Evolution, naturalism, and the worthwhile: A critique of Richard Joyce's evolutionary debunking of morality

Metaphilosophy 42 (4):520-546 (2011)
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Abstract: In The Evolution of Morality, Richard Joyce argues there is good reason to think that the “moral sense” is a biological adaptation, and that this provides a genealogy of the moral sense that has a debunking effect, driving us to the conclusion that “our moral beliefs are products of a process that is entirely independent of their truth, … we have no grounds one way or the other for maintaining these beliefs.” I argue that Joyce's skeptical conclusion is not warranted. Even if the moral sense is a biological adaptation, developed moralities (such as Aristotelian eudaimonism) can “co-opt” it into new roles so that the moral judgments it makes possible can come to transcend the evolutionary process that is “entirely independent of their truth.” While evolutionary theory can shed much light on our shared human nature, moral theories must still be vindicated, or debunked, by moral arguments



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Christopher H. Toner
University of St. Thomas, Minnesota

Citations of this work

The tale of a moderate normative skeptic.Brendan Cline - 2018 - Philosophical Studies 175 (1):141-161.
Nativism and the Evolutionary Debunking of Morality.Brendan Cline - 2015 - Review of Philosophy and Psychology 6 (2):231-253.

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Ethics and the limits of philosophy.Bernard Williams - 1985 - Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
The sources of normativity.Christine M. Korsgaard - 1996 - New York: Cambridge University Press. Edited by Onora O'Neill.
On Virtue Ethics.Rosalind Hursthouse - 1999 - Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Warrant and proper function.Alvin Plantinga - 1993 - New York: Oxford University Press.
After Virtue.A. MacIntyre - 1981 - Tijdschrift Voor Filosofie 46 (1):169-171.

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