the more applicable the TWMAR comment is.
NTM

How so? The clearer the case, the less information is conveyed by TWDMAR. The cases seem to resolve into accurately describing the hearer's attitudes, and hence being redundant; and misdescribing the hearer's attitudes, and hence being irrelevant.

seebs
03-07-2007, 12:39 AM
I think it's more coherent than you might think.

The argument is that the act of "retributive justice" is presumably an action which, in the absence of a previous wrong, would itself be considered wrong.

Consider the case of capital punishment for murder. We grant as a starting point that killing someone is generally wrong; the argument is that, when it is retaliatory, the killing ceases to be wrong. We grant that, without these extenuating circumstances, putting someone to death would be wrong.

In short, it really is arguing that two wrongs make a right.

godfry n. glad
03-07-2007, 01:00 AM
Half right is still wrong in my opinion.

Half right is usually due to it being half fast.

Clutch Munny
03-07-2007, 01:21 AM
I think it's more coherent than you might think.

The argument is that the act of "retributive justice" is presumably an action which, in the absence of a previous wrong, would itself be considered wrong.

In the absence of a previous wrong it wouldn't be retributive justice. It would be an unprovoked unjust harm.

Consider the case of capital punishment for murder. We grant as a starting point that killing someone is generally wrong; the argument is that, when it is retaliatory, the killing ceases to be wrong. We grant that, without these extenuating circumstances, putting someone to death would be wrong.

In short, it really is arguing that two wrongs make a right.

No. Because (on retributive justice) it's not a wrong in that case.

The saying is not "A wrong plus a right that would under very different circumstances be a wrong do not make a right".

As soon as one grants that the act in question is contextually right -- at least in the eyes of the actor -- then the saying just doesn't seem to convey anything informative except that the speaker holds the action to be wrong.

biochemgirl
03-07-2007, 01:38 AM
Let's say two wrongs do make a right. That means one wrong is equal to one half a right. Can there even be such a thing as something that is half right? Half right is still wrong in my opinion. Therefore, a wrong is equal to something that is wrong and two wrongs are twice as wrong as one.


I think that only applies when the square root of the wrong is equal to the two half wrongs squared and added together. Right?

Dingfod
03-07-2007, 01:41 AM
Let's say two wrongs do make a right. That means one wrong is equal to one half a right. Can there even be such a thing as something that is half right? Half right is still wrong in my opinion. Therefore, a wrong is equal to something that is wrong and two wrongs are twice as wrong as one.


I think that only applies when the square root of the wrong is equal to the two half wrongs squared and added together. Right?Riiiight.

California Tanker
03-07-2007, 02:43 AM
In which case, already believing that the shooting is wrong all things considered, they are unilluminated by being told that two wrongs don't make a right.


In the case of Joe Homie, he may not already believe that the shooting is wrong, in which case the statement would still provide notification to Joe that perhaps his point of view is one which is in the collective minority. This is also applicable in the case of emotional effect: If someone is feeling particularly hot-headed at that particular moment and time, the phrase could be used in a similar manner to "Hang on a second, sit back and have a think about what you're thinking of doing."

NTM