Plaisted, Dennis, 1964-
University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
Place of Publication
For millennia, prominent thinkers have believed that moral sentiments were the recognition of external, objective truths, be they of divine, Platonic, or natural origin. Now the challenge is to find any objective tether at all for our evaluative judgements. The theory of evolution’s encroachment on metaethics is practically as old as Charles Darwin himself, but the more evolved version of this attack on the justification for moral realism (the position that avers the existence of objective moral truths and that we can know at least some of them) comes in the form of Evolutionary Debunking Arguments (EDAs). The (specifically, materialist) EDAs posit that because we evolved, and evolution by natural selection is an “off-track” process relative to anything except fitness, justification for our moral beliefs are rendered unjustified. In order to make these arguments, however, several unwarranted metaphysical assumptions are required for their advancement. Furthermore, the structure of the materialist EDA undermines not only moral realism, but inexorably, certainty of knowledge in all domains if maintained, including the logical truths bearing its own epistemic weight. However, due to the metaphysical similarity of axiomatic mathematics and morality, the famous Benacerraf-Field challenge trickles down to this discussion as well: it can repackage the concerns of the EDA into an argument without the chaff of an EDA, itself posing the real threat to moral realism. In this thesis, I assess the EDA’s damage to moral realism and whether or not this position can ultimately evade a Darwinian reduction.
B. A.; An honors thesis submitted to the faculty of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the degree of Bachelor of Arts.
Ethics, Evolutionary; Moral realism
Ethics and Political Philosophy
[ii], 54 leaves
Denton, Olivia, "Assessing the damage: moral realism and the evolutionary debunking argument" (2022). Honors Theses.