How Gene–Culture Coevolution Can—but Probably Did Not—Track Mind-Independent Moral Truth

Philosophical Quarterly (forthcoming)
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I argue that our general disposition to make moral judgments and our core moral intuitions are likely the product of social selection—a kind of gene–culture coevolution driven by the enforcement of collectively agreed-upon rules. Social selection could potentially track mind-independent moral truth by a process that I term realist social selection: our ancestors could have acquired moral knowledge via reason and enforced rules based on that knowledge, thereby creating selection pressures that drove the evolution of our moral psychology. Given anthropological evidence that early humans designed rules with the conscious aim of preserving individual autonomy and advancing their collective interests, the theory of realist social selection appears to be attractive for moral realists. The goal of evolutionary debunking arguments should be to show not that our moral beliefs are the product of natural selection, but that realist social selection did not occur.



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Nathan Cofnas
Cambridge University

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References found in this work

A Darwinian dilemma for realist theories of value.Sharon Street - 2006 - Philosophical Studies 127 (1):109-166.
The Selfish Gene. [REVIEW]Gunther S. Stent & Richard Dawkins - 1977 - Hastings Center Report 7 (6):33.
Ethics and Intuitions.Peter Singer - 2005 - The Journal of Ethics 9 (3-4):331-352.
Evolutionary Debunking of Moral Realism.Katia Vavova - 2015 - Philosophy Compass 10 (2):104-116.
Evolutionary Debunking Arguments.Guy Kahane - 2011 - Noûs 45 (1):103-125.

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