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Oxford Studies in Metaethics, Volume 9$
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Russ Shafer-Landau

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780198709299

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: June 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198709299.001.0001

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Debunking Evolutionary Debunking

Debunking Evolutionary Debunking

Chapter:
(p.76) 4 Debunking Evolutionary Debunking
Source:
Oxford Studies in Metaethics, Volume 9
Author(s):

Katia Vavova

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198709299.003.0004

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. This chapter shows that no plausible evolutionary debunking argument can both have force against the value realist and not collapse into a more general skeptical argument. It concludes 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.

Keywords:   evolution, debunking, realism, metaethics, moral epistemology, moral skepticism

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