In religious precepts, ethical principles, or legal norms there is usually an explicit reference to good and evil. Certain actions are considered good and desirable, while others are bad and should be avoided. Distinguishing one from the other is a fundamental question for any individual and for any society . Otherwise, injustice, abuse and disorder are committed.
The problem of distinguishing between the two sides of the same coin
In principle, we all know that stealing is bad. This principle is accepted by all and there is no culture that claims otherwise. However, on certain exceptional occasions theft may have a justification. Thus, if someone steals food from an establishment to feed their children, strictly speaking they are carrying out conduct contrary to law and good customs, but the purpose of their action is legitimate and respectable.
Telling the truth and not giving a false testimony is a general principle that we all accept as valid. Despite this, we know that the truth can be offensive, harmful or problematic. In certain circumstances we can doubt what is the right thing: to be honest and cause harm, or to lie and avoid unnecessary suffering.
Sometimes, in the name of the good, damage is done to others and when this happens, it would be necessary to consider whether the idea of good is really the correct one
In this sense, many revolutionary processes have been started with excellent purposes and have ended in abuses and atrocities.
From a historical perspective, what was once a bad and sinful thing (for example, homosexuality) is considered today as normal and respectable behavior.
The German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche defended the thesis that the ideas of good and evil must be overcome, since both have emerged in a specific cultural context and have imposed themselves as if they were absolute ideas.
Since there is no formula to definitely distinguish, the only thing we can do is have some moral criteria to differentiate what should be the correct assessment.
The role of guilt consciousness
If someone acts in the wrong way, they will probably not recognize their mistake at first. However, by calmly reflecting on the action committed, your conscience will act as a judge and will decide whether you have really acted correctly or wrongly. We are guilty because we know how to differentiate between the correct and the wrong path.
In order for our moral assessment of what is right to make sense, we must first learn a series of norms and rules. It is not about accepting them for their own sake, but about understanding their meaning and their true value.
Whoever does evil and is not aware of it is likely that no one has taught him to distinguish between good and evil.