Two wrongs don't make a right

I caught the opening to some television program about vengeance the other night. The voice over went something like:

"When we were young, we were taught that two wrongs don't make a right, which we naïvely took for granted. But as I gained experience, I learned that two wrongs don't make a right because they never equal each other."

The latter position is presented as be sophisticated view adopted by someone who has been around the block a few times. But it's only "sophistication" lies in rejecting the traditional view: it actually doesn't make a bit of sense.

In the tradition view, wrongs are like negative numbers: the more you add, the more negative the result. This "clever" overturning of that view suggests that if only you could get the two negative numbers to exactly equal to each other, then their sum would be positive.

In the world of doxa, so long as it's novel you will be thought clever for saying it.


  1. I could be wrong, but it seems as though modern philosophy regards cleverness and power of argumentation as signs of Absolute Truth. If you can't refute the skeptic who has a brilliantly clever argument that rejects your phenomenological experiences, then you are an idiot for continuing to believe that grass is green. Ditto for moral realism and the existence of God.

    It seems that there is a difference between wisdom and knowledge: perhaps current academics has much more of the latter and very little of the former.

    1. This is not a modern phenomenon: Plato and Aristotle called the people who thought this way "Sophists."

  2. I think all might apply to some pieces of conventional wisdom, too. "Freedom isn't free" is one that comes to mind.


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