Evolutionary debunking arguments claim that evolution has influenced our moral faculties in such a way that, if moral realism is true, then we have no positive moral knowledge. I present several popular objections to the standard version of this argument, then give a new EDA that has clear advantages in responding to these objections. Whereas the Standard EDA argues that evolution has selected for many moral beliefs with certain contents, this New EDA claims that evolution has selected for one belief: (...) belief in the claim that categorical reasons exist. If moral realism is true, then this claim is entailed by all positive moral claims, and belief in it is defeated due to evolutionary influence. This entails that if realism is true, then we have no positive moral knowledge. While there may be objections against this New EDA, it is much stronger than the Standard EDA, and one realists ought to worry about. (shrink)
Many non-naturalists about the normative want to endorse the view that some normative facts hold in virtue of both non-normative facts and normative principles. In this paper, I argue that non-naturalism is inconsistent with this thesis, due to the nature of normative principles and their grounds. I then consider two ways in which the nonnaturalist position could be modified or expanded to solve this problem. No solution, it turns out, is without its problems. I end by considering how the non-naturalist (...) can deny that normative facts obtain partially in virtue of principles. (shrink)
ABSTRACTSome proponents of the evolutionary debunking argument against moral realism believe that replies that assume substantive moral claims beg the question. In this paper, I give a new account of what's wrong with such replies. On this account, many realists beg the question when they rely on substantive moral claims in their replies to the argument, but naturalists do not. While this account generalizes to some other domains, it allows perceptual and inductive realism to remain undebunked.
In his recent book Error Theory: History, Critique, Defence, Jonas Olson attempts to revive the argument from queerness originally made famous by J.L. Mackie. In this paper, we do three things. First, we eliminate four untenable formulations of the argument. Second, we argue that the most plausible formulation is one that depends crucially upon considerations of parsimony. Finally, we evaluate this formulation of the argument. We conclude that it is unproblematic for proponents of moral non-naturalism—the target of the argument from (...) queerness. (shrink)
One of the most fundamental debates in metaethics is whether the normative facts are mind-dependent. Yet some philosophers are skeptical that mind-dependence is a category that's significant in the way metaethicists have assumed it is. In this paper, I consider a puzzle that showcases this skepticism, explaining how it undermines the most natural reading of the mind-dependence claim. I then go on to show that no modification of this reading within a certain class can hope to solve the problem. I (...) conclude by suggesting a new way that mind-dependence should be understood: mind-dependence is ultimately a matter of how normative principles are grounded. I develop this view briefly before concluding. (shrink)
In this paper, I challenge the recent consensus that global versions of theological voluntarism—on which all moral facts are explained by God’s action—fail, because only local versions—on which only a proper subset of moral facts are so explained—can successfully avoid the objection that theological voluntarism entails that God’s actions are arbitrary. I argue that global theological voluntarism can equally well avoid such arbitrariness. This does not mean that global theological voluntarism should be accepted, but that the primary advantage philosophers have (...) taken local views to have over global views is, in fact, no advantage at all. (shrink)
Epistemological objections to moral realism allege that realism entails moral skepticism. Many philosophers have assumed that theistic moral realists can easily avoid such objections. In this article, I argue that things are not so easy: theists run the risk of violating an important constraint on replies to epistemological objections, according to which replies to such objections may not rely on substantive moral claims of a certain kind. Yet after presenting this challenge, I then argue that theists can meet it, successfully (...) replying to the objections without relying on the problematic kinds of substantive moral claims. Theists have a distinctive and plausible reply to epistemological objections to moral realism. (shrink)
Many philosophers have been concerned with the nature of thick normative concepts. In this paper, I try to motivate a different project: understanding the nature of thick normative properties and facts. I propose a ground-theoretic approach to this project. I then argue that some of the simplest and most initially plausible ways of understanding thick facts fail, and that we are forced to accept some initially implausible views. I try to show how these views are not so implausible after all.
In this paper, I pose a dilemma for a very influential kind of metaethical constructivism, advocated recently by Sharon Street. It is either true or false that, if an action is morally wrong for a certain agent, then that agent has a normative reason not to do it. If it is true, then the constructivist is committed to the counterintuitive claim that some apparently morally horrendous acts are not actually wrong. If it is false, then the constructivist cannot maintain a (...) distinctively metaethical constructivism. Either way, this type of constructivism comes with a significant cost. (shrink)