Debunking Evolutionary Debunking

Oxford Studies in Metaethics 9:76-101 (2014)
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Evolutionary debunking arguments start with a premise about the influence of evolutionary forces on our evaluative beliefs, and conclude that we are not justified in those beliefs. The value realist holds that there are attitude-independent evaluative truths. But the debunker argues that we have no reason to think that the evolutionary forces that shaped human evaluative attitudes would track those truths. Worse yet, we seem to have a good reason to think that they wouldn’t: evolution selects for characteristics that increase genetic fitness—not ones that correlate with the evaluative truth. Plausibly, the attitudes and judgments that increase a creature’s fitness come apart from the true evaluative beliefs. My aim in this paper is to show that no plausible evolutionary debunking argument can both have force against the value realist and not collapse into a more general skeptical argument. I conclude that there is little hope for evolutionary debunking arguments. This is bad news for the debunker who hoped that the cold, hard scientific facts about our origins would debunk our evaluative beliefs. And it is good news for the realist.

Author's Profile

Katia Vavova
Mount Holyoke College


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