Third factor explanations and disagreement in metaethics
Abstract: Several moral objectivists try to explain the reliability of moral beliefs by appealing to a third factor, a substantive moral claim that explains, first, why we have the moral beliefs that we have and, second, why these beliefs are true.
Folke Tersman has recently suggested that moral disagreement constrains the epistemic legitimacy of third-factor explanations.
Apart from constraining third-factor explanations, Tersman’s challenge could support the view that the epistemic significance of debunking explanations depends on the epistemic significance of disagreement.
I aim at showing that disagreement does not constrain the epistemic legitimacy of third-factor explanations in metaethics, and suggest a way forward in addressing the view that debunking depends on disagreement.
Can Moral Realists deflect defeat due to evolutionary explanations of morality?
Abstract: I address Andrew Moon's recent discussion of the question whether third-factor accounts are valid responses to debunking arguments against moral realism. Moon argues that third-factor responses are valid under certain conditions but leaves open whether moral realists can use his interpretation of the third-factor response to defuse the evolutionary debunking challenge. I rebut Moon's claim and answer his question. Moon's third-factor reply is valid only if we accept externalism about epistemic defeaters. However, even if we do, I argue, the conditions Moon identifies for a valid third-factor response are not met in the case of moral realism.
Old Wine in New Bottles. Evolutionary Debunking Arguments and the Benacerraf-Field Challenge
Abstract: I argue that evolutionary, causal explanations do not play an essential role Street's epistemological evolutionary debunking argument. Street’s argument depends on the Benacerraf-Field challenge, which is the challenge to explain the reliability of our moral beliefs about causally inert moral properties. The Benacerraf-Field challenge relies on metaphysically necessary facts about realist moral properties, rather than on contingent Darwinian facts about the origin of our moral beliefs. Attempting to include an essential causal empirical premise yet avoiding recourse to the Benacerraf-Field problem yields an argument that is either self-defeating or of limited scope. Ultimately, evolutionary, causal explanations of our moral beliefs and their consequences do not present the strongest case against robust moral realism.
Measuring Moral Development
Abstract: In the aftermath of the financial crisis, heightened awareness of ethical issues sparked increased efforts within universities and businesses to educate people in moral matters. Sometimes, psychological tests are used to measure whether moral development occurred. If moral development is understood as a synonym of moral progress, then this might seem like a good sign: it seems as if we have a handle on making moral progress. Alas, moral development and moral progress are two very different things. And although we know a lot about moral development, what we know has little to do with moral progress. Let’s untangle both concepts.