How to Debunk Moral Beliefs

In Jussi Suikkanen & Antti Kauppinen (eds.), Methodology and Moral Philosophy. New York: Routledge. pp. 25-48 (2018)
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Abstract

Arguments attempting to debunk moral beliefs, by showing they are unjustified, have tended to be global, targeting all moral beliefs or a large set of them. Popular debunking arguments point to various factors purportedly influencing moral beliefs, from evolutionary pressures, to automatic and emotionally-driven processes, to framing effects. We show that these sweeping arguments face a debunker’s dilemma: either the relevant factor is not a main basis for belief or it does not render the relevant beliefs unjustified. Empirical debunking arguments in ethics can avoid this predicament, but only if they are refocused on highly selective classes of moral belief. Experimental data can combine with familiar consistency reasoning to reveal that like cases are not being treated alike. Selective debunking arguments are unlikely to yield sweeping sceptical conclusions, but they can lead to rational moral change.

Author Profiles

Victor Kumar
Boston University
Joshua May
University of Alabama, Birmingham

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