Nativism and the Evolutionary Debunking of Morality

Brendan Cline
Brandeis University
Evolutionary debunking arguments purport to undercut the justification of our moral judgments by showing why a tendency to make moral judgments would evolve regardless of the truth of those judgments. Machery and Mallon (2010. Evolution of morality. In J.M. Doris and The Moral Psychology Research Group (Eds.), The Moral Psychology Handbook (pp. 3-46). Oxford: Oxford University Press) have recently tried to disarm these arguments by showing that moral cognition – in the sense that is relevant to debunking – is not the product of natural selection. Specifically, they present a barrage of increasingly influential challenges against reciprocity-based approaches to moral nativism. In the present paper I defend the nativist account of moral cognition against these criticisms, thereby bolstering the skeptical conclusions of evolutionary debunking arguments. However, Machery and Mallon's critique does successfully highlight several vulnerabilities in Richard Joyce's approach to debunking, suggesting several ways in which it can be revised toward generating a more robust version of the argument.
Keywords direct reciprocity  indirect reciprocity  evolution of morality  moral nativism  debunking arguments  moral skepticism
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1007/s13164-014-0207-2
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

Our Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 47,182
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

Justice for Hedgehogs.Ronald Dworkin - 2011 - Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.

View all 70 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

The Tale of a Moderate Normative Skeptic.Brendan Cline - 2018 - Philosophical Studies 175 (1):141-161.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Debunking Evolutionary Debunking.Katia Vavova - 2014 - Oxford Studies in Metaethics 9:76-101.
Evolutionary Debunking Arguments.Guy Kahane - 2011 - Noûs 45 (1):103-125.
Process Debunking and Ethics.Shaun Nichols - 2014 - Ethics 124 (4):727-749.
Evolutionary Debunking, Moral Realism and Moral Knowledge.Russ Shafer-Landau - 2012 - Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy 7 (1):1-38.
Evolution and Impartiality.Guy Kahane - 2014 - Ethics 124 (2):327-341.


Added to PP index

Total views
141 ( #59,327 of 2,289,446 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
7 ( #148,729 of 2,289,446 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes

Sign in to use this feature