Moral notions like 'right' and 'wrong', 'good' and 'evil', 'lying' and 'murder', are clearly meaningful to us since we readily understand how these words are used in language. There are some ambiguous edges, to be sure, but it is important to recognise that these issues are problems with language, not problems with ethics. We can apply purely descriptive terms like 'game', 'table' and 'rain' most of the time despite them being equally unclear in their borderline cases. A little fuzziness at the edges transpires to be something all language suffers from.
This difficulty comes in part from early twentieth century philosophers becoming muddled about ethics while being overly enthusiastic about science. The very idea that there is a problem reasoning from facts to values presumes that factual observations take precedence – granting pride of place to scientific reasoning. This error is widespread today. But moral reasoning has very little to do with science. As Julius Kovesi observed: the process of evaluation in moral judgements is a parallel to the process of assessment with descriptive judgements, but they are not dependent upon one another at all.
Part 4 of 23 in the Pentenary series.