Two types of debunking arguments

Philosophical Psychology 31 (3):383-402 (2018)
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Debunking arguments are arguments that seek to undermine a belief or doctrine by exposing its causal origins. Two prominent proponents of such arguments are the utilitarians Joshua Greene and Peter Singer. They draw on evidence from moral psychology, neuroscience, and evolutionary theory in an effort to show that there is something wrong with how deontological judgments are typically formed and with where our deontological intuitions come from. They offer debunking explanations of our emotion-driven deontological intuitions and dismiss complex deontological theories as products of confabulatory post hoc rationalization. Through my discussion of Greene and Singer’s empirically informed debunking of deontology, I introduce the distinction between two different types of debunking arguments. The first type of debunking argument operates through regular undercutting defeat, whereas the second type relies on higher-order evidence. I argue that the latter type of debunking argument, of which the argument from confabulation is an example, is objectionably sloppy and therefore inadmissible in academic discussion.

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Peter Königs
Utrecht University

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