Erkenntnis

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Evolutionary Hypotheses and Moral Skepticism

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Abstract

Proponents of evolutionary debunking arguments aim to show that certain genealogical explanations of our moral faculties, if true, undermine our claim to moral knowledge. Criticisms of these arguments generally take the debunker’s genealogical explanation for granted. The task of the anti-debunker is thought to be that of reconciling the (supposed) truth of this hypothesis with moral knowledge. In this paper, I shift the critical focus instead to the debunker’s empirical hypothesis and argue that the skeptical strength of an evolutionary debunking argument is dependent upon the evidence for that hypothesis—evidence which, upon further inspection, proves far from compelling. Following that, however, I suggest that the same considerations which spell trouble for the empirical hypotheses of traditional debunking arguments can also be taken to give rise to an alternative—and better supported—style of debunking argument.

Notes

Acknowledgements

I would like to thank an anonymous referee for detailed comments, which greatly improved the quality of the paper. For helpful feedback on earlier drafts, I am incredibly grateful to Edward Elliott, Benjamin Fraser, Richard Joyce, Daniel Nolan, Neil Sinhababu, Nicholas Southwood, Kim Sterelny, and Shang Long Yeo. Thanks are also due to audiences at the Sydney-ANU philosophy of biology meeting, the Australian Association of Philosophy Annual Conference, and the ANU Philosophy Society Seminar. This work was supported by an Australian Research Council Grant for the project, ‘The Origins of Inequality, Hierarchy, and Social Complexity’.

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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of PhilosophyAustralian National UniversityCanberraAustralia

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