SOPhiA 2017

Salzburgiense Concilium Omnibus Philosophis Analyticis

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Programme - Talk

Here's One Normative Truth, and Here's Another: Evolutionary Debunking and Moorean Facts
(Ethics, English)

Within meta-ethics, evolutionary debunking arguments are used to attack normative realism, i.e. the view that normative truths are mind-independent. On one interpretation, the challenge that these arguments pose for the realist is a sceptical one: Given the evolutionary aetiology of normative beliefs and the mind-independence of normative truths, the possibility of normative knowledge is a puzzle. A number of realist replies to this challenge involve taking the truth of certain substantive normative claims for granted, for example that pain is bad or that survival is good. This move is dialectically questionable, however, because the evolutionary debunker casts doubt on substantive normative claims wholesale. I side with the debunker in this debate, defending her against a number of attempts to strong-arm her into permitting these assumptions despite their question-begging character. The arguments I look at threaten her with self-defeat, circularity, redundancy, and a descent into external world scepticism. Most of these charges turn out to be unfounded once we get clear about what it means for the normative realist to make substantive assumptions. The argument from a descent into external world scepticism is more robust but not strong enough to yield its conclusion. I draw two lessons from this: (1) The evolutionary debunker can safely refuse to acknowledge substantive normative assumptions on the realist's part. (2) Evolutionary debunking arguments are therefore best understood as leaving the realist's normative beliefs prima facie unjustified, rather than as providing epistemic defeaters for them.

Chair: Zsolt Ziegler
Time: 17:25-17:55, 13 September 2017 (Wednesday)
Location: SR 1.007

Michael Bruckner 
(University of Oxford, United Kingdom)

I obtained my BA in Philosophy from the University of Vienna, where I also gathered some experience as a teaching assistant in the area of practical philosophy and as a research assistant with the project New Directions in Plant Ethics. Currently, I am studying for the BPhil in Philosophy at Oxford. My main interests are meta-ethics and epistemology.

Testability and Meaning deco