Two wrongs make a right

From Simple English Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The phrases, "Two wrongs make a right" and "two wrongs don't make a right" are English phrases that denote philosophical norms.

The key idea is based on the two wrongs phrase which consider the two things as wrong.

“Two wrongs don't make a right”, is a proverb used to rebuke or renounce wrongful conduct as a response to another's assumed transgression.

“Two wrongs make a right” in which an allegation of wrongdoing is countered with a similar allegation. In English language, it might be considered as a fallacy of relevance.

“Two wrongs make a right”[change | change source]

“Two wrongs make a right” might be considered as a fallacy of relevance when assuming that, if one wrong is committed, then another wrong will cancel it out.

This phrase considers the two actions are wrong. for this reason it is not used by a wrongdoer which does not consider its action as wrong.

This phrase considers breaking the law (or the wrong) is justified, as long as the other party also does so.

Two wrongs do not make one right[change | change source]

Two wrongs don't make a right is a proverb which means that a wrongful action is not a appropriate way to correct or cancel a previous wrongful action, in regard to a norm.

Additionally, it alleges the first action is also wrong.

Relationship[change | change source]

When both actions are considered wrong, the two phrases might be opposed to each other.

Criticism[change | change source]

Common use of the term has been criticized by scholar Gregory S. Kavka writing in the Journal of Business Ethics. Kavka refers back to philosophical concepts of retribution by Thomas Hobbes. He states that if something supposedly held up as a moral standard or common social rule is violated enough in society, then an individual or group within society can break that standard or rule as well since this keeps them from being unfairly disadvantaged. As well, in specific circumstances violations of social rules can be defensible if done as direct responses to other violations. For example, Kavka states that it is wrong to deprive someone of their property but it is right to take property back from a criminal who takes other's property in the first place. He also states that one should be careful not to use this ambiguity as an excuse to recklessly violate ethical rules.[1]

Conservative journalist Victor Lasky wrote in his book It Didn't Start With Watergate that while "two wrongs don't make a right", if a set of immoral things are done and left un-prosecuted, this creates a legal precedent. Thus, people who do the same wrongs in the future should rationally expect to get away as well. Lasky analogizes the situation between John F. Kennedy's wiretapping of Martin Luther King, Jr. (which lead to nothing) and Richard Nixon's actions in Watergate (which Nixon thought would also lead to nothing).[2]

History[change | change source]

The phrase "two wrongs infer one right" appears in a poem dated to 1734, published in The London Magazine.[3]

Related pages[change | change source]

References[change | change source]

  1. Kavka, G. S. (1983). "When two ?wrongs? Make a right: an essay on business ethics". Journal of Business Ethics. 2: 61–66. doi:10.1007/BF00382714. S2CID 144639675.
  2. It Didn't Start With Watergate. Victor Lasky.
  3. C. Ackers for J. Wilford, ed. (1734). "Poetical Essays in NOVEMBER 1734". The London magazine, or, Gentleman's monthly intelligencer, Volume 3. p. 600. Université du Michigan.

    An orient star led, thro' his blind- / Side, to a prize his eye of mind: / The lightning said, its he; in Spight / Of fate two wrongs infer one right. / let fly; well shot! thanks to my Spark; / A blind boy, once, has cleft the mark. /

    — The Moral (translated - origine ? - in Hudibrastic)

Other websites[change | change source]