Is Metaphysics Immune to Moral Refutation?

Acta Analytica 35 (4):469-492 (onlinefirst)
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When a novel scientific theory conflicts with otherwise plausible moral assumptions, we do not treat that as evidence against the theory. We may scrutinize the empirical data more keenly and take extra care over its interpretation, but science is in some core sense immune to moral refutation. Can the same be said of philosophical theories (or the non-ethical, ‘metaphysical’ ones at least)? If a position in the philosophy of mind, for example, is discovered to have eye-widening moral import, does that count against it at all? Actual responses by philosophers to the question of whether unanticipated moral consequences of metaphysical theories have evidential force are scattered, implicit, divergent, under-argued, and sometimes even self-undermining. The present discussion is, most immediately, an attempt to sort out the confusion. Beyond that, it exploits the new perspective this question gives us on a familiar topic: the relation of philosophy to science.

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Alex Barber
Open University (UK)


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