Benjamin James Fraser Australian National University
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  • Research staff, Australian National University
  • PhD, Australian National University, 2010.

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About me
My research aims to link substantive empirical claims about the nature and origins of moral cognition to metaethical claims about the epistemological status of moral judgments. I am interested in debates about moral disagreement, the moral/conventional distinction, and the evolution of morality. I am also interested in conceptual issues within biology, especially to do with signaling theory and sexual selection.
My works
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  1. Benjamin James Fraser (2014). Evolutionary Debunking Arguments and the Reliability of Moral Cognition. Philosophical Studies 168 (2):457-473.
    Recent debate in metaethics over evolutionary debunking arguments against morality has shown a tendency to abstract away from relevant empirical detail. Here, I engage the debate about Darwinian debunking of morality with relevant empirical issues. I present four conditions that must be met in order for it to be reasonable to expect an evolved cognitive faculty to be reliable: the environment, information, error, and tracking conditions. I then argue that these conditions are not met in the case of our evolved (...)
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  2. Benjamin James Fraser (2014). Mind the Gap(S): Sociality, Morality, and Oxytocin. [REVIEW] Biology and Philosophy 29 (1):143-150.
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  3. Ben Fraser (2013). 8 False Advertising in Biological Markets: Partner Choice and The. In Kim Sterelny, Richard Joyce, Brett Calcott & Ben Fraser (eds.), Cooperation and its Evolution. Mit Press. 153.
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  4. Ben Fraser (2013). False Advertising in Biological Markets: Partner Choice and the Problem of Reliability. In K. Sterelny, R. Joyce, B. Calcott & B. Fraser (eds.), Cooperation and its Evolution. MIT Press.
    The partner choice approach to understanding the evolution of cooperation builds on approaches that focus on partner control by considering processes that occur prior to pair or group formation. Proponents of the partner choice approach rightly note that competition to be chosen as a partner can help solve the puzzle of cooperation. I aim to build on the partner choice approach by considering the role of signalling in partner choice. Partnership formation often requires reliable information. Signalling is thus important in (...)
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  5. Ben Fraser (2013). Moral Error Theories and Folk Metaethics. Philosophical Psychology (6):1-18.
    In this paper, I distinguish between two error theories of morality: one couched in terms of truth (ET1); the other in terms of justification (ET2). I then present two arguments: the Poisoned Presupposition Argument for ET1; and the Evolutionary Debunking Argument for ET2. I go on to show how assessing these arguments requires paying attention to empirical moral psychology, in particular, work on folk metaethics. After criticizing extant work, I suggest avenues for future research.
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  6. Ben Fraser (2013). The Reluctant Mercenary: Vulnerability and the 'Whores of War'. Journal of Military Ethics 12 (3):235-251.
    Mercenaries are the target of moral condemnation far more often than they are subject of moral concern. One attempt at morally condemning mercenaries proceeds by analogy with prostitutes; mercenaries are ?the whores of war?. This analogy is unconvincing as a way of condemning mercenaries. However, careful comparison of mercenarism and prostitution suggests that, like many prostitutes, some mercenaries may be vulnerable individuals. If apt, this comparison imposes a consistency requirement: if one thinks certain prostitutes are appropriate subjects of moral concern (...)
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  7. Kim Sterelny, Richard Joyce, Brett Calcott & Ben Fraser (eds.) (2013). Cooperation and its Evolution. MIT Press.
    This collection reports on the latest research on an increasingly pivotal issue for evolutionary biology: cooperation. The chapters are written from a variety of disciplinary perspectives and utilize research tools that range from empirical survey to conceptual modeling, reflecting the rich diversity of work in the field. They explore a wide taxonomic range, concentrating on bacteria, social insects, and, especially, humans. -/- Part I (“Agents and Environments”) investigates the connections of social cooperation in social organizations to the conditions that make (...)
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  8. Ben Fraser (2012). Costly Signalling Theories: Beyond the Handicap Principle. Biology and Philosophy 27 (2):263-278.
    Two recent overviews of costly signalling theory—Maynard-Smith and Harper ( 2003 ) and Searcy and Nowicki ( 2005 )—both refuse to count signals kept honest by punishment of dishonesty, as costly signals, because (1) honest signals must be costly in cases of costly signalling, and (2) punishment of dishonesty itself requires explanation. I argue that both pairs of researchers are mistaken: (2) is not a reason to discount signals kept honest by punishment of dishonesty as cases of costly signalling, and (...)
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  9. Ben Fraser (2012). Review: Jesse Prinz, The Emotional Construction of Morals (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2007), Pp. Ix +334. [REVIEW] Utilitas 24 (04):558-563.
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  10. Ben Fraser (2012). Prinz, The Emotional Construction of Morals (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2007), Pp. Ix+ 334. Utilitas 24 (4):558-563.
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  11. Ben Fraser (2012). The Nature of Moral Judgements and the Extent of the Moral Domain. Philosophical Explorations 15 (1):1-16.
    A key question for research on the evolutionary origins of morality concerns just what the target of an evolutionary explanation of morality should be. Some researchers focus on behaviors, others on systems of norms, yet others on moral emotions. Richard Joyce (2006) offers an evolutionary explanation for the trait of making moral judgments. Here, I defend Joyce’s account of moral judgment against two objections from Stephen Stich (2008). Stich’s first objection concerns the supposed universality of moral judgments as Joyce conceives (...)
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  12. Ben Fraser (2011). Explaining Strong Reciprocity: Cooperation, Competition, and Partner Choice. [REVIEW] Biological Theory 6 (2):113-119.
    Paul Seabright argues that strong reciprocity was crucial in the evolution of large-scale cooperation. He identifies three potential evolutionary explanations for strong reciprocity. Drawing (like Seabright) on experimental economics, I identify and elaborate a fourth explanation for strong reciprocity, which proceeds in terms of partner choice, costly signaling, and competitive altruism.
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  13. Ben Fraser (2010). Adaptation, Exaptation, By-Products and Spandrels in Evolutionary Explanations of Morality. Biological Theory 5 (3):223-227.
    Adaptationist accounts of morality attempt to explain the evolution of morality in terms of the selective advantage that judging in moral terms secured for our ancestors (e.g. Ruse 1998; Joyce 2006; Street 2006). So-called by-product explanations of morality have been presented as an alternative to adaptationist accounts (e.g. Prinz 2009; Ayala 2010; cf. Darwin 2004/1871). In assessing the relationship between adaptationist and by-product accounts, care must be taken to distinguish several related but importantly different notions: innateness, adaptation, exaptation, spandrel, and (...)
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  14. Ben Fraser & Marc Hauser (2010). The Argument From Disagreement and the Role of Cross-Cultural Empirical Data. Mind and Language 25 (5):541-560.
    The Argument from Disagreement (AD) (Mackie, 1977) depends upon empirical evidence for ‘fundamental’ moral disagreement (FMD) (Doris and Stich, 2005; Doris and Plakias, 2008). Research on the Southern ‘culture of honour’ (Nisbett and Cohen, 1996) has been presented as evidence for FMD between Northerners and Southerners within the US. We raise some doubts about the usefulness of such data in settling AD. We offer an alternative based on recent work in moral psychology that targets the potential universality of morally significant (...)
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  15. Joshua Knobe & Ben Fraser (2008). Causal Judgment and Moral Judgment: Two Experiments. In Walter Sinnott-Armstrong (ed.), Moral Psychology. MIT Press.
    It has long been known that people’s causal judgments can have an impact on their moral judgments. To take a simple example, if people conclude that a behavior caused the death of ten innocent children, they will therefore be inclined to regard the behavior itself as morally wrong. So far, none of this should come as any surprise. But recent experimental work points to the existence of a second, and more surprising, aspect of the relationship between causal judgment and moral (...)
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  16. J. Wesson, A. Olawo, V. Bukusi, M. Solomon, B. Pierre-Louis, B. Fraser, S. Winani, S. Wood, P. Coffey & T. Chirwa (2008). Safety of Community-Based Distribution of DMPA. Journal of Biosocial Science 40 (1):69-82.
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  17. B. Fraser (2006). What Makes Us Moral? Crossing the Boundaries of Biology. Biology and Philosophy 21 (3):443-452.
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  18. Ben Fraser (2006). Review: Neil Levy, 'What Makes Us Moral? Crossing the Boundaries of Biology'. [REVIEW] Biology and Philosophy 21 (3):443-452.
  19. B. Fraser (1974). Review of Searle 1969. [REVIEW] Foundations of Language 11:433-446.
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