Two Wrongs Make a Right


Two Wrongs Make a Right is a fallacy in which a person “justifies” an action against a person by asserting that the person would do the same thing to him/her, when the action is not necessary to prevent B from doing X to A. This fallacy has the following pattern of “reasoning”:

1. It is claimed that person B would do X to person A.

2. It is acceptable for person A to do X to person B (when A’s doing X to B is not necessary to prevent B from doing X to A).

This sort of “reasoning” is fallacious because an action that is wrong is wrong even if another person would also do it.

It should be noted that it can be the case that it is not wrong for A to do X to B if X is done to prevent B from doing X to A or if X is done in justified retribution. For example, if Sally is running in the park and Biff tries to attack her, Sally would be justified in attacking Biff to defend herself. As another example, if country A is planning to invade country B in order to enslave the people, then country B would be justified in launching a preemptive strike to prevent the invasion.

Example #1

Bill has borrowed Jane’s expensive pen, but found he didn’t return it. He tells himself that it is okay to keep it, since she would have taken his.

Example #2

Jane: “Did you hear about those terrorists killing those poor people? That sort of killing is just wrong.”

Sue: “Those terrorists are justified. After all, their land was taken from them. It is morally right for them to do what they do.”

Jane: “Even when they blow up busloads of children?”

Sue: “Yes. “

Example #3

After leaving a bookstore, Jill notices that she was undercharged for her book. She decides not to return the money to the store because if she had overpaid, they would not have returned the money.”

Example #4

Jill is horrified by the way the state uses capital punishment. Bill says that capital punishment is fine, since those the state kill don’t have any qualms about killing others.

Published in: on March 12, 2008 at 7:12 pm  Leave a Comment  
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