Does Evolutionary Psychology Show That Normativity Is Mind-Dependent?

In Justin D'Arms Daniel Jacobson (ed.), Moral Psychology and Human Agency: Essays on the New Science of Ethics. pp. 215-252 (2014)
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Abstract

Suppose we grant that evolutionary forces have had a profound effect on the contours of our normative judgments and intuitions. Can we conclude anything from this about the correct metaethical theory? I argue that, for the most part, we cannot. Focusing my attention on Sharon Street’s justly famous argument that the evolutionary origins of our normative judgments and intuitions cause insuperable epistemological difficulties for a metaethical view she calls "normative realism," I argue that there are two largely independent lines of argument in Street’s work which need to be teased apart. The first of these involves a genuine appeal to evolutionary considerations, but it can fairly easily be met by her opponents. The second line of argument is more troubling; it raises a significant problem, one of the most difficult in all of philosophy, namely how to justify our reliance on our most basic cognitive faculties without relying on those same faculties in a question-begging manner. However, evolutionary considerations add little to this old problem, and rejecting normative realism is not a way to solve it.

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Selim Berker
Harvard University

Citations of this work

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.
Explanatory Challenges in Metaethics.Joshua Schechter - 2017 - In Tristram Colin McPherson & David Plunkett (eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Metaethics. New York: Routledge. pp. 443-459.

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References found in this work

What we owe to each other.Thomas Scanlon - 1998 - Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
On What Matters: Two-Volume Set.Derek Parfit - 2011 - New York: Oxford University Press.
Metaphysical Dependence: Grounding and Reduction.Gideon Rosen - 2010 - In Bob Hale & Aviv Hoffmann (eds.), Modality: metaphysics, logic, and epistemology. Oxford University Press. pp. 109-135.
What We Owe to Each Other.Thomas Scanlon - 2002 - Mind 111 (442):323-354.

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