Two Wrongs Don't Make it Right. Or, do they... ?

There are a lot of interesting phrases in English. Sometimes they are useful, sometimes they are not. I often find insight in taking contrarian stances. This stems from an interesting conversation I had on Facebook recently.

Let's call the woman I was talking to Bethany (because that was her name). She brought up the whole two wrongs not making the situation right. It's a phrase that never seems to be questioned but I always thought was odd. If you have tolerance for intolerance then the intolerance will dominate the situation, whatever that situation might be. Anyway, this is how I explained it. I removed Bethany's last name, otherwise it is a direct quote.

Bethany I think I could turn that old phrase. Two wrongs don't make it right. It's wrong to murder. Person A murders person B. Person C kills (because we reserve the word murder for killing that we don't like) person A. Is this a justified action? Possibly, it's debatable. Let's say it's the old west and not possible to lock the person up. They either go free or are killed. It seems more justified in that context. By killing person A person C has also prevented the likely recurrence of murdering by person A, therefore saving lives. Yet, our statement it's wrong to kill makes the action wrong. Yet, saving lives seems right. Therefore, the second wrong makes the situation right in two ways, in that there has been a punishment for a wrong and in that a recurrence of that wrong has been prevented. So, two wrongs do make a right.

There's is a lot more we could delve into here: the intolerance of intolerance from philosopher Karl Popper, consequentialist ethics, the disengagment of morality from psychologist Albert Bandura, the validity of ends justifying means, etc. This little scenario contains so much philosophy, psychology, politics, morality, and ethics. Things like these are perfect situations for stories to explore these concepts. I think stories can delve deeper than all of the non-fiction material combined.


I've written two fictional pieces that I like so far.

"The City of Peace" - A future history science fiction utopia/dystopia action adventure in a framed story of a father telling his son a story about the child's grandfather.

"The Birth of Hanniba'al" - A dark, somewhat alternative, historical origin story for the Carthage General Hannibal.

Here are three of my most popular posts.

"The Making of a Great First Line in Fiction"

"A Letter to My Niece in 2034"

"The Most Important Question in Philosophy - Part 4 of 4"

You can find more of what I'm doing here:

You can support this page at


Popular posts from this blog

Why is Slytherin House Bad?

Fighting Local Government Corruption - Part 1 of ?

Pro-Global Warming

Donate to Jeff's Work