Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Right vs. Wrong and The Value Criterion

"You're right, it doesn't really matter. It's best to live life as yourself. If you start to care too much about results, then you see the box that you're kind of in and then you start acting like your box is supposed to act. Then you're not acting like yourself." - my best friend in response to my last post

So I was sitting here procrastinating from figuring out a plot dilemma, and I started thinking about the concept of right and wrong (which sounds odd when I put it like that).

I firmly believe that there are many situations in which I am right, while the people with opposing ideas can also be right. That sounds awfully counter-intuitive (because it is), so I then proceeded to try and justify that belief.

In Lincoln-Douglas debate (one-on-one with a specific format), there is the resolution (the thing being debated), the value premise (the goal), and the value criterion (how progress towards the goal is measured).

Here's the resolution from the 2010-2011 Nationals: "When forced to choose, a just government ought to prioritize universal human rights over its national interest."

The value premise is "just government." The value criterion, however, changes between the affirmative and negative sides of the resolution. 

If I'm arguing affirmative, my value criterion would be something like "'Just,' as defined by the World English Dictionary, means fair or impartial in action or judgement; therefore, a just government is one that favors no group of people over another for arbitrary reasons such as national boundaries."

If I'm arguing negative, however, my value criterion would be something like "The purpose of a just government is to provide for its citizens a fair, well-functioning society with legal allowance for equal opportunities for all citizens; therefore, a just government is one that acts with its national interest in mind." (Bear in mind this is my first time writing value criterions-- the purpose here isn't to actually have a solid argument.)

So with one set of values, universal human rights should have the priority, and with the other set of values, the primary drive should be national interest. The affirmative is correct according to the things valued by the affirmative, and the negative is correct according to the things valued by the negative. They're both right, despite having opposing opinions regarding how to reach the goal of "just government."

The debate, then, falls to well-argued points concerning values rather than methods by which to attain the goal. It's not "same-sex marriage should be legal" vs, "same-sex marriage should not be legal." It's "we value marriage equality" vs. "we believe marriage should only take place between a man and a woman." A small difference, but an important one. In both cases the goal is corruption-free marriage laws; both sides just have differing opinions as to what that means-- based on their values.

That particular example is one in which I think the side opposite mine is dead wrong and nothing they say can change my mind, so perhaps I should not have used it here, but there are plenty of other situations in which I respect the difference in values and am fine with acknowledging the subjective "rightness" of the other person, even if I will gladly debate it with them anyway (acknowledging the validity of an opposing opinion does not mean agreeing with it, after all).

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