Has philosophy failed?
Analytical philosophy cannot give a satisfactory account of moral discourse
That there is no such thing as right and wrong is a normal conclusion in analytical philosophy -- sometimes supported by glib references to the acceptability of infanticide and pedophilia in ancient Greece. Where do we find any agreed SOURCE of rightness or wrongness is the problem.
We can argue, for instance that morality is inborn or natural. But how do we tell what those moral values are? There are many "rights" that have been said by different peole to be inalienable parts of us but where is the authority for judging between those competing claims? America's founding fathers had their answers but they were political answers, not answers that could be found by anyone who looks.
So what is right and wrong becomes merely a matter of opinion. We may believe that some things are "just wrong" but how do we check the truth of that belief? Opinions are often wrong. There are various streams of philosophical thought which endeavour to give some alternatives to a belief about rightness being merely a matter of opinion but they all have problems of their own. Over the years (starting here) I have myself put up a number of approaches to understanding the nature of moral values but I think there is still more to be said
So what to we do about the fact that those who deny rightness and wrongness will almost in the same breath say that Donald Trump is wrong, racism is wrong etc. In philosophy we endeavour to analyse discourse but is there not something almost insane about that sort of discourse? How can we analyse a self-contradiction?
I think the solution to that contradiction is for us to abandon our endeavour to analyse discourse without looking at the people from whom the discourse originates. I think we have, in short, to combine philosophy with psychology to understand discourse about values. Philosophy and psychology were once treated as parts of a single whole and I think this is a case where we can profitably revert to that.
And as soon as we do that, we come across a well-developed study within psychlogy of what is accepted as right or wrong. Enjoy the work of Stephen Pinker, for instance. We discover in fact that the elusive source of rightness and wrongness can be found after all -- within us. We have instinctive adverse reflexes to certain events which we describe in "is right" or "is wrong" terms. Our entire notions of rightness derive in the end from certain feelings which are ultimately traceable to our evolutionary past. They are harm-avoidant reflexes that have evolved to keep us safe and still to a degree do that to this day. Our moral reflexes can be suppressed and are rather wobbly but they are there. In response to moral dilemmas, our responses vary but they have a lot in common between people nonetheless. So our very notion of "is wrong" is the conscious part of a self-protective reflex. And upon those basic reflexes great edifices of morality are built.
"But this is absurd" is a very common comment on the implications of a philosophical theory. But it is in itself problematical -- because what is absurd to one person may not be absurd to another. Nonetheless, I think we can have no doubt about the absurdity of denying wrongness and in almost in the same breath asserting that racism (for instance) is wrong, Philosophical conclusions don't carry over into any everyday areas of discourse to which they seem to be related. And despite decades and centuries of endeavour, nobody seems to have a way of getting out of that dilemma.
So I think it is clear that there are some things that philosophy cannot do. It just flails about in analysing moral statements, for instance
But we should not be troubled by that Philosophical analysis is in the end just a tool to enable us to understand statements and there is surely no difficulty in saying that it cannot do everything by itself.
There is however a big lesson from the considerations so far examined here. The statement "there is no such thing as right and wrong" is bad philosophy and is plainly wrong itself. It is an indefensible statement that should not be used. Those who use it are simply showing the limits, inadequacy and absurdity of trying to explain everything by philosophy alone. It is to mistake a dead-end in philosophy for an important truth.
It is amusing that Leftists are energetic users of the statement "there is no such thing as right and wrong". Yet they are also energetic users of moral statements. Most of their discourse consists simply of judging various things to be right or wrong. So it is an effective rejoinder to a claim from them that something is wrong to say: "But there is no such thing as right and wrong". That invariably knocks the stuffing out of them. They just don't know how to further their argument at that point. You have ripped their platform from under them.
Do Leftists really believe that "there is no such thing as right and wrong"? Probably not. They would not get so heated up about the myriad of "problems" they see in society otherwise. They can however use moral language insincerely. If the average Joe is likely to see something as wrong, Leftists will leap onto that whether or not it relates to anything else in their value systen. They can preach the wrongness of something even if they really don't give a hoot about it. There are not in fact many things they care about -- mainly their own honour and glory -- but they will use things that conservatives care about to manipulate conservatives. I showed that experimentally years ago.
Some of the arguments I put up above I have presented at greater length previously