The descent of evolutionary debunking.

  • Oscar Davis

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


In this thesis I explore and critique an emergent metaethical challenge against moral realism called the evolutionary debunking argument (EDA). The EDA surfaces from the attempt to integrate findings from evolutionary science with the philosophical project of understanding the metaphysical and epistemological nature of the ‘ultimate foundations’ of morality. After surveying current literature by identifying four distinct formulations of the argument and existing counter-arguments, I introduce and formulate a new challenge to aspiring debunkers, called the otiosity argument. This argument stipulates that the success of the debunking manoeuvre depends on a series of imported assumptions or pre-established arguments regarding the metaphysical and epistemological nature of morality. I demonstrate how in various instances in the debunking literature these assumptions or attempts to pre-establish certain anti-realist conclusions play out in the otiosity argument. I conclude that the EDA is only as successful as these imported metaethical assumptions and arguments and that the EDA is therefore otiose to the metaethical debate between realists and anti-realists. Upon reviewing the success of the integration of findings from evolutionary science, I propose a positive metaethical account grounded in a renewed perspective towards the evolution of morality and metaethical constructivism. I suggest that the future of this domain of enquiry takes on this renewed perspective and acknowledges the descent of the evolutionary debunking manoeuvre.
Date of Award3 Feb 2021
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorDamian Cox (Supervisor) & Yi Chen (Supervisor)

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