Tracking the Moral Truth: Debunking Street’s Darwinian Dilemma


Sharon Street’s 2006 article “A Darwinian Dilemma for Realist Theories of Value” challenges the epistemological pretensions of the moral realist, of the nonnaturalist in particular. Given that “Evolutionary forces have played a tremendous role in shaping the content of human evaluative attitudes” – why should one suppose such attitudes and concomitant beliefs would track an independent moral reality? Especially since, on a nonnaturalist view, moral truth is causally inert. I abstract a logical skeleton of Street’s argument and, with its aid, focus on problematic assumptions regarding the (a)causality of moral truth. It emerges that there are acquired causal powers that compensate for the intrinsic impotence of moral truth, as well as two distinct levels at which truth-tracking might occur. I argue that while evolution’s selective forces do not track moral truth, that does not imply individual organisms could not have evolved that capability.

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Gerald Hull
State University of New York at Binghamton


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