When psychology undermines beliefs

Philosophical Psychology 27 (3):328-350 (2014)
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Abstract

This paper attempts to specify the conditions under which a psychological explanation can undermine or debunk a set of beliefs. The focus will be on moral and religious beliefs, where a growing debate has emerged about the epistemic implications of cognitive science. Recent proposals by Joshua Greene and Paul Bloom will be taken as paradigmatic attempts to undermine beliefs with psychology. I will argue that a belief p may be undermined whenever: (i) p is evidentially based on an intuition which (ii) can be explained by a psychological mechanism that is (iii) unreliable for the task of believing p; and (iv) any other evidence for belief p is based on rationalization. I will also consider and defend two equally valid arguments for establishing unreliability: the redundancy argument and the argument from irrelevant factors. With this more specific understanding of debunking arguments, it is possible to develop new replies to some objections to psychological debunking arguments from both ethics and philosophy of religion.

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Derek Leben
Carnegie Mellon University

Citations of this work

Zombie intuitions.Eugen Fischer & Justin Sytsma - 2021 - Cognition 215 (C):104807.
Two types of debunking arguments.Peter Königs - 2018 - Philosophical Psychology 31 (3):383-402.
Debunking and fully apt belief.Joshua C. Thurow - 2018 - Filosofia Unisinos 19 (3).
Hearing God speak? Debunking arguments and everyday religious experiences.Lari Launonen - 2023 - International Journal for Philosophy of Religion (2):187-203.

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References found in this work

A Darwinian dilemma for realist theories of value.Sharon Street - 2006 - Philosophical Studies 127 (1):109-166.
The Normative Insignificance of Neuroscience.Selim Berker - 2009 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 37 (4):293-329.
The evolution of misbelief.Ryan McKay & Daniel Dennett - 2009 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 32 (6):493–510; discussion 510–61.
The folk psychology of souls.Jesse M. Bering - 2006 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 29 (5):453-+.

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