Full text Read free See used
Street, Sharon, , . A Darwinian Dilemma for Realist Theories of Value
2006, Philosophical Studies 127 (1):109-166.
Expand entry
Added by: Graham Bex-Priestley, Contributed by:

Abstract: Contemporary realist theories of value claim to be compatible with natural science. In this paper, I call this claim into question by arguing that Darwinian considerations pose a dilemma for these theories. The main thrust of my argument is this. Evolutionary forces have played a tremendous role in shaping the content of human evaluative attitudes. The challenge for realist theories of value is to explain the relation between these evolutionary influences on our evaluative attitudes, on the one hand, and the independent evaluative truths that realism posits, on the other. Realism, I argue, can give no satisfactory account of this relation. On the one hand, the realist may claim that there is no relation between evolutionary influences on our evaluative attitudes and independent evaluative truths. But this claim leads to the implausible skeptical result that most of our evaluative judgments are off track due to the distorting pressure of Darwinian forces. The realist’s other option is to claim that there is a relation between evolutionary influences and independent evaluative truths, namely that natural selection favored ancestors who were able to grasp those truths. But this account, I argue, is unacceptable on scientific grounds. Either way, then, realist theories of value prove unable to accommodate the fact that Darwinian forces have deeply influenced the content of human values. After responding to three objections, the third of which leads me to argue against a realist understanding of the disvalue of pain, I conclude by sketching how antirealism is able to sidestep the dilemma I have presented. Antirealist theories of value are able to offer an alternative account of the relation between evolutionary forces and evaluative facts—an account that allows us to reconcile our understanding of evaluative truth with our understanding of the many nonrational causes that have played a role in shaping our evaluative judgments.

Comment: This is an influential paper that could serve either as required reading or further reading in a metaethics module. Includes a very clear explanation of realism.

Export citation in BibTeX format
Export text citation
View this text on PhilPapers
Export citation in Reference Manager format
Export citation in EndNote format
Export citation in Zotero format
Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share on Google Plus Share on Pinterest Share by Email More options
Full text Read free See used
Vavova, Katia, , . Evolutionary Debunking of Moral Realism
2015, Philosophy Compass 10(2): 104-116
Expand entry
Added by: Simon Fokt, Contributed by: Lisa Bastian

Abstract: Evolutionary debunking arguments move from a premise about the influence of evolutionary forces on our moral beliefs to a skeptical conclusion about those beliefs. My primary aim is to clarify this empirically grounded epistemological challenge. I begin by distinguishing among importantly different sorts of epistemological attacks. I then demonstrate that instances of each appear in the literature under the ‘evolutionary debunking- title. Distinguishing them clears up some confusions and helps us better understand the structure and potential of evolutionary debunking arguments.

Comment: This is a great paper to read in an introductory yet challenging metaethics course: it is accessible enough to be read by students with little background knowledge but is also interesting to read in that it puts forward an argument and is a good example of current research in the field.

Export citation in BibTeX format
Export text citation
View this text on PhilPapers
Export citation in Reference Manager format
Export citation in EndNote format
Export citation in Zotero format
Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share on Google Plus Share on Pinterest Share by Email More options