Like those famous nations divided by a single tongue, my paper (this volume) and Professor P.M. Churchland's deep and engaging reply offer different spins on a common heritage. The common heritage is, of course, a connectionist vision of the inner neural economy- a vision which depicts that economy in terms of supra-sentential state spaces, vector-to-vector transformations, and the kinds of skillful pattern-recognition routine we share with the bulk of terrestrial intelligent life-forms. That which divides us is, as ever, much harder (...) to isolate and name. Clearly, it has something to do with the role of moral talk and exchange, and something to do with the conception of morality itself (and, correlatively, with the conception of moral progress). Most of this Reply will be devoted to clarifying the nature of the disputed territory. First, though (as a prophylactic against misunderstanding) I shall rehearse some points of agreement concerning moral talk and progress. (shrink)
We present a unified empirical and philosophical account of moral consistency reasoning, a distinctive form of moral reasoning that exposes inconsistencies among moral judgments about concrete cases. Judgments opposed in belief or in emotion and motivation are inconsistent when the cases are similar in morally relevant respects. Moral consistency reasoning, we argue, regularly shapes moral thought and feeling by coordinating two systems described in dual process models of moral cognition. Our empirical explanation of moral change fills a gap in the (...) empirical literature, making psychologically plausible a defensible new model of justified moral change and a hybrid theory of moral judgment. (shrink)
Experimental research in moral psychology can be used to generate debunking arguments in ethics. Specifically, research can indicate that we draw a moral distinction on the basis of a morally irrelevant difference. We develop this naturalistic approach by examining a recent debate between Joshua Greene and Selim Berker. We argue that Greene's research, if accurate, undermines attempts to reconcile opposing judgments about trolley cases, but that his attempt to debunk deontology fails. We then draw some general lessons about the possibility (...) of empirical debunking arguments in ethics. (shrink)
We attempt a conclusive resolution of the debate over whether the principle of natural selection (PNS), especially conceived as the `principle' of the `survival of the fittest', is a tautology. This debate has been largely ignored for the past 15 years but not, we think, because it has actually been settled. We begin by describing the tautology objection, and situating the problem in the philosophical and biology literature. We then demonstrate the inadequacy of six prima facie plausible reasons for believing (...) that the tautology debate has been satisfactorily resolved (the PNS is strictly a methodological principle; scientific theories can contain tautologies; the scope of the PNS has been reduced; theories should be understood as models and not exceptionless laws; the widespread acceptance of the propensity interpretation of fitness; and the abandonment of operationalism and verificationism). We proceed to a detailed discussion of Brandon's law (D) describing the PNS, and show that law (D) seriously misrepresents the structure of evolution by natural selection. In the final sections, we provide and defend a novel reinterpretation of the structure of the principle (or, we prefer, model) of evolution by natural selection. (shrink)
A familiar position regarding the evolution of ethics is that biology can explain the origin of morals but that in doing so it removes the possibility of their having objective justification. This position is set fourth in detail in the writings of Michael Ruse (1986, 1987, 1989, 1990a, 1990b) but it is also taken by many others, notably, Jeffrie Murphy (1982), Andrew Oldenquist (1990), and Allan Gibbard (1990), I argue the contrary view that biology provides a justification of the (...) existence of morals which is objective in the sense of being independent of people's moral views and their particular desires and preferences. Ironically, my argument builds on the very premises which are supposed to undermine the objectivity of morals. But my argument stops short of claiming that biology can give us a basis for justifying some particular system of morals. Drawing on an analogy with social contract theory, I offer a general reason why this more ambitious project cannot be expected to succeed if the argument is pursued along the same lines. Finally, I give reasons why the possibility of objective justification for a particular morality cannot be ruled out in general on evolutionary grounds. (shrink)
Despite the emergence of new forms of feminist empiricism, there continues to be resistance to the idea that feminist political commitment can be integral to hypothesis testing in science when that process adheres strictly to empiricist norms and is grounded in a realist conception of objectivity. I explore the virtues of such feminist empiricism, arguing that the resistance is, in large part, due to the lingering effects of positivism.