How could a “blind” evolutionary process have made human moral beliefs sensitive to strongly universal, objective moral standards?

Biology and Philosophy 30 (5):691-708 (2015)
  Copy   BIBTEX


The evolutionist challenge to moral realism is the skeptical challenge that, if evolution is true, it would only be by chance, a “happy coincidence” as Sharon Street puts it, if human moral beliefs were true. The author formulates Street’s “happy coincidence” argument more precisely using a distinction between probabilistic sensitivity and insensitivity introduced by Elliott Sober. The author then considers whether it could be rational for us to believe that human moral judgments about particular cases are probabilistically sensitive to strongly universal fundamental moral standards of cooperation and fair division. The author provides an explanation of why there would be a benign correlation between human moral judgments in particular cases and the requirements of strongly universal fundamental moral standards. The explanation of the benign correlation is based on group selection for groups of individuals with an egalitarian satisficing psychology and egalitarian norms, because of the ability of such groups to more efficiently solve gene-propagation collective action problems



    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 76,199

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

Similar books and articles

Evolutionary Debunking, Moral Realism and Moral Knowledge.Russ Shafer-Landau - 2012 - Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy 7 (1):1-38.
Moral realism and moral judgments.Frederik Kaufman - 1992 - Erkenntnis 36 (1):103 - 112.
The Caveman's Conscience: Evolution and Moral Realism.Scott M. James - 2009 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 87 (2):215-233.
Moral Realism: A Defence.Russ Shafer-Landau - 2003 - Oxford University Press.
Evolutionary Moral Realism.John Collier & Michael Stingl - 2013 - Biological Theory 7 (3):218-226.
Devitt on Moral Realism.Boran Berčić - 2006 - Croatian Journal of Philosophy 6 (1):63-68.


Added to PP

56 (#212,628)

6 months
1 (#448,894)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

William J. Talbott
University of Washington

Citations of this work

Debunking arguments.Daniel Z. Korman - 2019 - Philosophy Compass 14 (12):e12638.
Debunking Arguments in Metaethics and Metaphysics.Daniel Z. Korman - 2019 - In Alvin Goldman & Brian McLaughlin (eds.), Metaphysics and Cognitive Science. Oxford University Press. pp. 337-363.
A New Reliability Defeater for Evolutionary Naturalism.William J. Talbott - 2016 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 93 (3):538-564.

View all 7 citations / Add more citations

References found in this work

On What Matters: Two-Volume Set.Derek Parfit - 2001 - Oxford University Press.
Philosophical Explanations.Robert Nozick - 1981 - Harvard University Press.
The meaning of 'meaning'.Hillary Putnam - 1975 - Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science 7:131-193.

View all 37 references / Add more references