Do evolutionary debunking arguments rest on a mistake about evolutionary explanations?
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Many moral philosophers accept the Debunking Thesis, according to which facts about natural selection provide debunking explanations for certain of our moral beliefs. I argue that philosophers who accept the Debunking Thesis beg important questions in the philosophy of biology. They assume that past selection can explain why you or I hold certain of the moral beliefs we do. A position advanced by many prominent philosophers of biology implies that this assumption is false. According to the Negative View, natural selection cannot explain the traits of individuals. Hence, facts about past selection cannot provide debunking explanations for any of our moral beliefs. The aim of this paper is to explore the conflict between the Debunking Thesis and the Negative View.
KeywordsMoral epistemology Philosophy of biology Evolutionary debunking arguments Natural selection
For helpful comments on previous drafts of this paper, I'm grateful to Krister Bykvist, Ellen Clarke, Daan Evers, Hilary Greaves, participants at the 2014 Philosophy of Biology in the UK conference in Cambridge and at the 2014 Experiments and Intuitions conference at Ertegun House, Oxford, as well as to students participating in my graduate seminar on evolutionary debunking arguments at Oxford in Hilary Term 2015. Last but not least, I would like to thank an anonymous referee at this journal for insightful comments.
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