Moral Skepticism

Edited by Christopher Michael Cloos (University of California at Santa Barbara)
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  1. Ethics and Mathematics: The Reliability Challenge. Clarke-Doane - manuscript
    It is sometimes alleged that “the reliability challenge” to moral realism is equally compelling against mathematical realism. This allegation is of interest. The reliability challenge to moral realism is increasingly taken to be the most serious challenge to moral realism. However, the specific considerations that are said to motivate it – such as considerations of rational dubitability and evolutionary influence – are widely held not to motivate an analogous challenge to mathematical realism. If it turned out that, in fact, they (...)
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  2. The Epistemic Argument for Hedonism.Neil Sinhababu -
    I defend hedonism about moral value by first presenting an argument for moral skepticism, and then showing that phenomenal introspection gives us a unique way to defeat the skeptical argument and establish pleasure's goodness.
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  3. Reply to Sosa.Stephen Stich - manuscript
    Sosa’s topic is the use of intuitions in philosophy. Much of what I have written on the issue has been critical of appeals to intuition in epistemology, though in recent years I have become increasingly skeptical of the use of intuitions in ethics and in semantic theory as well.
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  4. Should We Prevent Evil If Sceptical Theism is Right?Alexander Pruss - manuscript
    I argue that the answer is affirmative, pace Oppy.
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  5. Skeptical Theism: New Essays.Trent Doughtery & Justin McBrayder (eds.) - forthcoming - Oxford University Press.
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  6. Naturalism and the Error Theory.Frank Jackson - forthcoming - Brill.
    _ Source: _Page Count 12 Bart Streumer makes an interesting case for an error theory in ethics—and for an error theory for normativity more generally, but I will focus on the more restricted target. I offer a reply on behalf of naturalists in ethics. My case for resistance will involve identifying a three-fold ambiguity in his use of the term ‘guarantee’. I conclude with some observations about the implications of theories of reference for moral/ethical terms for the debate.
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  7. Naturalism and the Error Theory.Frank Jackson - forthcoming - International Journal for the Study of Skepticism.
    _ Source: _Page Count 12 Bart Streumer makes an interesting case for an error theory in ethics—and for an error theory for normativity more generally, but I will focus on the more restricted target. I offer a reply on behalf of naturalists in ethics. My case for resistance will involve identifying a three-fold ambiguity in his use of the term ‘guarantee’. I conclude with some observations about the implications of theories of reference for moral/ethical terms for the debate.
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  8. Moral Reality and the Empirical Sciences, Written by Thomas Pölzler. [REVIEW]Michael Klenk - forthcoming - International Journal for the Study of Skepticism:1-9.
  9. The Epistemology of Evolutionary Debunking.Justis Koon - forthcoming - Synthese:1-22.
    Fifteen years ago, Sharon Street and Richard Joyce advanced evolutionary debunking arguments against moral realism, which purported to show that the evolutionary history of our moral beliefs makes moral realism untenable. These arguments have since given rise to a flurry of objections; the epistemic principles Street and Joyce relied upon, in particular, have come in for a number of serious challenges. My goal in this paper is to develop a new account of evolutionary debunking which avoids the pitfalls Street and (...)
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  10. Moral Error Theory, Written by Wouter Floris Kalf.Matthew Lutz - forthcoming - International Journal for the Study of Skepticism:1-7.
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  11. Agnosticism, Skeptical Theism, and Moral Obligation.Stephen Maitzen - forthcoming - In Trent G. Dougherty & Justin P. McBrayer (eds.), Skeptical Theism: New Essays. Oxford University Press.
    Skeptical theism combines theism with skepticism about our capacity to discern God’s morally sufficient reasons for permitting evil. Proponents have claimed that skeptical theism defeats the evidential argument from evil. Many opponents have objected that it implies untenable moral skepticism, induces appalling moral paralysis, and the like. Recently Daniel Howard-Snyder has tried to rebut this prevalent objection to skeptical theism by rebutting it as an objection to the skeptical part of skeptical theism, which part he labels “Agnosticism” (with an intentionally (...)
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  12. Essays in Moral Skepticism. [REVIEW]Jonas Olson - forthcoming - International Journal for the Study of Skepticism.
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  13. Willing Belief.Mark Schroeder - forthcoming - Brill.
    _ Source: _Page Count 22 In _Unbelievable Errors_, Bart Streumer offers resourceful arguments against each of non-reductive realism, reductive realism, and non-cognitivism, in order to motivate his version of the normative error theory, according to which normative predicates ascribe properties that do not exist. In this contribution, I argue that none of the steps of this master argument succeed, and that Streumer’s arguments leave puzzles about what it means to ascribe a property at all.
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  14. Debunking Objective Consequentialism: The Challenge of Knowledge-Centric Anti-Luck Epistemology.Paul Silva Jr - forthcoming - In Michael Klenk (ed.), Higher Order Evidence and Moral Epistemology. Routledge.
    I explain why, from the perspective of knowledge-centric anti-luck epistemology, objective act consequentialist theories of ethics imply skepticism about the moral status of our prospective actions and also tend to be self-defeating, undermining the justification of consequentialist theories themselves. For according to knowledge-centric anti-luck epistemology there are modal anti-luck demands on both knowledge and justification, and it turns out that our beliefs about the moral status of our prospective actions are almost never able to satisfy these demands if objective act (...)
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  15. O que é um dilema moral?Walter Sinnott-Armstrong - forthcoming - Critica.
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  16. Moral Peer Disagreement and the Limits of Higher-Order Evidence.Marco Tiozzo - forthcoming - In Michael Klenk (ed.), Higher-Order Evidence and Moral Epistemology. Routledge.
    Abstract. This paper argues that the “Argument from Moral Peer Disagreement” fails to make a case for widespread moral skepticism. The main reason for this is that the argument rests on a too strong assumption about the normative significance of peer disagreement (and higher-order evidence more generally). In order to demonstrate this, I distinguish two competing ways in which one might explain higher-order defeat. According to what I call the “Objective Defeat Explanation” it is the mere possession of higher-order evidence (...)
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  17. A dilemma for evolutionary debunking arguments.Uri D. Leibowitz - 2021 - Philosophical Studies 178 (1):45-69.
    Evolutionary debunkers claim that evolutionary explanations of moral phenomena lead to sceptical conclusions. The aim of this paper is to show that even if we grant debunkers the speculative claims that evolution provides the best explanation of moral phenomena and that there are no other moral phenomena for which moral facts/properties are indispensable, the sceptical conclusions debunkers seek to establish still do not follow. The problem for debunkers is to link the empirical explanatory claim to the normative conclusion that moral (...)
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  18. Sarah McGrath, "Moral Knowledge.". [REVIEW]Eric Wilkinson - 2021 - Philosophy in Review 41 (4):253-255.
  19. Big History, Value, and the Art of Continued Existence.Brendan Cline - 2020 - Philosophia 48 (3):901-930.
    There has lately been substantial interest in scrutinizing our evaluative attitudes in light of our evolutionary history. However, these discussions have been hampered by an insufficiently expansive vantage. Our history did not begin ex nihilo a few million years ago with the appearance of hominins, or apes, or primates—those are very recent chapters of a much larger story that spans billions of years. This paper situates the mechanisms underlying normative thought within this broader context. I argue that this historical perspective (...)
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  20. A Debunking Explanation for Moral Progress.Nathan Cofnas - 2020 - Philosophical Studies 177 (11):3171-3191.
    According to “debunking arguments,” our moral beliefs are explained by evolutionary and cultural processes that do not track objective, mind-independent moral truth. Therefore (the debunkers say) we ought to be skeptics about moral realism. Huemer counters that “moral progress”—the cross-cultural convergence on liberalism—cannot be explained by debunking arguments. According to him, the best explanation for this phenomenon is that people have come to recognize the objective correctness of liberalism. Although Huemer may be the first philosopher to make this explicit empirical (...)
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  21. Third Factor Explanations and Disagreement in Metaethics.Michael Klenk - 2020 - Synthese 197 (1):427-446.
    Several moral objectivists try to explain the reliability of moral beliefs by appealing to a third factor, a substantive moral claim that explains, first, why we have the moral beliefs that we have and, second, why these beliefs are true. Folke Tersman has recently suggested that moral disagreement constrains the epistemic legitimacy of third-factor explanations. Apart from constraining third-factor explanations, Tersman’s challenge could support the view that the epistemic significance of debunking explanations depends on the epistemic significance of disagreement. This (...)
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  22. Against Minimalist Responses to Moral Debunking Arguments.Daniel Z. Korman & Dustin Locke - 2020 - Oxford Studies in Metaethics 15:309-332.
    Moral debunking arguments are meant to show that, by realist lights, moral beliefs are not explained by moral facts, which in turn is meant to show that they lack some significant counterfactual connection to the moral facts (e.g., safety, sensitivity, reliability). The dominant, “minimalist” response to the arguments—sometimes defended under the heading of “third-factors” or “pre-established harmonies”—involves affirming that moral beliefs enjoy the relevant counterfactual connection while granting that these beliefs are not explained by the moral facts. We show that (...)
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  23. Evolutionary Debunking Arguments Meet Evolutionary Science.Arnon Levy & Yair Levy - 2020 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 100 (3):491-509.
    Evolutionary debunking arguments appeal to selective etiologies of human morality in an attempt to undermine moral realism. But is morality actually the product of evolution by natural selection? Although debunking arguments have attracted considerable attention in recent years, little of it has been devoted to whether the underlying evolutionary assumptions are credible. In this paper, we take a closer look at the evolutionary hypotheses put forward by two leading debunkers, namely Sharon Street and Richard Joyce. We raise a battery of (...)
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  24. Might Moral Epistemologists Be Asking The Wrong Questions?Caleb Perl - 2020 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 100 (3):556-585.
    Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, EarlyView.
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  25. Moral Explanations of Moral Beliefs: Inappropriate to Demand Them?John J. Tilley - 2020 - Theoria 86 (3):293-308.
    A familiar claim, meant as a challenge to moral knowledge, is that we can credibly accept putative moral facts just in case they explain natural facts. This paper critically addresses Elizabeth Tropman’s response to a version of that claim. Her response has interest partly because it falls within, and extends, an influential philosophical tradition – that of trying to expose (some) skeptical challenges as spurious or ill-conceived. Also, Tropman’s target is not just any version of the claim just mentioned. It (...)
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  26. Debunking Arguments in Ethics, Written by Hanno Sauer.Erik J. Wielenberg - 2020 - International Journal for the Study of Skepticism 10 (2):178-183.
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  27. Evolutionary Debunking, Self-Defeat, and All the Evidence.Silvan Wittwer - 2020 - In Michael Klenk (ed.), Higher Order Evidence and Moral Epistemology. New York, NY, USA: Routledge.
    Recently, Tomas Bogardus (2016), Andreas Mogensen (2017) and – at least on one plausible reconstruction – Sharon Street (2005) have argued that evolutionary theory debunks our moral beliefs by providing higher-order evidence of error. In response, moral realists such as Katia Vavova (2014) have objected that such evolutionary debunking arguments are self-defeating. The literature lacks any discussion of whether this self-defeat objection can be handled. My overall aim is to argue that it cannot, thus filling that lacuna – and vindicating (...)
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  28. Précis of Regard for Reason in the Moral Mind.Joshua May - 2019 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 42 (e146):1-60.
    Regard for Reason in the Moral Mind argues that a careful examination of the scientific literature reveals a foundational role for reasoning in moral thought and action. Grounding moral psychology in reason then paves the way for a defense of moral knowledge and virtue against a variety of empirical challenges, such as debunking arguments and situationist critiques. The book attempts to provide a corrective to current trends in moral psychology, which celebrate emotion over reason and generate pessimism about the psychological (...)
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  29. Can Theists Avoid Epistemological Objections to Moral (and Normative) Realism?Justin Morton - 2019 - Faith and Philosophy 36 (3):291-312.
    Epistemological objections to moral realism allege that realism entails moral skepticism. Many philosophers have assumed that theistic moral realists can easily avoid such objections. In this article, I argue that things are not so easy: theists run the risk of violating an important constraint on replies to epistemological objections, according to which replies to such objections may not rely on substantive moral claims of a certain kind. Yet after presenting this challenge, I then argue that theists can meet it, successfully (...)
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  30. Reasoning with the Exclusionary Other: Classical Scenes for a Postradical Horizon.Carlos Palacios - 2019 - Critical Inquiry 46 (1):97-117.
    Thanks to Michel Foucault, one might say it has become possible to conceive that the political relevance of humanity in modern thought does not have to do with its “philosophical essence” but rather with its “nonessence.” Yet this very idea surfaced earlier in Western thought, at the time of the revolutionary turn towards a politicized humanitarianism, and helped to shape some crucial political strategies making up modern liberal democracy. Its potential eluded even Foucault. I contend that tracing the contours of (...)
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  31. Moral Skepticism: New Essays, Edited by Diego E. Machuca.Neil Sinclair - 2019 - International Journal for the Study of Skepticism 9 (2):173-178.
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  32. "Moral Skepticism: New Essays" Ed. Diego E. Machuca (Routledge 2018). [REVIEW]Neil Sinclair - 2019 - International Journal for the Study of Skepticism 9 (2):1-7.
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  33. The Self-Effacement Gambit.Jack Woods - 2019 - Res Philosophica 96 (2):113-139.
    Philosophical arguments usually are and nearly always should be abductive. Across many areas, philosophers are starting to recognize that often the best we can do in theorizing some phenomena is put forward our best overall account of it, warts and all. This is especially true in esoteric areas like logic, aesthetics, mathematics, and morality where the data to be explained is often based in our stubborn intuitions. -/- While this methodological shift is welcome, it's not without problems. Abductive arguments involve (...)
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  34. The Tale of a Moderate Normative Skeptic.Brendan Cline - 2018 - Philosophical Studies 175 (1):141-161.
    While Richard Joyce’s moral skepticism might seem to be an extreme metaethical view, it is actually far more moderate than it might first appear. By articulating four challenges facing his approach to moral skepticism, I argue that Joyce’s moderation is, in fact, a theoretical liability. First, the fact that Joyce is not skeptical about normativity in general makes it possible to develop close approximations to morality, lending support to moderate moral revisionism over moral error theory. Second, Joyce relies on strong, (...)
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  35. Evolutionary Debunking Arguments in Ethics.Diego E. Machuca - 2018 - Oxford Bibliographies in Philosophy.
    There are at least three different genealogical accounts of morality: the ontogenetic, the sociohistorical, and the evolutionary. One can thus construct, in principle, three distinct genealogical debunking arguments of morality, i.e., arguments that appeal to empirical data, or to an empirical hypothesis, about the origin of morality to undermine either its ontological foundation or the epistemic credentials of our moral beliefs. The genealogical account that has been, particularly since the early 2000s, the topic of a burgeoning line of inquiry in (...)
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  36. Moral Skepticism: An Introduction and Overview.Diego E. Machuca - 2018 - In Diego E. Machuca (ed.), Moral Skepticism: New Essays. New York: Routledge. pp. 1-31.
    In this introductory chapter, I not only present the essays that make up this volume but also I offer an extensive critical overview of moral skepticism with the hope that it will turn out to be useful particularly to the uninitiated reader. I first provide a taxonomy of varieties of moral skepticism, then discuss the main arguments advanced in their favor, and finally summarize the ten essays here collected, which deal with one or more of those skeptical stances and arguments.
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  37. Moral Skepticism, Fictionalism, and Insulation.Diego E. Machuca - 2018 - In Diego E. Machuca (ed.), Moral Skepticism: New Essays. New York: Routledge. pp. 213-234.
    It has been claimed that a key difference between ancient and contemporary skepticism is that, unlike the ancient skeptics, contemporary skeptics consider ordinary beliefs to be insulated from skeptical doubt. In the case of metaethics, this issue is related to the following question: what attitude towards ordinary moral thought and discourse should one adopt if one is a moral skeptic? Whereas moral abolitionists claim that one should do away with ordinary moral thought and discourse altogether, moral fictionalists maintain that, given (...)
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  38. Moral Skepticism: New Essays.Diego E. Machuca (ed.) - 2018 - Routledge.
    Moral skepticism is at present a vibrant topic of philosophical inquiry. Particularly since the turn of the millennium, the metaethical study of skepticism has profited from advances in general epistemology and findings in empirical sciences, in light of which new arguments for and against moral skepticism have been devised, while the traditional ones have been reexamined. This collection of original essays by leading metaethicists will advance the ongoing debates about various forms of moral skepticism by drawing on recent innovative work (...)
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  39. When Do Replies to the Evolutionary Debunking Argument Against Moral Realism Beg the Question?Justin Morton - 2018 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 97 (2):265-280.
    ABSTRACTSome proponents of the evolutionary debunking argument against moral realism believe that replies that assume substantive moral claims beg the question. In this paper, I give a new account of what's wrong with such replies. On this account, many realists beg the question when they rely on substantive moral claims in their replies to the argument, but naturalists do not. While this account generalizes to some other domains, it allows perceptual and inductive realism to remain undebunked.
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  40. Necessarily Coextensive Predicates and Reduction.Philip Stratton-Lake - 2018 - Brill.
    _ Source: _Page Count 18 Bart Streumer argues that all normative properties are descriptive properties. His first argument is based on the principle that necessarily coextensive predicates ascribe the same property, and the claim that there is a descriptive predicate that is necessarily coextensive with normative predicates. From this Streumer concludes that normative properties are identical with descriptive properties. I argue that, even if we accept, this conclusion does not follow. Normative properties could only be descriptive properties if there is (...)
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  41. Necessarily Coextensive Predicates and Reduction.Philip Stratton-Lake - 2018 - International Journal for the Study of Skepticism 8 (4):282-299.
    _ Source: _Page Count 18 Bart Streumer argues that all normative properties are descriptive properties. His first argument is based on the principle that necessarily coextensive predicates ascribe the same property, and the claim that there is a descriptive predicate that is necessarily coextensive with normative predicates. From this Streumer concludes that normative properties are identical with descriptive properties. I argue that, even if we accept, this conclusion does not follow. Normative properties could only be descriptive properties if there is (...)
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  42. Error-Theory, Relaxation and Inferentialism.Christine Tiefensee - 2018 - In Diego E. Machuca (ed.), Moral Skepticism. Abingdon: Routledge. pp. 49-70.
    This contribution considers whether or not it is possible to devise a coherent form of external skepticism about the normative if we ‘relax’ about normative ontology by regarding claims about the existence of normative truths and properties themselves as normative. I answer this question in the positive: A coherent form of non-normative error-theories can be developed even against a relaxed background. However, this form no longer makes any reference to the alleged falsity of normative judgments, nor the non-existence of normative (...)
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  43. Our Reliability is in Principle Explainable.Dan Baras - 2017 - Episteme 14 (2):197-211.
    Non-skeptical robust realists about normativity, mathematics, or any other domain of non- causal truths are committed to a correlation between their beliefs and non- causal, mind-independent facts. Hartry Field and others have argued that if realists cannot explain this striking correlation, that is a strong reason to reject their theory. Some consider this argument, known as the Benacerraf–Field argument, as the strongest challenge to robust realism about mathematics, normativity, and even logic. In this article I offer two closely related accounts (...)
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  44. Debunking Arguments From Insensitivity.Matthew Braddock - 2017 - International Journal for the Study of Skepticism 7 (2):91-113.
    Heightened awareness of the origins of our moral judgments pushes many in the direction of moral skepticism, in the direction of thinking we are unjustified in holding our moral judgments on a realist understanding of the moral truths. A classic debunking argument fleshes out this worry: the best explanation of our moral judgments does not appeal to their truth, so we are unjustified in holding our moral judgments. But it is unclear how to get from the explanatory premise to the (...)
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  45. P. F. Strawson’s Free Will Naturalism.Joe Campbell - 2017 - International Journal for the Study of Skepticism 7 (1):26-52.
    _ Source: _Page Count 27 This is an explication and defense of P. F. Strawson’s naturalist theory of free will and moral responsibility. I respond to a set of criticisms of the view by free will skeptics, compatibilists, and libertarians who adopt the _core assumption_: Strawson thinks that our reactive attitudes provide the basis for a rational justification of our blaming and praising practices. My primary aim is to explain and defend Strawson’s naturalism in light of criticisms based on the (...)
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  46. Knowing What Matters.Richard Yetter Chappell - 2017 - In Peter Singer (ed.), Does Anything Really Matter? Essays on Parfit on Objectivity. Oxford University Press. pp. 149-167.
    Parfit's On What Matters offers a rousing defence of non-naturalist normative realism against pressing metaphysical and epistemological objections. He addresses skeptical arguments based on (i) the causal origins of our normative beliefs, and (ii) the appearance of pervasive moral disagreement. In both cases, he concedes the first step to the skeptic, but draws a subsequent distinction with which he hopes to stem the skeptic's advance. I argue, however, that these distinctions cannot bear the weight that Parfit places on them. A (...)
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  47. What is the Benacerraf Problem?Justin Clarke-Doane - 2017 - In Fabrice Pataut (ed.), New Perspectives on the Philosophy of Paul Benacerraf: Truth, Objects, Infinity. Springer Verlag.
    In "Mathematical Truth", Paul Benacerraf articulated an epistemological problem for mathematical realism. His formulation of the problem relied on a causal theory of knowledge which is now widely rejected. But it is generally agreed that Benacerraf was onto a genuine problem for mathematical realism nevertheless. Hartry Field describes it as the problem of explaining the reliability of our mathematical beliefs, realistically construed. In this paper, I argue that the Benacerraf Problem cannot be made out. There simply is no intelligible problem (...)
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  48. Explaining Our Moral Reliability.Sinan Dogramaci - 2017 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 98 (S1):71-86.
    I critically examine an evolutionary debunking argument against moral realism. The key premise of the argument is that there is no adequate explanation of our moral reliability. I search for the strongest version of the argument; this involves exploring how ‘adequate explanation’ could be understood such that the key premise comes out true. Finally, I give a reductio: in the sense in which there is no adequate explanation of our moral reliability, there is equally no adequate explanation of our inductive (...)
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  49. Old Wine in New Bottles: Evolutionary Debunking Arguments and the Benacerraf–Field Challenge.Michael Klenk - 2017 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 20 (4):781-795.
    Evolutionary debunking arguments purport to show that robust moral realism, the metaethical view that there are non-natural and mind-independent moral properties and facts that we can know about, is incompatible with evolutionary explanations of morality. One of the most prominent evolutionary debunking arguments is advanced by Sharon Street, who argues that if moral realism were true, then objective moral knowledge is unlikely because realist moral properties are evolutionary irrelevant and moral beliefs about those properties would not be selected for. However, (...)
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  50. Review of Richard Joyce's Essays in Moral Skepticism. [REVIEW]Michael Klenk - 2017 - Ethical Perspectives 24 (1):158-162.
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