When psychology undermines beliefs

Philosophical Psychology (3):1-23 (2012)
Abstract
This paper attempts to specify the conditions under which a psychological explanation can undermine or debunk a set of beliefs. The focus will be on moral and religious beliefs, where a growing debate has emerged about the epistemic implications of cognitive science. Recent proposals by Joshua Greene and Paul Bloom will be taken as paradigmatic attempts to undermine beliefs with psychology. I will argue that a belief p may be undermined whenever: (i) p is evidentially based on an intuition which (ii) can be explained by a psychological mechanism that is (iii) unreliable for the task of believing p; and (iv) any other evidence for belief p is based on rationalization. I will also consider and defend two equally valid arguments for establishing unreliability: the redundancy argument and the argument from irrelevant factors. With this more specific understanding of debunking arguments, it is possible to develop new replies to some objections to psychological debunking arguments from both ethics and philosophy of religion
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