Hegel’s quote, “Genuine tragedies in the world are not conflicts between right and wrong. They are conflicts between two rights,” is a powerful statement about the nature of conflict and morality. Hegel, being an advocate of dialectical thinking, is pointing out that the most profound conflicts often occur when two different perspectives or positions—both of which have their own legitimacy or ‘rightness’—clash.
This is distinct from a simplistic view of conflict as a struggle between good and evil or right and wrong. A classic example of this is the clash of individual rights and collective rights. Both are important and ‘right’ in their own way, but there can be genuine conflict between them. For instance, the right of an individual to freedom of speech might conflict with the right of a community to not be subjected to hate speech.
For Hegel, these kinds of conflicts represent ‘genuine tragedies’ because they’re not easily resolvable. There is no clear villain to defeat—both sides have their own legitimacy, and yet they’re incompatible. This can lead to difficult moral dilemmas, suffering, and even tragedy.
The quote reflects Hegel’s nuanced approach to ethics and conflict, one that acknowledges the complexities and paradoxes of human life. It reminds us to move beyond simplistic good vs. evil thinking and strive for a deeper understanding of the complexities and nuances involved in moral conflicts.