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Explanatory Challenges in Metaethics

In Tristram McPherson & David Plunkett (eds.), Routledge Handbook of Metaethics. Routledge. pp. 443-459 (2018)

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  1. The Theoretical Significance of the A Priori/A Posteriori Distinction.Joshua Schechter - forthcoming - In Dylan Dodd & Elia Zardini (eds.), Beyond Sense? New Essays on the Significance, Grounds, and Extent of the A Priori. Oxford University Press.
    In recent years, several philosophers have argued that the a priori/a posteriori distinction is a legitimate distinction but does not carve at the epistemological joints and is theoretically unimportant. In this paper, I do two main things. First, I respond to the most prominent recent challenge to the significance of the a priori/a posteriori distinction – the central argument in Williamson (2013). Second, I discuss the question of what the theoretical significance of the a priori/a posteriori distinction is. -/- I (...)
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  • Realism, Reliability, and Epistemic Possibility: On Modally Interpreting the Benacerraf–Field Challenge.Brett Topey - forthcoming - Synthese:1-22.
    A Benacerraf–Field challenge is an argument intended to show that common realist theories of a given domain are untenable: such theories make it impossible to explain how we’ve arrived at the truth in that domain, and insofar as a theory makes our reliability in a domain inexplicable, we must either reject that theory or give up the relevant beliefs. But there’s no consensus about what would count here as a satisfactory explanation of our reliability. It’s sometimes suggested that giving such (...)
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  • Against Minimalist Responses to Moral Debunking Arguments.Daniel Z. Korman & Dustin Locke - 2020 - Oxford Studies in Metaethics 15:309-332.
    Moral debunking arguments are meant to show that, by realist lights, moral beliefs are not explained by moral facts, which in turn is meant to show that they lack some significant counterfactual connection to the moral facts (e.g., safety, sensitivity, reliability). The dominant, “minimalist” response to the arguments—sometimes defended under the heading of “third-factors” or “pre-established harmonies”—involves affirming that moral beliefs enjoy the relevant counterfactual connection while granting that these beliefs are not explained by the moral facts. We show that (...)
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  • Contextual Injustice.Jonathan Jenkins Ichikawa - 2020 - Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal 30 (1):1–30.
    Contextualist treatments of clashes of intuitions can allow that two claims, apparently in conflict, can both be true. But making true utterances is far from the only thing that matters — there are often substantive normative questions about what contextual parameters are appropriate to a given conversational situation. This paper foregrounds the importance of the social power to set contextual standards, and how it relates to injustice and oppression, introducing a phenomenon I call "contextual injustice," which has to do with (...)
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  • Morality as an Evolutionary Exaptation.Marcus Arvan - 2021 - In Johan De Smedt & Helen De Cruz (eds.), Empirically Engaged Evolutionary Ethics. Springer - Synthese Library. pp. 89-109.
    The dominant theory of the evolution of moral cognition across a variety of fields is that moral cognition is a biological adaptation to foster social cooperation. This chapter argues, to the contrary, that moral cognition is likely an evolutionary exaptation: a form of cognition where neurobiological capacities selected for in our evolutionary history for a variety of different reasons—many unrelated to social cooperation—were put to a new, prosocial use after the fact through individual rationality, learning, and the development and transmission (...)
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  • How Can We Come to Know Metaphysical Modal Truths?Amie L. Thomasson - 2018 - Synthese 198 (Suppl 8):2077-2106.
    Those who aim to give an account of modal knowledge face two challenges: the integration challenge of reconciling an account of what is involved in knowing modal truths with a plausible story about how we can come to know them, and the reliability challenge of giving a plausible account of how we could have evolved a reliable capacity to acquire modal knowledge. I argue that recent counterfactual and dispositional accounts of modal knowledge cannot solve these problems regarding specifically metaphysical modal (...)
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  • Debunking Arguments in Metaethics and Metaphysics.Daniel Z. Korman - 2019 - In Alvin Goldman & Brian McLaughlin (eds.), Metaphysics and Cognitive Science. Oxford University Press. pp. 337-363.
    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 (...)
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  • An Occasionalist Response to Korman and Locke.David Killoren - 2021 - Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy 19 (3).
    Dan Korman and Dustin Locke argue that non-naturalists are rationally committed to withhold moral belief. A main principle in their argument, which they call EC*, can be read in either of two ways, which I call EC*-narrow and EC*-wide. I show that EC*-narrow is implausible. Then I show that, if Korman and Locke rely on EC*-wide to critique non-naturalism, then the critique fails. I explain how the availability of a view that I like to call moral occasionalism can be used (...)
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  • Is Mathematics Unreasonably Effective?Daniel Waxman - 2021 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 99 (1):83-99.
    Many mathematicians, physicists, and philosophers have suggested that the fact that mathematics—an a priori discipline informed substantially by aesthetic considerations—can be applied to natural science is mysterious. This paper sharpens and responds to a challenge to this effect. I argue that the aesthetic considerations used to evaluate and motivate mathematics are much more closely connected with the physical world than one might presume, and (with reference to case-studies within Galois theory and probabilistic number theory) show that they are correlated with (...)
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  • Is There a Reliability Challenge for Logic?Joshua Schechter - 2018 - Philosophical Issues 28 (1):325-347.
    There are many domains about which we think we are reliable. When there is prima facie reason to believe that there is no satisfying explanation of our reliability about a domain given our background views about the world, this generates a challenge to our reliability about the domain or to our background views. This is what is often called the reliability challenge for the domain. In previous work, I discussed the reliability challenges for logic and for deductive inference. I argued (...)
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  • Moral Explanations of Moral Beliefs: Inappropriate to Demand Them?John J. Tilley - 2020 - Theoria 86 (3):293-308.
    A familiar claim, meant as a challenge to moral knowledge, is that we can credibly accept putative moral facts just in case they explain natural facts. This paper critically addresses Elizabeth Tropman’s response to a version of that claim. Her response has interest partly because it falls within, and extends, an influential philosophical tradition – that of trying to expose (some) skeptical challenges as spurious or ill-conceived. Also, Tropman’s target is not just any version of the claim just mentioned. It (...)
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  • Evolutionary Arguments Against Moral Realism: Why the Empirical Details Matter (and Which Ones Do).Jeroen Hopster - 2018 - Biology and Philosophy 33 (5-6):41.
    The aim of this article is to identify the strongest evolutionary debunking argument against moral realism and to assess on which empirical assumptions it relies. In the recent metaethical literature, several authors have de-emphasized the evolutionary component of EDAs against moral realism: presumably, the success or failure of these arguments is largely orthogonal to empirical issues. I argue that this claim is mistaken. First, I point out that Sharon Street’s and Michael Ruse’s EDAs both involve substantive claims about the evolution (...)
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  • On-Conditionalism: On the Verge of a New Metaethical Theory.Toni Rønnow-Rasmussen - 2016 - Les ateliers de l'éthique/The Ethics Forum 11 (2-3):88-107.
    Toni Rønnow-Rasmussen | : This paper explores a novel metaethical theory according to which value judgments express conditional beliefs held by those who make them. Each value judgment expresses the belief that something is the case on condition that something else is the case. The paper aims to reach a better understanding of this view and to highlight some of the challenges that lie ahead. The most pressing of these revolves around the correct understanding of the nature of the relevant (...)
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