How Not to Respond to Evolutionary Debunking Arguments
Evolutionary debunking arguments [EDAs] in moral epistemology generally aim to show that what we know or what we have good reason to believe about the impact of evolution on the development of human moral psychology threatens the epistemic standing of our moral beliefs, and therefore we have a prima facie reason to withhold judgment in moral matters. Very often though, this claim is qualified to target only meta-ethical theories of a certain stripe. The prime target here has been a strong kind of moral realism. In those cases, it is argued that the sceptical conclusion would only follow if we assume strong moral realism. In turn, this is then taken to be a strong reason for rejecting those theories targeted by the respective EDAs.In this thesis, I will look specifically at certain replies to EDAs that have been developed on behalf of a strong moral realism. I will argue that the two most prominent members of a family of popular responses to EDAs, which I call the “standard responses” (in virtue of their popularity), are ill-suited for neutralizing the epistemic threat that supposedly arises from evolutionary considerations.I will argue that these two standard responses cannot make good on their promise that the epistemic threat supposedly arising from evolution can be neutralized, even if the debunkers’ empirical story is largely correct, and if we assume a strong moral realism.It is a plausible desideratum on any satisfying response to EDAs that the response should support the claim that evolutionary considerations do not show that our moral beliefs are seriously epistemically deficient or that we are seriously epistemically deficient for holding them. In other words: a good response to the EDAs should show that evolutionary considerations do not suffice to render us epistemically criticisable for holding or continuing to hold our moral beliefs. I will argue that the considerations offered by the two standard responses are insufficient for satisfying this desideratum.
Advisor: Miller, Alex; Dawes, Greg
Degree Name: Master of Arts
Degree Discipline: Philosophy
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: Metaethics; Epistemology; Evolution; Moral Realism
Research Type: Thesis