Right Answer

Often there is more than one right answer.

When I was young, I used to enjoy watching reruns of the original Star Trek T.V. show. I particularly liked Mr. Spock, who always knew exactly what to do. He always did it without any apparent anxiety or fear regardless of what dangers he faced. He did this by relying on "logic" that dictated what ought to be done in every situation.

But let's think a minute and consider what the world would be like if every person followed a rigid set of rules that determined exactly what to do in every circumstance. In the most common situation, where there is no unique challenge arising to the person, the person would do the same thing as every other person. In that case, how would people choose different paths for their educations or careers?

In our world, people choose different roles according to their interests and talents, but that wouldn't happen if each person's actions were dictated by the same rule book. Without the ability to have multiple roles in society, we would be very limited in what could be accomplished.

Moreover, how could learning occur? Discovery and invention are only possible if we try new things. How can a person try new things if their every action is dictated by a set of rules?

Mr. Spock was portrayed as if he didn't have any emotions. But in the real world, emotions are merely a manifestation of motivators. Motivators are what guides the learning process, so that the animal can have flexibility in their choices while still being able to pursue an objective. Motivators are an integral part of the learning system.

Perhaps Mr. Spock eliminated anxiety by following his rigid rules of "logic" but he also eliminated any joy from his life. Much joy comes from discovery.

In our schools we are often given problems where we are expected to find the right answer. We are given multiple-choice tests where we must pick the "best" answer. We do math problems where there is only one correct solution.

But in the real world there is often more than one path that can take us to a good result. Even in math, we see that some problems are not equalities; some involve "greater than" or "less than" equasions with an infinite range of correct answers (and also an infinite range of incorrect answers).

Real life often involves dividing the good from the evil and choosing from a wide range of good choices. For example, if charitable giving is good, consider that there are many charities to choose from. These include disaster relief, providing education for those who couldn't afford it, doing research on cures to diseases, and many others too numerous to list. For any given kind of charity, donors who are knowledgeable of that kind of work will direct their donations to the charities that do it best. In aggregate, many different charities are supported and a great amount of worthwhile good is accomplished.

Sometimes there is more than one "right answer". An example I like to use is the "rules of the road". In some nations people drive on the right side of the road, while in others they drive on the left. Which is best? Answer: it doesn't matter so long as people follow the agreed-upon rule for their nation--otherwise there would be collisions.

This is what makes ethics interesting. It's not just about defining and following rules. It's also about discovery and invention, setting goals, chosing from among various good paths, and enjoying life!

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Copyright Arthur de Leyssac, 2014, All Rights Reserved.