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 don't think there is such a thing as black or white, in this aspect. I believe every bad thing has at least a sliver of good in it and every good thing has at least a sliver of bad in it. Therefore, everything is a shade of gray.
I don't really think there is a such thing as true good, or true evil, but the world isn't only made up of the weak and the strong either. I like to believe that no one in evil- there are simply people who made a mistake and were unwilling, or afraid, to correct it.
I see that someone has already jumped ahead of me by bringing 'Our Fred' as an anarchist I know calls Nietzsche, but I'm going to throw my two pennies in anyway.
My own, personal view about morality is that it is a human invention. It exists because we choose to believe in it, it has no 'objective' substance, and will cease to be if/when we cease to be, or when we choose to ignore it. However, just because we invented it doesn't mean it's any less real than anything else we invented; money, government, the State, they all exist in our minds and by our own invention, but they are still there. Kant and Schopenhauer even go as far as to suggest that REALITY ITSELF exists dependent on our minds.
Was Quirrell right? I'd say: no. There is 'good' and 'ill,' but we are the ones who choose which is which, and we should remember that. This isn't to say that all moral questions boil down to mere opinion, they are not arbitrary. We still need to think and reason about these things before reaching a decision. But it is still our decision, and ours alone.
I don't think that there's just good and evil, per se, but I do think there are varying shades of right and wrong. Power can be used justly or injustly, and it's up to those with power to decide how to use it.
I think, in a way, Quirrell was right. He was right in the way that there isn't simply good and evil in the world. But his statement that there's only the week and the strong is false. We all have our moments of weakness and strength. The world is simply not black and white. We all have our gray areas of ourselves. Even someone who claims that they are the most moral person in the world has their moments where they lose their morality. We all have moments when we slip up. So, partially, Quirrell was right. There is no good and evil. There is so much more to the world than simply balck and white. Everyone has their gray shadowy areas, even if they don't want to admit it.
See, the problem I have with "good" and "evil," and "weak" and "strong," is that they are extremes. There are those who are weaker than others, there are those who are stronger than others, and there are those who are more "good" or more "evil." But then, who are we to say what is good and evil? Or weak and strong? We see what we choose to see. In war, you see your enemy as the "evil" one and yourself as the "good" one. And your enemy sees it vice versa.
So to answer your question, no. I do not think Quirrell was right. I don't think the world is split into the weak and the strong because one could consider themself to be strong, while the rest of the world disagrees, so who's to say which belief is correct?
I don't think you can see ANYTHING as black and white. With people like Hitler, Stalin, etc., I definitely don't believe that they did what they did because they thought it was evil. At the very least they were doing it for power, as Quirrell said, or because they honestly thought it was the right thing to do. I mean, in the end, Hitler was just a person, and most people do things for a specific reason, rather than for the sake of doing something wrong.
The other thing is that in my opinion, every crime has a situation that would make it justifiable. Even with something like rape, where I can't think of one right now, it's unfair to just say that ANYTHING is morally wrong or morally right.
I suppose a rambling post is the best way to go about this. Let's see... how to start this... *cracks knuckles*
To an extent, I do think that Harry's relative ability to understand the inherent complexities of any given situation were limited by his age. Having a black and white mindset is very typical of younger children and it only (maybe) phases out as a person gets older and understands that the world is very rarely black and white and not only includes a vast menagerie of grays but entire hues and colors that don't even necessarily fit into that spectrum.
But I digress, is Quirrell right? As with many things as I learn from my time on Earth, I think the answer is a sound and perplexing "yes" and "no." Even the question itself is, as I believe the Buddhists (if John Green said it true) would say it is a "question wrongly asked." But still, is Quirrel right? Kinda, but not entirely.
Quirrell (I believe) frames the question in an entirely limited concept that, from his perspective, is probably viable but at the same time is very narrow. His decision to ignore the concepts and labels of good and evil is not necessarily wrong (as other people have pointed out), but at the same time, his decision that such a binary statement should (and could) be replaced by another equally binary statement is equally misguided. The entire melange of human motivations consists of a great deal more than that that is not only completely separate from either paradigm but overlaps with it. Like sunlight fractured through a prism onto a wall, there are no hard separations to any concept but a band of different ideas flowing and mixing with each other to form a whole that cannot be so narrowly defined.
To put it in another way, it's like Quirrell saying "yellow isn't the best color, orange is!" Ehhhh, he's kinda right, but he still doesn't fully grasp the entirety of the spectrum (even the standard ROYGBIV is only a small section of the light-wavelength spectrum).
If you want to go further down the rabbit hole, the problem with statements like "good" and "evil" or "power" and "weakness" begs the question of "what is good/evil?" and "what is power?" To quote Varys from Game of Thrones: "Power is a curious thing. [...] Power resides where men believe it resides. It's a trick, a shadow on the wall[.]" To quote Councillor Hamann from The Matrix: "That's it. You hit it. That's control (read Power), isn't it? If we wanted we could smash them to bits. Although, if we did, we'd have to consider what would happen to our lights, our heat, our air... "
Even the very mechanisms of "power" demand a closer look.
Power is a very mercurial thing that depends just as equally (if not more so) upon the very foundation which the powerful stand. Those with a strong foundation can stand for a long time, but their control over that foundation is tenuous. As we've seen during the French Revolution and in the Green Revolution in Egypt, when that foundation crumbles, the powerful quickly become the powerless, and as we've seen in the rise of Soviet Russia and the Syrian Crisis, when that foundation stands, then the powerful can be brutal. It can even be shrunk down to the very small and visceral - I am driving a car, and you are walking on the sidewalk. Who has the power here? But even THAT needs to be analyzed: if I am in a car, but it has no gas, I merely have the illusion of power.
That said, I must digress again because the can of worms is very full, and I'm not in much of a mood to pick them all out. Was Quirrell right? I'd say that, no, he isn't. There is good and evil as well as power and weakness. The way he phrases it is merely replacing one binary statement with another, merely a replication of a narrow point of view with a different set of labels and mechanisms.
Truth defies simplicity. :D
I could not agree more with this entire thing. :)
I believe that humanity defines morality. But I think morality is individual - those in power can try to enforce their own personal ideas and morality on others, but it cannot be totally successful. You cannot change someone's mind for them.
I also believe that it is in humanity's best interest to act in a "moral" way. I believe that the drive we have to protect others' lives as well as our own, to help other people, and to live for something and/or someone other than ourselves exists because it genuinely helps us. To feel better. To be given kindness in return. To survive.
I guess this could be seen as selfish, but I find it quite beautiful. Helping others helps us.
But I do not believe in God or Satan (at least, not in the Judeo-Christian way) and I do not believe that morality and humanity are separate. Power is a tool to be used for evil or for good - but power sometimes allows people to get out of the consequences of their actions, which can lead to them doing "bad" things, but it is not the enemy of morality.
In my opinion, the strong are the good and the weak are the evil. Of course, there are many shades of gray in between, but at the basis of it there is good and there is bad. No matter what position you are in, there will always be temptation to do bad things and abuse any power (since no matter how small you think you are, you can always control SOMETHING). The strong are the ones that do not give in and become "evil" because if they DO give in it is because they are too weak to fight the temptations and to justify their actions in their conscience they twist the morals of the world to feek better about themselves as humans.
I don't know if this makes sense, but that's how I feel.