A Darwinian dilemma for realist theories of value

Philosophical Studies 127 (1):109-166 (2005)
Abstract
Contemporary realist theories of value claim to be compatible with natural science. In this paper, I call this claim into question by arguing that Darwinian considerations pose a dilemma for these theories. The main thrust of my argument is this. Evolutionary forces have played a tremendous role in shaping the content of human evaluative attitudes. The challenge for realist theories of value is to explain the relation between these evolutionary influences on our evaluative attitudes, on the one hand, and the independent evaluative truths that realism posits, on the other. Realism, I argue, can give no satisfactory account of this relation. On the one hand, the realist may claim that there is no relation between evolutionary influences on our evaluative attitudes and independent evaluative truths. But this claim leads to the implausible skeptical result that most of our evaluative judgements are off track due to the distorting pressure of Darwinian forces. The realist’s other option is to claim that there is a relation between evolutionary influences and independent evaluative truths, namely that natural selection favored ancestors who were able to grasp those truths. But this account, I argue, is unacceptable on scientific grounds. Either way, then, realist theories of value prove unable to accommodate the fact that Darwinian forces have deeply influenced the content of human values. After responding to three objections, the third of which leads me to argue against a realist understanding of the disvalue of pain, I conclude by sketching how antirealism is able to sidestep the dilemma I have presented. Antirealist theories of value are able to offer an alternative account of the relation between evolutionary forces and evaluative facts — an account that allows us to reconcile our understanding of evaluative truth with our understanding of the many non-rational causes that have played a role in shaping our evaluative judgements.
Keywords Philosophy   Philosophy   Epistemology   Logic   Philosophy of Mind   Philosophy of Religion
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Reprint years 2006
DOI 10.1007/s11098-005-1726-6
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What We Owe to Each Other.Thomas Scanlon - 1998 - Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
Philosophical Explanations.Robert Nozick - 1981 - Harvard University Press.

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Evolutionary Debunking of Moral Realism.Katia Vavova - 2015 - Philosophy Compass 10 (2):104-116.
Evolutionary Debunking Arguments.Guy Kahane - 2011 - Noûs 45 (1):103-125.

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