A common line of thought in contemporary metaethics is that certain facts about the evolutionary history of humans make moral realism implausible. Two of the most developed evolutionary cases against realism are found in the works of Richard Joyce and Sharon Street. In what follows, I argue that a form of moral realism that I call proper-function moral realism can meet Joyce and Street's challenges. I begin by sketching the basics of proper-function moral realism. I then present what I take (...) to be the essence of Street's and Joyce's objections, and I show how proper-function realism answers them. (shrink)
When making decisions, humans can observe many kinds of information about others' activities, but their effects on performance are not well understood. We investigated social learning strategies using a simple problem-solving task in which participants search a complex space, and each can view and imitate others' solutions. Results showed that participants combined multiple sources of information to guide learning, including payoffs of peers' solutions, popularity of solution elements among peers, similarity of peers' solutions to their own, and relative payoffs from (...) individual exploration. Furthermore, performance was positively associated with imitation rates at both the individual and group levels. When peers' payoffs were hidden, popularity and similarity biases reversed, participants searched more broadly and randomly, and both quality and equity of exploration suffered. We conclude that when peers' solutions can be effectively compared, imitation does not simply permit scrounging, but it can also facilitate propagation of good solutions for further cumulative exploration. (shrink)
In this essay I distinguish between a synchronic view of base property exemplification and a diachronic one. I argue that only a diachronic view of base property exemplification can substantiate a ban on morally mixed worlds. I then argue that one of Robert Mabrito’s recent criticisms of Russ Shafer-Landau’s moral realism fails on either a synchronic or a diachronic view.
Instrumentalism is an approach to science that treats a theory as a tool and only as a tool for computation; it dispenses with the concept of truth.Conventionalism treats a theory as true by convention if it forms a pattern of observations from which correct predictions can be made.Operationalism denies meaning to the concepts of a theory unless they can be defined operationally. It is argued in this paper that truth-value is indispensable to science, because a theory can be rejected only (...) if an empirical consequence is false and if falsity of a conclusion entails falsity of a premise. This undermines the above positions. The fourth interpretation isinduction. Induction, by contrast, uses the notion of truth-value. What is focused on here is its reliance on the ultimacy ofobservation. The present thesis is that instrumentalism, conventionalism, and induction are different attempts to handle observations. The common problem is the gap between data and theory.All these interpretations share a philosophy of observationalism. The aim of this paper is to show that the several orthodox interpretations of science all fail to solve the problem of the data-theory gap, and to show that they all presuppose a philosophy of observation. (shrink)
Originally published in 1952. This book is a critical survey of the views of scientific inference that have been developed since the end of World War I. It contains some detailed exposition of ideas – notably of Keynes – that were cryptically put forward, often quoted, but nowhere explained. Part I discusses and illustrates the method of hypothesis. Part II concerns induction. Part III considers aspects of the theory of probability that seem to bear on the problem of induction and (...) Part IV outlines the shape of this problem and its solution take if transformed by the present approach.  . (shrink)
Terry Horgan and Mark Timmons have recently provided an updated presentation and defense of a metaethical view that they call cognitivist expressivism. Expressivists claim that moral judgments express propositional attitudes that do not represent or describe the external world. Horgan and Timmons agree with this claim, but they also deny the traditional expressivist claim that moral judgments do not express beliefs. On their view, moral judgments are genuine, truth-apt beliefs, thus making their form of expressivism a cognitivist one. In this (...) essay, I argue that Horgan and Timmons have failed to demonstrate that moral judgments express sui generis, nondescriptive content by showing that at least some moral content is descriptive. In addition, I show how the descriptivist can account for those properties that Horgan and Timmons consider distinctive of moral belief. In doing so, I remove one of the expressivist's most important lines of motivation for positing nondescriptive moral content in the first place. At the end of the essay, I briefly sketch a view that I call partial or modest moral realism. (shrink)