Ethics 126 (3):636-661 (2016)

Tomas Bogardus
Pepperdine University
Do the facts of evolution generate an epistemic challenge to moral realism? Some think so, and many “evolutionary debunking arguments” have been discussed in the recent literature. But they are all murky right where it counts most: exactly which epistemic principle is meant to take us from evolutionary considerations to the skeptical conclusion? Here, I will identify several distinct species of evolutionary debunking argument in the literature, each one of which relies on a distinct epistemic principle. Drawing on recent work in epistemology, I will show that most of these initially plausible principles are false, spoiling the arguments that rely on them. And we will see that each argument threatens only one popular view of moral psychology: a “Representationalist” view on which our moral judgments rely crucially on a mental intermediary—e.g. a sentiment, gut reaction, or affect-laden intuition—delivered by our evolved moral faculty. In the end, only one evolutionary debunking argument remains a menace: an “ Argument from Symmetry ” that I will introduce to the literature. But we will see that it should worry only all naturalists, pressuring them into a trilemma: give up moral realism, accept a rationalism that is incongruous with naturalism, or give up naturalism. Non-naturalists are free and clear.
Keywords Ethics  Evolutionary Debunking Arguments  Epistemology  Moral Skepticism  Moral Realism  Naturalism  Philosophy of Religion  Moral Epistemology  Moral Psychology
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Reprint years 2016
DOI 10.1086/684711
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Modal Security.Justin Clarke-Doane & Dan Baras - 2021 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 102 (1):162-183.
Disagreement.Jonathan Matheson & Bryan Frances - 2018 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Debunking Arguments.Daniel Z. Korman - 2019 - Philosophy Compass 14 (12).
Debunking Morality: Lessons From the EAAN Literature.Andrew Moon - 2017 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 98 (S1):208-226.
A Debunking Explanation for Moral Progress.Nathan Cofnas - 2020 - Philosophical Studies 177 (11):3171-3191.

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