How Could A “Blind” Evolutionary Process Have Made Human Moral Beliefs Sensitive to Strongly Universal, Objective Moral Standards?


Talbott, William J. “How Could A “Blind” Evolutionary Process Have Made Human Moral Beliefs Sensitive to Strongly Universal, Objective Moral Standards?” Biology & Philosophy 29 (July 2014): 1-18.

The evolutionist challenge to moral realism is the skeptical challenge that, if evolution is true, it would only be by chance, a “happy coincidence” as Sharon Street puts it, if human moral beliefs were true. The author formulates Street’s “happy coincidence” argument more precisely using a distinction between probabilistic sensitivity and insensitivity introduced by Elliott Sober. The author then considers whether it could be rational for us to believe that human moral judgments about particular cases are probabilistically sensitive to strongly universal fundamental moral standards of cooperation and fair division. The author provides an explanation of why there would be a benign correlation (though not a perfect one) between human moral judgments in particular cases and the requirements of strongly universal fundamental moral standards. The explanation of the benign correlation is based on group selection for groups of individuals with an egalitarian satisficing psychology and egalitarian norms, because of the ability of such groups to more efficiently solve gene-propagation collective action problems.

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