I think right and wrong depends on context especially because we live in a non-ideal society. It is a moral dilemma to decide how to act if we know we can't have what we need by rightful-legal way.

For example there is this famous question: There is an expensive medicine that will save one's life, you can't afford, will you steal it?

I have been looking for some key-words like subjective morality, relativism but I think it's not really what I am looking for. I don't look for a situation that is right for someone and wrong for another. I want to find an analysis or examples or opinions about situations where there is impossible to decide who is right or who is wrong. Or everyone is right yet outcome is a disaster.

Is there any person or book focused on this topic?

edit: deciding "it is impossible to tell the act is wrong and right is still subjective so my expression is not entirely correct. I just wanted to highlight that it is not what I want to find. I am looking for combination of different hardships which creates different morality than the standard approach, if it makes any sense.

  • 1
    Yes, and such justifications are known as mitigating factors in criminal law. Sometimes, criminal system even recognizes that what would normally be considered a crime is not one under some extraordinary circumstances, but even something that is legally a crime can still be morally justified (mercy killing is one example, although the subject is controversial). See SEP, Moral Dilemmas.
    – Conifold
    Feb 23, 2021 at 21:00
  • Situational ethics? en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Situational_ethics
    – user4894
    Feb 23, 2021 at 23:05
  • What is the 'standard approach'? There is only your own objective approach which you believe is the standard approach. Feb 24, 2021 at 7:18
  • In this connection it is well to bear in mind that in Nazi Germany, it was a crime to shelter Jews; in the pre-civil war American slave states it was a crime to assist escaped slaves; in post-WWII United Kingdom it was a crime to be a homosexual, and so on. If you performed any of these acts, you were breaking the law and committing a crime. Following the law required unethical behavior because the laws were themselves unethical- but enforced nonetheless. Mar 26, 2021 at 22:22

3 Answers 3


Justifiable homicide

In the USA they call it Justifiable homicide. So long as it cannot be proven that you are lying when you state that you murdered someone because you genuinely felt you had reason to believe there was a danger to your life, or to another innocent parties life, then you are considered blameless.

Justifiable homicide, wikipedia

The concept of justifiable homicide in criminal law is a defense to culpable homicide (criminal or negligent homicide). Generally, there is a burden of production of exculpatory evidence in the legal defense of justification. In most countries, a homicide is justified when there is sufficient evidence to disprove (under the "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard for criminal charges, and "preponderance of evidence" standard for claims of wrongdoing, i.e. civil liability) the alleged criminal act or wrongdoing. The key to this legal defense is that it was reasonable for the subject to believe that there was an imminent and otherwise unavoidable danger of death or grave bodily harm to the innocent by the deceased when he or she committed the homicide. A homicide in this instance is blameless.1

Self defense

Other crimes, including assault, battery, and other crimes can also be considered justified under a self defense plea.

Justifiable homocide, final sentence, Wikipedia

1 Although it does not constitute homicide, charges and claims of assaults, batteries, and other similar criminal charges and claims of wrongdoing are similarly defensible under the legal defense of self defense.

Could there be any situation justifies crime? Yes, you can commit crime in self defence, or in defence of an innocent person under attack.


Well, such an answer to the ethical dilemma you posed, and others like it, depends on your normative framework. So I encourage you to look into the ones that have often been argued about. A good place to start would be here.


Laws provide for generalized sanctions and are notoriously hard to apply uniformly in specific instances, thus we have juries and not computers to judge the circumstances in the particular case.

By contrast, laws are assumed to be binding upon a society, so the idea of a justified violation of the law must appeal to a universal standard, as in cases of civil disobedience and appeals to morality. Since societies evolve, this universal standard may encompass new particulars, hence provisions for amending constitutions or state laws.

Because of this organic condition of laws, there may be revolutions or other "punctuations of equilibrium" in which rights and wrongs have no clear definition or final appeal. Hegel famously discusses those moments in history in which such a transition occurs and, exactly as you put it, "everyone is right, yet the outcome is a disaster."

His prime example is Sophocles' tragedy "Antigone," in which the ancient laws of custom contradict the new laws of governance and, indeed, the outcome is disaster. In response to Antigone's "crime," each side acts unjustly within the framework of the other, everyone loses.

A more modern example would be the bourgeois and socialist revolutions that overturned the previous legal order, whether feudal or bourgeois, respectively. The revolutionary commits "crimes" that are not crimes, provided the revolutionary prevails.

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