Evolutionary debunking arguments start with a premise about the influence of evolutionary forces on our evaluative beliefs, and conclude that we are not justified in those beliefs. The value realist holds that there are attitude-independent evaluative truths. But the debunker argues that we have no reason to think that the evolutionary forces that shaped human evaluative attitudes would track those truths. Worse yet, we seem to have a good reason to think that they wouldn’t: evolution selects for characteristics that (...) increase genetic fitness—not ones that correlate with the evaluative truth. Plausibly, the attitudes and judgments that increase a creature’s fitness come apart from the true evaluative beliefs. My aim in this paper is to show that no plausible evolutionary debunking argument can both have force against the value realist and not collapse into a more general skeptical argument. I conclude that there is little hope for evolutionary debunking arguments. This is bad news for the debunker who hoped that the cold, hard scientific facts about our origins would debunk our evaluative beliefs. And it is good news for the realist. (shrink)
Evolutionary debunking arguments move from a premise about the influence of evolutionary forces on our moral beliefs to a skeptical conclusion about those beliefs. My primary aim is to clarify this empirically grounded epistemological challenge. I begin by distinguishing among importantly different sorts of epistemological attacks. I then demonstrate that instances of each appear in the literature under the ‘evolutionary debunking’ title. Distinguishing them clears up some confusions and helps us better understand the structure and potential of evolutionary (...)debunking arguments. (shrink)
Debunking arguments against both moral and mathematical realism have been pressed, based on the claim that our moral and mathematical beliefs are insensitive to the moral/mathematical facts. In the mathematical case, I argue that the role of Hume’s Principle as a conceptual truth speaks against the debunkers’ claim that it is intelligible to imagine the facts about numbers being otherwise while our evolved responses remain the same. Analogously, I argue, the conceptual supervenience of the moral on the natural speaks (...) presents a difficulty for the debunker’s claim that, had the moral facts been otherwise, our evolved moral beliefs would have remained the same. (shrink)
Evolutionary debunking arguments are arguments that appeal to the evolutionary origins of evaluative beliefs to undermine their justification. This paper aims to clarify the premises and presuppositions of EDAs—a form of argument that is increasingly put to use in normative ethics. I argue that such arguments face serious obstacles. It is often overlooked, for example, that they presuppose the truth of metaethical objectivism. More importantly, even if objectivism is assumed, the use of EDAs in normative ethics is incompatible with (...) a parallel and more sweeping global evolutionary debunking argument that has been discussed in recent metaethics. After examining several ways of responding to this global debunking argument, I end by arguing that even if we could resist it, this would still not rehabilitate the current targeted use of EDAs in normative ethics given that, if EDAs work at all, they will in any case lead to a truly radical revision of our evaluative outlook. (shrink)
Evolutionary debunking arguments (EDAs) have attracted extensive attention in meta-ethics, as they pose an important challenge to moral realism. Mogensen (2015) suggests that EDAs contain a fallacy, by confusing two distinct forms of biological explanation – ultimate and proximate. If correct, the point is of considerable importance: evolutionary genealogies of human morality are simply irrelevant for debunking. But we argue that the actual situation is subtler: while ultimate claims do not strictly entail proximate ones, there are important evidential (...) connections between the two. Attending to these connections clears ground for a new and improved EDA. However, it also brings into view some possible problems with EDAs that have been largely neglected so far. (shrink)
Evolutionary debunking arguments appeal to selective etiologies of human morality in an attempt to undermine moral realism. But is morality actually the product of evolution by natural selection? Although debunking arguments have attracted considerable attention in recent years, little of it has been devoted to whether the underlying evolutionary assumptions are credible. In this paper, we take a closer look at the evolutionary hypotheses put forward by two leading debunkers, namely Sharon Street and Richard Joyce. We raise a (...) battery of considerations, both empirical and theoretical, that combine to cast doubt on the plausibility of both hypotheses. We also suggest that it is unlikely that there is in the vicinity a plausible alternative hypothesis suitable for the debunker’s cause. (shrink)
I argue that one’s views about which “metaphysical laws” obtain—including laws about what is identical with what, about what is reducible to what, and about what grounds what—can be used to deflect or neutralize the threat posed by a debunking explanation. I use a well-known debunking argument in the metaphysics of material objects as a case study. Then, after defending the proposed strategy from the charge of question-begging, I close by showing how the proposed strategy can be used (...) by certain moral realists to resist the evolutionary debunking arguments. (shrink)
Recent debate in metaethics over evolutionary debunking arguments against morality has shown a tendency to abstract away from relevant empirical detail. Here, I engage the debate about Darwinian debunking of morality with relevant empirical issues. I present four conditions that must be met in order for it to be reasonable to expect an evolved cognitive faculty to be reliable: the environment, information, error, and tracking conditions. I then argue that these conditions are not met in the case of (...) our evolved faculty for moral judgement. (shrink)
This paper explores evolutionary debunking arguments as they arise in metaethics against moral realism and in philosophy of religion against naturalism. Both literatures have independently grappled with the question of which beliefs one may use to respond to a potential defeater. In this paper, I show how the literature on the argument against naturalism can help clarify and bring progress to the literature on moral realism with respect to this question. Of note, it will become clear that the objection (...) that the moral realist begs the question, when appealing to the truth of some of her moral beliefs, is unsuccessful. (shrink)
Evolutionary debunking arguments, notably Sharon Street’s Darwinian Dilemma (2006), allege that moral realists need to explain the reliability of our moral judgments, given their evolutionary sources. David Copp (2008) and David Enoch (2010) take up the challenge. I argue on empirical grounds that realists have not met the challenge and moreover cannot do so. The outcome is that there are empirically-motivated reasons for thinking moral realists cannot explain moral reliability, given our current empirical understanding.
What implications, if any, does evolutionary biology have for metaethics? Many believe that our evolutionary background supports a deflationary metaethics, providing a basis at least for debunking ethical realism. Some arguments for this conclusion appeal to claims about the etiology of the mental capacities we employ in ethical judgment, while others appeal to the etiology of the content of our moral beliefs. In both cases the debunkers’ claim is that the causal roles played by evolutionary factors raise deep epistemic (...) problems for realism: if ethical truths are objective or independent of our evaluative attitudes, as realists maintain, then we lose our justification for our ethical beliefs once we become aware of the evolutionary shaping of our ethical capacities or beliefs, which would not have disposed us reliably to track independent ethical truths; realism, they claim, thus saddles us with ethical skepticism. I distinguish and spell out various evolutionary debunking arguments along these lines and argue that they all fail: the capacity etiology argument fails to raise any special or serious problem for realism, and the content etiology arguments all rely on strong explanatory claims about our moral beliefs that are simply not supported by the science unless it is supplemented by philosophical claims that just beg the question against realism from the start. While the various debunking arguments do bring out some interesting commitments of ethical realism, and even raise some good challenges as realists develop positive moral epistemologies, they fall far short of their debunking ambitions. (shrink)
Do the cognitive origins of our theistic beliefs debunk them or explain them away? This paper develops an empirically-motivated debunking argument and defends it against objections. First, we introduce the empirical and epistemological background. Second, we develop and defend the main argument, the debunking argument from false god beliefs. Third, we characterize and evaluate the most prominent religious debunking argument to date, the debunking argument from insensitivity. It is found that insensitivity-based arguments are problematic, which makes (...) them less promising than the debunking argument from false god beliefs. (shrink)
Debunking arguments typically attempt to show that a set of beliefs or other intensional mental states bear no appropriate explanatory connection to the facts they purport to be about. That is, a debunking argument will attempt to show that beliefs about p are not held because of the facts about p. Such beliefs, if true, would then only be accidentally so. Thus, their causal origins constitute an undermining defeater. Debunking arguments arise in various philosophical domains, targeting beliefs (...) about morality, the existence of God, logic, and others. They have also arisen in material-object metaphysics, often aimed at debunking common-sense ontology. And while most of these arguments feature appeals to ‘biological and cultural contingencies’ that are ostensibly responsible for our beliefs about which kinds of objects exist, few of them take a serious look at what those contingencies might actually be. The purpose of this paper is twofold. First, to remedy this by providing empirical substantiation for a key premise in these debunking arguments by examining data from cognitive science, evolutionary biology, and developmental psychology that support a ‘debunking explanation’ of our common-sense beliefs and intuitions about which objects exist. Second, to argue that such data also undermines a particular kind of rationalist defense of common-sense ontology, sometimes employed as a response to the debunking threat. (shrink)
This paper reconstructs what I take to be the central evolutionary debunking argument that underlies recent critiques of moral realism. The argument claims that given the extent of evolutionary influence on our moral faculties, and assuming the truth of moral realism, it would be a massive coincidence were our moral faculties reliable ones. Given this coincidence, any presumptive warrant enjoyed by our moral beliefs is defeated. So if moral realism is true, then we can have no warranted moral beliefs, (...) and hence no moral knowledge. In response, I first develop what is perhaps the most natural reply on behalf of realism namely, that many of our highly presumptively warranted moral beliefs are immune to evolutionary influence and so can be used to assess and eventually resuscitate the epistemic merits of those that have been subject to such influence. I then identify five distinct ways in which the charge of massive coincidence has been understood and defended. I argue that each interpretation is subject to serious worries. If I am right, these putative defeaters are themselves subject to defeat. Thus many of our moral beliefs continue to be highly warranted, even if moral realism is true. (shrink)
In his précis of a recent book, Richard Joyce writes, “My contention…is that…any epistemological benefit-of-the-doubt that might have been extended to moral beliefs…will be neutralized by the availability of an empirically confirmed moral genealogy that nowhere…presupposes their truth.” Such reasoning – falling under the heading “Genealogical Debunking Arguments” – is now commonplace. But how might “the availability of an empirically confirmed moral genealogy that nowhere… presupposes” the truth of our moral beliefs “neutralize” whatever “epistemological benefit-of-the-doubt that might have been (...) extended to” them? In this article, I argue that there appears to be no satisfactory answer to this question. The problem is quite general, applying to all arguments with the structure of Genealogical Debunking Arguments aimed at realism about a domain meeting two conditions. The Benacerraf-Field Challenge for mathematical realism affords an important special case. (shrink)
According to “debunking arguments,” our moral beliefs are explained by evolutionary and cultural processes that do not track objective, mind-independent moral truth. Therefore (the debunkers say) we ought to be skeptics about moral realism. Huemer counters that “moral progress”—the cross-cultural convergence on liberalism—cannot be explained by debunking arguments. According to him, the best explanation for this phenomenon is that people have come to recognize the objective correctness of liberalism. Although Huemer may be the first philosopher to make this (...) explicit empirical argument for moral realism, the idea that societies will eventually converge on the same moral beliefs is a notable theme in realist thinking. Antirealists, on the other hand, often point to seemingly intractable cross-cultural moral disagreement as evidence against realism (the “argument from disagreement”). This paper argues that the trend toward liberalism is susceptible to a debunking explanation, being driven by two related non-truth-tracking processes. First, large numbers of people gravitate to liberal values for reasons of self-interest. Second, as societies become more prosperous and advanced, they become more effective at suppressing violence, and they create conditions where people are more likely to empathize with others, which encourages liberalism. The latter process is not truth tracking (or so this paper argues) because empathy-based moral beliefs are themselves susceptible to an evolutionary debunking argument. Cross-cultural convergence on liberalism per se does not support either realism or antirealism. (shrink)
This paper presents a regress challenge to the selective psychological debunking of moral judgments. A selective psychological debunking argument conjoins an empirical claim about the psychological origins of certain moral judgments to a theoretical claim that these psychological origins cannot track moral truth, leading to the conclusion that the moral judgments are unreliable. I argue that psychological debunking arguments are vulnerable to a regress challenge, because the theoretical claim that ‘such-and-such psychological process is not moral-truth-tracking’ relies upon (...) moral judgments. We must then ask about the psychological origins of these judgments, and then make a further evaluative judgment about these psychological origins… and so on. This chain of empirical and evaluative claims may continue indefinitely and, I will argue, proponents of the debunking argument are in a dialectical position where they may not simply call a halt to the process. Hence, their argument cannot terminate, and its debunking conclusion cannot be upheld. (shrink)
Heightened awareness of the origins of our moral judgments pushes many in the direction of moral skepticism, in the direction of thinking we are unjustified in holding our moral judgments on a realist understanding of the moral truths. A classic debunking argument fleshes out this worry: the best explanation of our moral judgments does not appeal to their truth, so we are unjustified in holding our moral judgments. But it is unclear how to get from the explanatory premise to (...) the debunking conclusion. This paper shows how to get from here to there by way of epistemic insensitivity. First, we reconstruct Richard Joyce’s evolutionary debunking argument from insensitivity. Second, we raise epistemological difficulties for Joyce’s argument. Third, we develop and defend a new debunking argument from insensitivity. (shrink)
In this crisply written book, Hanno Sauer offers the first book-length treatment of debunking arguments in ethics, developing an empirically informed and philosophically sophisticated account of genealogical arguments and their significance for the reliability of moral cognition. He breaks new ground by introducing a series of novel distinctions into the current debate, which allows him to develop a framework for assessing the prospects of debunking or vindicating our moral intuitions. He also challenges the justification of some of our (...) moral judgments by showing that they are based on epistemically defective processes. His book is an original, cutting-edge contribution to the burgeoning field of empirically informed metaethics, and will interest philosophers, psychologists, and anyone interested in how - and whether - moral judgment works. (shrink)
In this essay, two different forms of debunking arguments are distinguished. On the type of debunking argument that I will promote, one attempts to undercut the justificatory status of a belief by showing that the belief was formed by an epistemically defective psychological process. I argue that there is a promising application of such a process debunking argument in metaethics. In normative ethics, however, process debunking arguments face greater obstacles.
Evolutionary debunking arguments against religious beliefs move from the claim that religious beliefs are caused by off-track processes to the conclusion that said religious beliefs are unjustified and/or false. Prima facie, EDAs commit the genetic fallacy, unduly conflating the context of discovery and the context of justification. In this paper, we first consider whether EDAs necessarily commit the genetic fallacy, and if not, whether modified EDAs provide successful arguments against theism. Then, we critically evaluate more recent attempts to argue (...) that a more promiscuous evolutionary scepticism renders religious belief unjustified because, unlike commonsense and scientific beliefs, religious beliefs have no way out of such scepticism. (shrink)
Debunking arguments—also known as etiological arguments, genealogical arguments, access problems, isolation objec- tions, and reliability challenges—arise in philosophical debates about a diverse range of topics, including causation, chance, color, consciousness, epistemic reasons, free will, grounding, laws of nature, logic, mathematics, modality, morality, natural kinds, ordinary objects, religion, and time. What unifies the arguments is the transition from a premise about what does or doesn't explain why we have certain mental states to a negative assessment of their epistemic status. I (...) examine the common, underlying structure of the arguments and the different strategies for motivating and resisting the premises of debunking arguments. (shrink)
This chapter explores global debunking arguments, debunking arguments that aim to give one a global defeater. I defend Alvin Plantinga’s view that global defeaters are possible and, once gained, are impossible to escape by reasoning. They thereby must be extinguished by other means: epistemically propitious actions, luck, or grace. I then distinguish between three types of global defeater—pure-undercutters, undercutters-because-rebutters, and undercutters-while-rebutters—and systematically consider how one can deflect such defeaters. Lastly, since I draw insights from the literature on perhaps (...) the most widely discussed global debunking argument in the literature, Plantinga’s evolutionary argument against naturalism, I end up responding to many potential problems for it. This includes the so-called conditionalization problem, as well as those raised by Bergmann (2002), Law (2012), Deem (2018), Hendricks and Anderson (2020), and Wielenberg (in Craig and Wielenberg (2021)). (shrink)
The fact that debunkers can turn to the argument from disagreement for help is ofcourse not a surprise. After all, both types of challenge basically pursue the same,skeptical conclusion. What I have tried to show, however, is that they are related in amore intimate way.
ABSTRACT: Most of what we believe comes to us from the word of others, but we do not always believe what we are told. We often reject thinkers' reports by attributing biases to them. We may call this debunking. In this essay, I consider how debunking might work and then examine whether, and how often, it can help to preserve rational belief in the face of disagreement.
It is widely supposed that evolutionary debunking arguments against morality constitute a type of epistemological objection to our moral beliefs. In particular, the debunking force of such arguments is not supposed to depend on the metaphysical claim that moral facts do not exist. In this paper I argue that this standard epistemological construal of EDAs is highly misleading, if not mistaken. Specifically, I argue that the most widely discussed EDAs all make key and controversial metaphysical claims about the (...) nature of morality or the possibility of moral truth that belie their apparently epistemological character. I show that the debunking force of these EDAs derives largely from metaphysical claims about morality and their implications for the possibility of moral reduction, rather than from epistemological worries associated with the existence of an causal/non-moral explanation of our moral judgments. The paper briefly concludes with a dilemma that I believe confronts all EDAs such as those discussed in this paper: either such arguments are unsound, or else they prove too much, debunking our knowledge of science and the external world, as well as morality. (shrink)
Evolutionary debunking arguments abound, but it is widely assumed that they do not arise for our perceptual beliefs about midsized objects, insofar as the adaptive value of our object beliefs cannot be explained without reference to the objects themselves. I argue that this is a mistake. Just as with moral beliefs, the adaptive value of our object beliefs can be explained without assuming that the beliefs are accurate. I then explore the prospects for other sorts of vindications of our (...) object beliefs—which involve “bootstrapping” from our experiences as of midsized objects—and I defend bootstrapping maneuvers against a variety of objections. Finally, I argue for an explanatory constraint on legitimate bootstrapping and show how some attempts to respond to debunking arguments run afoul of the constraint. (shrink)
Debunking arguments are arguments that aim to undermine some range of beliefs by showing that those beliefs are not appropriately connected to their subject matter. Arguments of this sort rear their heads in a wide variety of domains, threatening beliefs about morality, mathematics, logic, color, and the existence of God. Perceptual beliefs about ordinary objects, however, are widely thought to be invulnerable to such arguments. I will show that this is a mistake. I articulate a debunking argument that (...) purports to undermine our most basic perceptual beliefs. I then challenge a number of responses to the argument, including the “permissivist” response that there are a plenitude of objects before us, virtually guaranteeing the accuracy of our object beliefs. (shrink)
Robotization is an increasingly pervasive feature of our lives. Robots with high degrees of autonomy may cause harm, yet in sufciently complex systems neither the robots nor the human developers may be candidates for moral blame. John Danaher has recently argued that this may lead to a retribution gap, where the human desire for retribution faces a lack of appropriate subjects for retributive blame. The potential social and moral implications of a retribution gap are considerable. I argue that the retributive (...) intuitions that feed into retribution gaps are best understood as deontological intuitions. I apply a debunking argument for deontological intuitions in order to show that retributive intuitions cannot be used to justify retributive punishment in cases of robot harm without clear candidates for blame. The fundamental moral question thus becomes what we ought to do with these retributive intuitions, given that they do not justify retribution. I draw a parallel from recent work on implicit biases to make a case for taking moral responsibility for retributive intuitions. In the same way that we can exert some form of control over our unwanted implicit biases, we can and should do so for unjustifed retributive intuitions in cases of robot harm. (shrink)
Arguments attempting to debunk moral beliefs, by showing they are unjustified, have tended to be global, targeting all moral beliefs or a large set of them. Popular debunking arguments point to various factors purportedly influencing moral beliefs, from evolutionary pressures, to automatic and emotionally-driven processes, to framing effects. We show that these sweeping arguments face a debunker’s dilemma: either the relevant factor is not a main basis for belief or it does not render the relevant beliefs unjustified. Empirical (...) class='Hi'>debunking arguments in ethics can avoid this predicament, but only if they are refocused on highly selective classes of moral belief. Experimental data can combine with familiar consistency reasoning to reveal that like cases are not being treated alike. Selective debunking arguments are unlikely to yield sweeping sceptical conclusions, but they can lead to rational moral change. (shrink)
Recently, Tomas Bogardus (2016), Andreas Mogensen (2017) and – at least on one plausible reconstruction – Sharon Street (2005) have argued that evolutionary theory debunks our moral beliefs by providing higher-order evidence of error. In response, moral realists such as Katia Vavova (2014) have objected that such evolutionary debunking arguments are self-defeating. The literature lacks any discussion of whether this self-defeat objection can be handled. My overall aim is to argue that it cannot, thus filling that lacuna – and (...) vindicating Vavova’s worry. To achieve my aim, I proceed in two steps. First, I propose a novel, prima facie promising strategy for avoiding self-defeat: evolutionary debunkers should reject Conciliationism, as defended by David Christensen (2007, 2009, 2011) and others, and instead explore Thomas Kelly’s (2010) Total Evidence View as their background view on the epistemic significance of higher-order evidence of error. Then, I show that evolutionary debunkers face insuperable difficulties trying to successfully implement that strategy. Depending on the kind of higher-order evidence of error that evolutionary considerations putatively provide, they either struggle with evidential weight or are committed to inconsistent assumptions about evolutionary counterparts. Either way, the evolutionary debunking argument from higher-order evidence of error fails. (shrink)
Many philosophers take purportedly logical cases of ground ) to be obvious cases, and indeed such cases have been used to motivate the existence of and importance of ground. I argue against this. I do so by motivating two kinds of semantic determination relations. Intuitions of logical ground track these semantic relations. Moreover, our knowledge of semantics for first order logic can explain why we have such intuitions. And, I argue, neither semantic relation can be a species of ground even (...) on a quite broad conception of what ground is. Hence, without a positive argument for taking so-called ‘logical ground’ to be something distinct from a semantic determination relation, we should cease treating logical cases as cases of ground. (shrink)
I address three topics. First, I argue that the issue of corporate moral responsibility is an important one for business ethics.Second, I examine a core argument for the claim that the corporate organization is a separate moral agent and show it is based on anunnoticed but elementary mistake deriving from the fallacy of division. Third, I examine the assumptions collectivists make about whatit means to say that organizations act and that they act intentionally and show that these assumptions are mistaken (...) in their failure to understand the nature of intentional causality and of “as-if” intentionality. In exposing these mistakes I set out my own view in the form oftwo theses, the first of which states that individual members of an organization are always causally responsible for any corporate act,and the second of which states that attributions of intentions to corporations are always either descriptive or prescriptive attributionsof “as if” intentionality. (shrink)
One of the alleged advantages of a constructivist theory in metaethics is that the theory avoids the epistemological problems with moral realism while reaping many of realism's benefits. According to evolutionary debunking arguments, the epistemological problem with moral realism is that the evolutionary history of our moral beliefs makes it hard to see how our moral beliefs count as knowledge of moral facts, realistically construed. Certain forms of constructivism are supposed to be immune to this argument, giving the view (...) a key advantage. This paper considers the challenge that evolutionary debunking arguments pose for the possibility of moral knowledge and concludes that such arguments do not reveal any advantages for constructivism. Furthermore, once we consider how defenders of moral knowledge should best respond to this epistemological objection, constructivists may face more difficulties, not less, explaining how our moral beliefs represent moral knowledge. (shrink)
Many people believe that human interests matter much more than the like interests of non-human animals, and this “speciesist belief” plays a crucial role in the philosophical debate over the moral status of animals. In this paper, I develop a debunking argument against it. My contention is that this belief is unjustified because it is largely due to an off-track process: our attempt to reduce the cognitive dissonance generated by the “meat paradox”. Most meat-eaters believe that it is wrong (...) to harm animals unnecessarily, yet they routinely and deliberately behave in ways that cause great unnecessary suffering to animals. As recent research suggests, this practical inconsistency puts them in an unpleasant state of dissonance, which they try to escape by resolving the paradox. And they do so in part by adopting the speciesist belief—if animal suffering matters much less than human suffering, then harming animals cannot be so wrong after all. Since this belief-forming process does not track moral truth, I conclude that we are not justified in believing that human interests matter more than the similar interests of non-humans. (shrink)
The so-called Evolutionary Debunking Arguments are arguments that appeal to the evolutionary genealogy of our beliefs to undermine their justification. When applied to morality, such arguments are intended to undermine moral realism. In this paper I will discuss Andreas Mogensen’s recent effort to secure moral realism against EDAs. Mogensen attempts to undermine the challenge provided by EDAs in metaethics through the distinction between proximate and ultimate causes in biology. The problem with this move is that the proximate/ultimate distinction is (...) misconceived. If ultimate and proximate causes are properly understood to be complementary, such distinction cannot affect EDAs in metaethics. Therefore, I will argue, Mogensen’s argument fails and moral realism is still in danger. (shrink)
In this paper I interrogate the notion of `debunking conspiracy theories’, arguing that the term `debunk’ carries with it pejorative implications, given that the verb `to debunk’ is commonly understood as `to show the wrongness of a thing or concept’. As such, the notion of `debunking conspiracy theories’ builds in the notion that such theories are not just wrong but ought to be shown as being wrong. I argue that we should avoid the term `debunk’ and focus on (...) investigating conspiracy theories. Looking at recent research work in epistemology on conspiracy theory, I argue that the best way to avoid talk of `debunking’ conspiracy theories is by working with a non-pejorative definition of `conspiracy theory’, and forming communities of inquiry which allow us to investigate the warrant of such theories without the prejudice associated with working with a pejorative definition. (shrink)
Many philosophers believe that natural selection explanations debunk our moral beliefs or would do so if moral realism were true, relying on the assumption that explanations of this kind show that moral facts play no role in explaining human moral beliefs. Here I argue that this assumption rests on a confusion of proximate and ultimate explanatory factors. Insofar as evolutionary debunking arguments hinge on the assumption that moral facts play no role in explaining human moral beliefs, these arguments fall (...) short. (shrink)
Evolutionary debunkers of morality hold this thesis: If S’s moral belief that P can be given an evolutionary explanation, then S’s moral belief that P is not knowledge. In this paper, I debunk a variety of arguments for this thesis. I first sketch a possible evolutionary explanation for some human moral beliefs. Next, I explain how, given a reliabilist approach to warrant, my account implies that humans possess moral knowledge. Finally, I examine the debunking arguments of Michael Ruse, Sharon (...) Street, and Richard Joyce. I draw on the account of moral knowledge sketched earlier to illustrate how these arguments fail. -/- . (shrink)
Ever since Darwin people have worried about the sceptical implications of evolution. If our minds are products of evolution like those of other animals, why suppose that the beliefs they produce are true, rather than merely useful? We consider this problem for beliefs in three different domains: religion, morality, and commonsense and scientific claims about matters of empirical fact. We identify replies to evolutionary scepticism that work in some domains but not in others. One reply is that evolution can be (...) expected to design systems that produce true beliefs in some domain. This reply works for commonsense beliefs and can be extended to scientific beliefs. But it does not work for moral or religious beliefs. An alternative reply which has been used defend moral beliefs is that their truth does not consist in their tracking some external state of affairs. Whether or not it is successful in the case of moral beliefs, this reply is less plausible for religious beliefs. So religious beliefs emerge as particularly vulnerable to evolutionary debunking. (shrink)
Recent literature has paid attention to a demarcation problem for evolutionary debunking arguments. This is the problem of asking in virtue of what regulative metaepistemic norm evolutionary considerations either render a belief justified, or debunk it as unjustified. I examine the so-called ‘Milvian Bridge principle’ A new science of religion, Routledge, New York, 2012; Sloan, McKenny, Eggelson Darwin in the 21st century: nature, humanity, and God, University Press, Notre Dame, 2015)), which offers exactly such a called for regulative metaepistemic (...) norm. The Milvian Bridge principle suggests that the metaepistemic norm is: adaptive reliability for truth of cognitive processes that the existence of corresponding truth-making facts evolutionary theory justifies. I argue that the Milvian Bridge principle is problematic on a number of counts, something that is shown via spiraling ‘companions in guilt arguments’. Finally, I consider ‘the core reductionist objection’ to the critique of the Milvian Bridge principle and offer a response. I conclude that the Milvian Bridge principle is destabilized. (shrink)
May assumes that if moral beliefs are counterfactually dependent on irrelevant factors, then those moral beliefs are based on defective belief-forming processes. This assumption is false. Whether influence by irrelevant factors is debunking depends on the mechanisms through which this influence occurs. This raises the empirical bar for debunkers and helps May avoid an objection to his Debunker’s Dilemma.
This paper attempts to debunk the slippery-slope argument against human germ-line gene therapy by showing that the downside of the slope – genetic enhancement – need not be as unethical or unjust as some people have supposed. It argues that if genetic enhancement is governed by proper regulations and is accompanied by adequate education, then it need not violate recognized principles of morality or social justice. Keywords: germ-line therapy, slippery slope argument, future generations, social justice CiteULike Connotea Del.icio.us What's this?
Eliminativists sometimes invoke evolutionary debunking arguments against ordinary object beliefs, either to help them establish object skepticism or to soften the appeal of commonsense ontology. I argue that object debunkers face a self-defeat problem: their conclusion undermines the scientific support for one of their premises, because evolutionary biology depends on our object beliefs. Using work on reductionism and multiple realizability from the philosophy of science, I argue that it will not suffice for an eliminativist debunker to simply appeal to (...) some object-free surrogate theory of evolution that results from converting any scientific proposition about some object K into a proposition about simples arranged K-wise. In the process, I examine some hazards peculiar to eliminative reductions of scientific theories, and propose a trilemma for eliminativists who attempt to recoup generality for ontologically sparse reducing theories by appealing to pluralities of simples arranged K-wise. The paper is intended to define and develop the object debunker’s self-defeat problem for further study, and to clarify some of the ways sparse and abundant ontologies interact with scientific theory. (shrink)
There is now a burgeoning literature on evolutionary debunking arguments (EDAs) against moral beliefs, but perhaps surprisingly, a relatively small literature on EDAs against religious beliefs. There is an even smaller literature comparing the two. This essay aims to further the investigation of how the two sorts of arguments compare with each other. To begin with, I shall offer some remarks on how to best formulate these arguments, focusing on four different formulations that one can discern in the literature (...) and that can be applied to both sorts of beliefs. I shall then go on to make a series of comparisons regarding the relative vulnerabilities of moral beliefs and theistic religious beliefs to these four arguments, suggesting that there are a number of respects in which theistic religious beliefs are somewhat less liable than moral beliefs to be undercut by EDAs. (shrink)
I discuss the structure of genealogical debunking arguments. I argue that they undermine our mathematical beliefs if they undermine our moral beliefs. The contrary appearance stems from a confusion of arithmetic truths with (first-order) logical truths, or from a confusion of reliability with justification. I conclude with a discussion of the cogency of debunking arguments, in light of the above. Their cogency depends on whether information can undermine all of our beliefs of a kind, F, without giving us (...) direct reason to doubt that our F-beliefs are modally secure. (shrink)
Aldo Leopold's land ethic has been extremely influential among people working in conservation biology, environmental ethics, and related fields. Others have abandoned the land ethic for purportedly being outdated or ethically untenable. Yet, both acceptance of the land ethic and rejection of the land ethic are often based on misunderstandings of Leopold's original meaning – misunderstandings that have become so entrenched as to have the status of myths. This essay seeks to identify and then debunk six myths that have grown (...) up around the land ethic. These myths include misunderstandings about how we should understand key terms like “stability” and “biotic community” as well as the scope and main message of the land ethic. Properly understanding Leopold's original meaning, a meaning derived from ideas he developed after a lifetime of scientific theorizing and hands-on practical knowledge, prevents hasty rejection and provides a sounder basis for conservation policy. (shrink)
David Buller’s recent book, _Adapting Minds_, is a philosophical critique of the ﬁeld of evolutionary psychology. Buller argues that evolutionary psychology is utterly bankrupt from both a theoretical and an empirical point of view. Although _Adapting Minds _has been well received in both the academic press and the popular media, we argue that Buller’s critique of evolutionary psychology fails.
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)