Change in Moral View: Higher-Order Evidence and Moral Epistemology

In Higher Order Evidence and Moral Epistemology. New York, NY: Routledge (forthcoming)
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Most epistemologists maintain that we are rationally required to believe what our evidence supports. Generally speaking, any factor that makes it more probable that a given state of affairs obtains (or does not obtain) is evidence (for that state of affairs). In line with this view, many metaethicists believe that we are rationally required to believe what’s morally right and wrong based on what our moral evidence (e.g. our moral intuitions, along with descriptive information about the world) supports. However, sometimes we get information about our evidence, such as a theory that explains that all moral intuitions are ultimately caused by evolutionary forces. Such genealogical claims like this take form as a puzzle about how to rationally respond to higher-order evidence in moral epistemology. How should we change our moral views in response to genealogical claims about the evolutionary origin of our moral beliefs or about widespread moral disagreement? This introductory chapter first explains the issue about how to change our moral views based on an easily accessible example. Then it shows how recent debates about the puzzle of higher-order evidence bears on recent debates in moral epistemology, notably the debates about evolutionary debunking arguments in metaethics, the epistemic significance of moral peer disagreement, moral testimony, and collective moral knowledge before it introduces the chapters of this book.
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