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Moral Reality and the Empirical Sciences

New York: Routledge (2018)

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  1. Should Morality Be Abolished? An Empirical Challenge to the Argument From Intolerance.Jennifer Cole Wright & Thomas Pölzler - 2022 - Philosophical Psychology 35 (3):350-385.
    Moral abolitionists claim that morality ought to be abolished. According to one of their most prominent arguments, this is because making moral judgments renders people significantly less tolerant toward anyone who holds divergent views. In this paper we investigate the hypothesis that morality’s tolerance-decreasing effect only occurs if people are realists about moral issues, i.e., they interpret these issues as objectively grounded. We found support for this hypothesis (Studies 1 and 2). Yet, it also turned out that the intolerance associated (...)
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  • COVID-19, Uncertainty, and Moral Experiments.Ibo Van de Poel & Michael Klenk - 2021 - History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 43 (1):1-5.
    Pandemics like COVID-19 confront us with decisions about life and death that come with great uncertainty, factual as well as moral. How should policy makers deal with such uncertainty? We suggest that rather than to deliberate until they have found the right course of action, they better do moral experiments that generate relevant experiences to enable more reliable moral evaluations and rational decisions.
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  • Further Problems with Projectivism.Thomas Pölzler - 2016 - South African Journal of Philosophy 35 (1):92-102.
    From David Hume onwards, many philosophers have argued that moral thinking is characterized by a tendency to “project” our own mental states onto the world. This metaphor of projection may be understood as involving two empirical claims: the claim that humans experience morality as a realm of objective facts (the experiential hypothesis), and the claim that this moral experience is immediately caused by affective attitudes (the causal hypothesis). Elsewhere I argued in detail against one form of the experiential hypothesis. My (...)
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  • How to Measure Moral Realism.Thomas Pölzler - 2018 - Review of Philosophy and Psychology 9 (3):647-670.
    In recent years an increasing number of psychologists have begun to explore the prevalence, causes and effects of ordinary people’s intuitions about moral realism. Many of these studies have lacked in construct validity, i.e., they have failed to measure moral realism. My aim in this paper accordingly is to motivate and guide methodological improvements. In analysis of prominent existing measures, I develop general recommendations for overcoming ten prima facie serious worries about research on folk moral realism. G1 and G2 require (...)
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  • Moral Judgments and Emotions: A Less Intimate Relationship Than Recently Claimed.Thomas Pölzler - 2015 - Journal of Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology 35 (3):177-195.
    It has long been claimed that moral judgements are dominated by reason. In recent years, however, the tide has turned. Many psychologists and philosophers now hold the view that there is a close empirical association between moral judgements and emotions. In particular, they claim that emotions (1) co-occur with moral judgements, (2) causally influence moral judgements, (3) are causally sufficient for moral judgements, and (4) are causally necessary for moral judgements. At first sight these hypotheses seem well-supported. In this paper (...)
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  • Revisiting Folk Moral Realism.Thomas Pölzler - 2017 - Review of Philosophy and Psychology 8 (2):455-476.
    Moral realists believe that there are objective moral truths. According to one of the most prominent arguments in favour of this view, ordinary people experience morality as realist-seeming, and we have therefore prima facie reason to believe that realism is true. Some proponents of this argument have claimed that the hypothesis that ordinary people experience morality as realist-seeming is supported by psychological research on folk metaethics. While most recent research has been thought to contradict this claim, four prominent earlier studies (...)
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  • The Relativistic Car: Applying Metaethics to the Debate About Self-Driving Vehicles.Thomas Pölzler - 2021 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 24 (3):833-850.
    Almost all participants in the debate about the ethics of accidents with self-driving cars have so far assumed moral universalism. However, universalism may be philosophically more controversial than is commonly thought, and may lead to undesirable results in terms of non-moral consequences and feasibility. There thus seems to be a need to also start considering what I refer to as the “relativistic car” — a car that is programmed under the assumption that what is morally right, wrong, good, bad, etc. (...)
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  • Climate Change Inaction and Moral Nihilism.Thomas Pölzler - 2015 - Ethics, Policy and Environment 18 (2):202-214.
    The effects of anthropogenic climate change may be devastating. Nevertheless, most people do not seem to be seriously concerned. We consume as much as we always did, drive as much as we always did, eat as much meat as we always did. What can we do to overcome this collective apathy? In order to be able to develop effective measures, we must first get clear about the causes of climate change inaction. In this paper I ask whether moral nihilism is (...)
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  • Disagreement and Doubts About Darwinian Debunking.Alexandra Plakias - forthcoming - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice:1-15.
    Evolutionary debunking arguments draw on claims about the biological origins of our moral beliefs to undermine moral realism. In this paper, I argue that moral disagreement gives us reason to doubt the evolutionary explanations of moral judgment on which such arguments rely. The extent of cross-cultural and historical moral diversity suggests that evolution can’t explain the content of moral norms. Nor can it explain the capacity to make moral judgment in the way the debunker requires: empirical studies of folk moral (...)
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  • X-Phi and Impartiality Thought Experiments: Investigating the Veil of Ignorance.Norbert Paulo & Thomas Pölzler - 2020 - Diametros 17 (64):72-89.
    This paper discusses “impartiality thought experiments”, i.e., thought experiments that attempt to generate intuitions which are unaffected by personal characteristics such as age, gender or race. We focus on the most prominent impartiality thought experiment, the Veil of Ignorance, and show that both in its original Rawlsian version and in a more generic version, empirical investigations can be normatively relevant in two ways: First, on the assumption that the VOI is effective and robust, if subjects dominantly favor a certain normative (...)
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  • Evolutionary Debunking Arguments Meet Evolutionary Science.Arnon Levy & Yair Levy - 2020 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 100 (3):491-509.
    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 (...)
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  • Why Metaethics Needs Empirical Moral Psychology.Jeroen Hopster & Michael Klenk - 2020 - Critica 52 (155).
    What is the significance of empirical moral psychology for metaethics? In this article we take up Michael Ruse’s evolutionary debunking argument against moral realism and reassess it in the context of the empirical state of the art. Ruse’s argument depends on the phenomenological presumption that people generally experience morality as objective. We demonstrate how recent experimental findings challenge this widely-shared armchair presumption and conclude that Ruse’s argument fails. We situate this finding in the recent debate about Carnapian explication and argue (...)
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  • The Evolution of Moral Belief: Support for the Debunker’s Causal Premise.Michael T. Dale - 2022 - History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 44 (2):1-18.
    The causal premise of the evolutionary debunking argument contends that human moral beliefs are explained by the process of natural selection. While it is universally acknowledged that such a premise is fundamental to the debunker’s case, the vast majority of philosophers focus instead on the epistemic premise that natural selection does not track moral truth and the resulting skeptical conclusion. Recently, however, some have begun to concentrate on the causal premise. So far, the upshot of this small but growing literature (...)
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  • No need to get up from the armchair.Dan Baras - 2020 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 23 (3):575-590.
    Several authors believe that metaethicists ought to leave their comfortable armchairs and engage with serious empirical research. This paper provides partial support for the opposing view, that metaethics is rightly conducted from the armchair. It does so by focusing on debunking arguments against robust moral realism. Specifically, the article discusses arguments based on the possibility that if robust realism is correct, then our beliefs are most likely insensitive to the relevant truths. These arguments seem at first glance to be dependent (...)
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  • Wie Schlüssig Ist Albert Camus’ Frühe „Logik des Absurden“?Thomas Pölzler - 2016 - Allgemeine Zeitschrift für Philosophie 41 (1):59-76.
    Im Roman „Der Fremde“, dem Drama „Caligula“ und insbesondere dem Essay „Der Mythos des Sisyphos“ entwickelt Albert Camus eine erste Fassung einer „Logik des Absurden“. Die menschliche Existenz sei geprägt durch ein Spannungsverhältnis zwischen unserem Streben nach Sinn und einer dieses Streben fortwährend enttäuschenden Welt. Auf die Erkenntnis dieser Tatsache darf man Camus zufolge weder mit Selbstmord noch mit dem Aufgeben des Strebens nach Sinn reagieren. Vielmehr fordert er eine Haltung der beständigen Auflehnung. In meinem Artikel gehe ich der Frage (...)
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