Sub-session 2 The Empirical Presuppositions of Evolutionary Debunking Arguments
The aim of this sub-session is to scrutinize the empirical presuppositions underlying different evolutionary debunking arguments. What are these presuppositions, how do debunkers argue for their (meta)ethical relevance, and are these arguments sound? For instance, what light does empirical research shed on the assumption that there are moral universals, and how might the universality or particularity of moral judgments affect EDAs? Another assumption that plays a role in many EDAs is the purported objectivity of moral judgments. Does experimental research corroborate the assumption that moral judgments are regarded as objective? Does such research have any metaethical implications?
Anger is said to be both universal and an adaptation. I discuss the role anger plays in morality, cultural variation in anger norms, and argue that evolutionary reasons play little role in justifying norms of anger.
Darwinizing Debunking Arguments: Converging Evidence and the Status of Moral Properties
Paul Sheldon Davies
Defenders of evolutionary debunking arguments (EDAs) need not be restricted to generic facts of evolutionary history. Nor should they accept such limitations. They should reason as Darwin does in The Origins and The Descent by appeal to converging evidence from diverse areas of inquiry, including evidence of belief-forming processes that are demonstrably non-truth-tracking. To reason in this way is to Darwinize debunking arguments. My aim is to illustrate the Darwinizing strategy with a single EDA that aspires to establish the following conclusions: (1) Within some non-trivial range of conditions, we cannot justifiably claim to know the reasons for the actions we perform. (2) If one cannot justifiably claim to know one’s reasons for a given action, one’s moral responsibility for the action is called into question. (3) If, for some non-trivial range of human actions, attributions of moral responsibility are called into question, the scope of human morality is proportionally limited. My main argument is a defense of (1) which appeals to converging evidence from affective and cognitive neuroscience and from social psychology. My defense of (2) is less an argument and more a strategy for an argument, one that would appeal to the evolutionary functions of judgments concerning the relationship between self-knowledge and responsibility. My defense of (3) rests on the argumentative potency of Darwin’s debunking refutation of special act creationism in The Origins.
Does a Global Shift towards ‘Liberalism’ provide Empirical Support for Moral Realism?
Over the course of human history there appears to have been a global shift in values towards a broadly ‘liberal’ orientation. Michael Huemer (2016) argues that this shift better accords with moral realism than with moral antirealism: it is best explained by the discovery of mind-independent truths through intuition. Contra Huemer I argue that the relevant data are better explained assuming the truth of antirealism. Realism does not fit the historical data as well as Huemer suggests, whereas antirealists have underappreciated resources to accommodate the relevant historical dynamics. I focus on two arguments that Huemer advances. The first is his ‘coincidence challenge’. Huemer highlights that the rise of liberalism can be discerned with regard to multiple issues and in different countries. Presumably this remarkable coincidence cannot be a mere fluke; it requires explanation. However, remarkable coincidences only generate an explanatory burden insofar as the coinciding phenomena are independent. I argue that for many of the historical data Huemer highlights such independence is questionable. Moreover, for what remains of a coincidence, the antirealist has got ample resources to explain it. The second argument on which I focus concerns the role that reasoning has played in the global value-shift. Huemer suggests that progressive moral changes which are rationally driven are best understood on the hypothesis that moral reasoning involves tracking mind-independent truths. I criticize this hypothesis, arguing that some of its details remain unsatisfactorily vague. Moreover, antirealists can draw upon powerful and underappreciated resources to explain the role of reasoning in value change themselves, such as the process of ‘consistency reasoning’.