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Abstract: Let me begin with a stylized contrast between two ways of thinking about morality. On the one hand, morality can be understood as the dictate of, or uncovered by, impartial reason. That which is (truly) moral must be capable of being verified by everyone’s reasoning from a suitably impartial perspective. If we are to respect the free and equal nature of each person, each must (in some sense) rationally validate the requirements of morality. If we take this view, the genuine requirements of morality are a matter of rational reflection and self-imposed law. For Kant it seemed to be a matter of reflection by a rational individual, testing the impartiality of his maxims. For Rousseau, who was an important influence on Kant, under the proper conditions collective deliberation could yield impartial rules of justice that are willed by all. From another point of view moralities are social facts with histories. The heroes of this tradition are Hume, Ferguson and, perhaps surprisingly given his “deductive” method, Hobbes. The moral codes — or if “code” implies too much systematization, moral “practices” — we have ended up with are, to some extent, a matter of chance. This is by no means to say that morality is entirely arbitrary, but it does contain a significant arbitrary element. The morality we have ended up with is path-dependent: only because our moral codes have started somewhere, and have changed in response to unanticipated events, can we explain why we ended up where we have, and different societies end up in different places. The proponents of each view typically seek to discredit the other. Those who conceive of morality as the demand of impartial reason often insist the evolutionists confuse “positive morality” (the moral code that people actually follow) with justified (or true) morality, which is revealed by impartial reason. The positive morality that has evolved is simply what people think is morality, not what really is morality..
Abstract: The Evolution of Morality attempts to accomplish two tasks. The first is to clarify and provisionally advocate the thesis that human morality is a distinct adaptation wrought by biological natural selection. The second is to inquire whether this empirical thesis would, if true, have any metaethical implications
Abstract: Evolutionary debunking arguments (EDAs) are arguments that appeal to the evolutionary origins of certain evaluative beliefs to undermines their justification. This paper aims to clarify the premises and presuppositions of EDAs—a form of argument that is increasingly put to use in normative ethics. I show that EDAs are merely instances of a familiar form of argument commonly used in both evaluative and non-evaluative contexts. It’s often overlooked, however, that EDAs presuppose the truth of metaethical objectivism. More importantly, even if objectivism is assumed, the use of EDAs in normative ethics is incompatible with the parallel and more sweeping metaethical argument recently put forward by Joyce and Street. After examining several ways of responding to this global evolutionary argument, I end by arguing that even if we could resist it, this would still not rehabilitate the current targeted use of EDAs in normative ethics given that, if EDAs work at all, they will in any case lead to a truly radical revision of our evaluative outlook.
Abstract: Darwin argued for the biological basis of morality in his Descent of Man (1871). Beginning with the thesis of the continuity of man and animals, he tried to explain the origin of the moral sense, or conscience, as understood as an ability to discern right and wrong, and to feel guilty if one realizes to have done wrong. His argument is that, in any animal with social instincts and sufficient intellectual powers, a moral sense would be developed. Although Darwin's argument had some missing links, I try to show that his argument can be consistently reconstructed, in view of the recent development of evolutionary biology and behavioral ecology. As I understand, Darwin's basic tenet is reductionism via evolutionary processes (natural selection, in particular): morality can be reduced to a combination of non-moral factors, each of which can be shared with other animals; you do not have to assume that morality is sui generis