The Pyrrhonist’s argumentative practice is characterized by at least four features. First, he makes a therapeutic use of arguments: he employs arguments that differ in their persuasiveness in order to cure his dogmatic patients of the distinct degrees of conceit and rashness that afflict them. Secondly, his arguments are for the most part dialectical: when offering an argument to oppose it to another argument advanced by a given dogmatist, he accepts in propria persona neither the truth of its premises and (...) conclusion nor the validity of its logical form. Thirdly, he avails himself of arguments in his own open-minded inquiry into the truth about a wide range of topics. Fourthly, Pyrrhonian argumentation is oppositional inasmuch as it typically works by producing oppositions among arguments that appear to the Pyrrhonist to be equipollent. In this article, I focus on the first three features with the aim of both shedding some light on them and determining whether they are in tension or coherently relate to each other. (shrink)
In this introductory chapter, I not only present the essays that make up this volume but also I offer an extensive critical overview of moral skepticism with the hope that it will turn out to be useful particularly to the uninitiated reader. I first provide a taxonomy of varieties of moral skepticism, then discuss the main arguments advanced in their favor, and finally summarize the ten essays here collected, which deal with one or more of those skeptical stances and arguments.
It has been claimed that a key difference between ancient and contemporary skepticism is that, unlike the ancient skeptics, contemporary skeptics consider ordinary beliefs to be insulated from skeptical doubt. In the case of metaethics, this issue is related to the following question: what attitude towards ordinary moral thought and discourse should one adopt if one is a moral skeptic? Whereas moral abolitionists claim that one should do away with ordinary moral thought and discourse altogether, moral fictionalists maintain that, given (...) that morality produces practical benefits, one should continue to make moral utterances and have moral thoughts, while at the same time refraining from asserting such utterances and believing such thoughts. Focusing particularly on Mackie’s skeptical stance, the present essay considers whether the view that first-order moral beliefs are unaffected by moral skepticism is defensible, whether moral fictionalism is compatible with moral insulation, and whether contemporary moral skeptics are in general committed to there being insulation between first- and second-order levels. (shrink)
There are at least three different genealogical accounts of morality: the ontogenetic, the sociohistorical, and the evolutionary. One can thus construct, in principle, three distinct genealogical debunking arguments of morality, i.e., arguments that appeal to empirical data, or to an empirical hypothesis, about the origin of morality to undermine either its ontological foundation or the epistemic credentials of our moral beliefs. The genealogical account that has been, particularly since the early 2000s, the topic of a burgeoning line of inquiry in (...) the metaethical literature is the one that explains the origin of moral thinking by appealing to Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution through natural selection. For this reason, when it comes to genealogical debunking arguments, it is various types of evolutionary debunking argument (EDA) that are the focus of the current debate between moral skeptics and moral realists. Evolutionary moral debunkers maintain that the capacity to make moral judgments is an evolved trait—a view accepted by most of their detractors. They maintain, in addition, that such a capacity is an adaptation—i.e., a trait selected for because it enhances reproduction and survival—and not merely either a by-product of an adaptation or an evolutionary accident—a view accepted by fewer of their detractors. Roughly put, the thrust of EDAs is that biological evolution is aimed, not at moral belief-forming processes that are reliable, but at moral belief-forming processes that are adaptive. In other words, the evolutionary function of those processes is not that of tracking the moral truth: their general success at matching or accurately representing allegedly objective or attitude-independent moral facts, properties, or truths explains neither their emergence nor their persistence. Humans are therefore disposed to make moral judgments regardless of the evidence to which they are exposed, regardless of whether there are or are not objective moral facts, properties, or truths. In the contemporary scene, the most important and influential EDAs are those advanced by Richard Joyce and Sharon Street. Although Joyce’s EDA is more elaborate than Street’s inasmuch as it is based on a detailed evolutionary account of morality, it is Street’s EDA that has received the most attention among those seeking to defend moral realism against EDAs. If an EDA can establish at most an epistemological conclusion, then it could be argued that Joyce’s argument (at least the version defended in his later works) is superior to Street’s given that the conclusion of the former is epistemological whereas that of the latter is ontological. Indeed, while Joyce’s EDA is taken to support epistemological moral skepticism, according to which our moral beliefs are epistemically unjustified, Street’s is taken to support moral anti-realism (moral constructivism in particular), according to which attitude-independent moral facts do not exist. (shrink)
After presenting the current situation of epistemological research in Latin America and part of its history, this entry will address five topics: skepticism (especially in its Pyrrhonian stripe), core epistemology, formal epistemology, Wittgenstein’s thought in connection with epistemology and skepticism, and epistemology of law. It should be noted from the outset that the entry does not purport to provide a comprehensive account of epistemology in Latin America, but rather to paint a general picture of it by focusing on the main (...) issues that have been discussed within that field. (shrink)