Harry approached Quirrell when he was only eleven years old...and was faced with a viewpoint that a child at such an age would not be expected to understand. Quirrell said that Voldemort showed him that there was no good or evil, only power, and those too weak to seek it.
It is difficult to imagine that the universe only consists of binaries- black and white, God and Satan. There is color with shades of gray, layers upon layers of intricate complexities that cannot be seen all at once. Voldemort, of course, uses these complexities to justify his actions, but others in reality have done the same. Hitler, Pol Pot, and other dictators, mass murderers, and terrorists probably never considered their actions evil- which bodes the thought that it is the 'weak' the victims of the crimes in whatever shape or form, who label good and evil, and it is the powerful who, instead, define right and wrong. So was Quirrell right? Is there no good or evil- just the weak and the strong? And what does that mean for those trying to make a difference in the world?
I think the mere fact that one needs to ask himself if something is good or evil, is the proof that there aren't just black and white, but a whole pallet of colours. That said, it's always important to understand what is, exactly, the extreme good and what is the extreme bad, because we can classify a particular situation as more or less good/bad, only if we define what those two represent.
And here enters the topic of "power". I think that it's not power that drives men, but instead it is self-preservation. And that it's way better, because, while you can only haver power over and not with people, assuring your self-preservation doesn't necessarily mean destroying some other's.
For example: you could think that "good" is thinking about yourself and try to get on top of all the others because that's what they're all trying to do; or you can think that "good" is being nice and love other people, because in that way almost everyone will love you back and the world will be a better place.
What defines what is good and what is bad are the people themself, it's the mentality of the society, which can be changed (at least in my opinion, there are others who think that men cannot change, but I disagree).
Right now society's definition of "good" is set on "there are laws that say that we need to respect others, but we want to do as we please because that's what everyone is doing anyway".
So what we have to do is set that definition on "I -as a person and human being, not only a part of a community - want to respect myself, my planet and others because that makes me happy". The problem is that it's difficult as hell and not a lot of people want to bother with it.
I was actually just having this discussion with my mother.
In short, i don't think there's good or bad stricktly, just conflicting interests. But largely, the world is what we make of it, and when the majority have a vague agreement on what's acceptable, that sort of defines good.
What I wonder is whether even "good" people would be considered so by an outside observer (not suggesting aliens but the analogy works). We still exploit the weak, eat the primative, and draw a definitive line between ourselves and most other life on our planet because we're better. I'd say power has a lot to do with it. Good and evil are subjective.
/layman's opinion, just the result of some thinking and probably some media, not education so... take me with a grain of salt xD
Good and Evil are the labels that people make for opinions that are for and against their argument over a certain subject. I give the example of the Nazis, they didn't think of themselves as evil people, but as the good saviors of the world. These two ideas are merely opinions that differ from person to person, there is no absolute, irrefutable good and there is no absolute, irrefutable evil, only opinions. In all honesty, my personal opinion is to do what I believe is right based on my morals. People may disagree and some may label it as evil, but there will always be people like that so it is best to keep true to what you hold as the right thing to do.
I agree with you about the subjective relativity of good and evil; but I also believe that if everyone did what is right based only on their morals, there would be some kind of moral anarchy and everyone would think that they're not wrong and thus not punishable, and also they would never learn from their errors.
For example: if I believe that throwing rocks at pigeons isn't wrong because my morals tell me their just stupid animals and that I'm not really hurting anyone, then, based on what you said, noone could ever make me realize or teach me that I am actually hurting someone, because I would just think that they are in the wrong, not me.
I personally think that it would be better to have a common, general idea of good and bad, based on respect, love, compassion and awsomeness. And from that, everyone could have their own personal morals, based, though, on fixed, general values.
You're right, my point was merely from a logical, no-emotion attached argument. Our society has done a unique thing and agreed as a collective what is generally thought of as right and wrong, that's how we have established law. However, if we were to go from a basic look at life, the moral anarchy as you called it (I like it by the way) would be the social norm. Humans in general like to think themselves as the right person to be, that's when the labels start to come into play. What I hate is when people will call someone else's morals evil when they have to realize that they're not looking at it from the other persons point of view. WE begin to judge others on that score and I don't like it.
You say that the world is full of complex choices, and that there is no simple "black and white" answer; that people do things because they believe that, in the end, their choice is for the best. And I agree with that, no "evil" dictators or villains of history have ever believed that they were doing evil. They were all doing what they believed would create a better world. However, all these tyrants of lore were bested, and to the victor, the spoils. As they say, the winners of war write the history.
In history, however, the powerful are not always the ones who decide what is "right and wrong". Just look back in time! The American Revolution. The Russian Revolution. The list goes on and on! History is LITTERED with stories of people, the oppressed, rising up against injustice to create what they believed to be a better life for everyone.
And these revolutions are going to become increasingly more common with the upcoming "Social Media Revolution". We are experiencing a very exciting point in history where people will be able to speak out, organize, and change with relative ease compared to previous generations!
So keep on fighting Nerfighter, you CAN make a difference. A voice can change everything.
BUT going back to the Harry Potter universe, Voldemort is a very one dimensional character, when compared to the other characters in the story. He truly IS an evil character. He is literally just a "racist" power hungry individual who likes hurting people. He doesn't really have a motive besides the fact that he hates muggles and a number of other demographics. I mean, Hitler at least had a general plan on how to run the country and how he would improve the economic standing of Germany through militaristic activities.
Voldemort is almost like a gang leader, no drive or ambition, he just bullies people into following him. He isn't a great leader OR a practical leader in any sense and would never be able to rise to such power as he did in the books, if put into a real world sense (suspending your disbelief, because im well awarethat magic isnt real).
But, hey what do I know?
First of all if you want to answer this question, i think you have to distinguish between the fictional world of harry potter and the non- fictional world, called "reality".
Harry Potter World: I would argue that Quirrell wasn´t right, because in the Harry Potter World "bad" people seek power and fail and "good" people don´t seek power but gain power because other people believe in them and they eventually have to sacrifice themselfs and their wishes for the "greater good". Also the bad people in HP often know that they are evil, like Bellatrix and Peter Pettigrew ... ?! So in the Harry Potter World real power is linked to being good and failure is linked to being bad. Also Love is the greatest power in the Harry Potter Universe and Love is generally interpreted as a good thing.
Examples for this Theory are:
For the real world, i would argue that the system of power and being good/bad is just not that idealistic as in fictional fantasy book. Also the Harry Potter World presented as quite uniform, reality on the other hand is very divers.
I just want to say one thing, which is that it takes far more strength to turn down power when given the opportunity than to accept it. Dumbledore is proof.
Honestly I don't think there is either. I think evil is like heat. There is only heat and the absence thereof. There is only good or the abscense of good. No matter what we do in life, we always have a good reason to justify. No one does something, knowing they're doing the wrong thing. Every evil person/dictator out there, had only good intentions. Yet, what they didn't realize was that they were only harming innocent people. Voldemort thought he was doing good for the wizarding community by wiping out muggles. He thought because wizards had more power, then they deserved to be the dominant people. Hitler thought the Jews were causing the problems, so he wanted to get rid of them. All throughout human history people have done wrong, but only realize it, before it's too late.
In my opinion,it's not like that. There are people who do evil knowing it is evil. Everything Voldemort did wasn't because he believed that it was the right thing to do, but because he wanted power for himself; his only goal was to be immortal and powerlful; he never wanted to reign over the Magic World for the sake of the Magic World or the Wizards themselves, he only wanted to be on top of everyone.
The same thing goes for Hitler: yes, he said that he wanted Germany to be the greatest and most wonderful and powerful country of all, but not for the German people, but because he wanted to be powerful and great. He said that he wanted to do what was best for the country, only to gain the trust and approval of the people; that's why in his manifesto "Mein Kampf" he takes from each party the most 'crowd-appealing' ideals and proposals, because he knewthat to be in a position of power he first had to have the people on his side.
But apart from dictators, I think that all of us do things knowing they are bad; from cheating in an exam or in a relationship, or stealing the cab to an older man, o ùr screening an annoying friend when they needs us, or pretend not to have noticed that the change is way much than what it should be and keep it... (these are just some very general, common examples, I don't mean that all of us do every of those things).
yes. while the statement...and the points everyone has brought up are true, in so far as the truth resists simplicity, that's not the actual point of Quirrell/Riddle saying it. they aren't saying right doesn't exist, they're saying might is...or at least makes it.
i think J(k)R is fully aware of this as she alludes to such an expression in Deathly Hallows by having the deatheater run Ministry's slogan be Magic makes Might
Well, when a civilization is poorly developed (see Game of Thrones), or anarchy is in effect, then I would say that Quirrell/Voldemort is correct: might makes right. The mighty and the powerful create the rules merely because they can, and they enforce the rules via the same mechanism. In a sense, it's "arguably" what animal tribes do (this is a gross generalization, I realize).
At the same time, though, the biggest problem is that they cannot fundamentally change "human nature" as the case may be, which brings about a completely different question of morality. I think that most of our sense of morals come about from learned/instinctual behavior evolving as a species. I won't get into the details (without anyone requesting it), but basically I think that most of our sense of "right" and "wrong" are innate (because they helped the species).
Also, my opinion on the matter is mostly speculative. I have no training in biology or anything like that, so it's mostly just me saying what I think, so it doesn't have a whole lot of weight behind it. ^^;
Might MAY make "right," but it doesn't change human nature. So while it will work as long as it works, it won't outlast the species.
Not without some really, really horrible genetic modification, anyway.