From Trolleyology to Global Warming: Debunking Evolutionary Explanations of our Moral Intuitions
Herman Philipse

August 13, 2014, 12:00pm - 2:00pm
Department of Philosophy, La Trobe University

SS 330
Kingsbury Drive and Plenty Road
Bundoora 3083

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The talk will start with a well-known psychological experiment concerning so-called trolley scenarios (Spur, Footbridge), in which the audience will be asked to function as the set of test-subjects. It will be argued that there is no valid philosophical justification for the majority-view of the audience. Next, some results of neuroscience will be mentioned that show how our brains work when we respond to the Footbridge scenario. Philosophers (e.g. Peter Singer) have argued that these neuroscientific results confirm a debunking evolutionary explanation of our moral intuitions in the Footbridge case, and Singer (2005) generalizes this debunking result. Is he right in concluding that John Rawls's method of reflective equilibrium for the justification of moral judgements and theories is untenable? Finally, the practical relevance of targeted evolutionary debunking explanations will be shown by the example of our moral reactions to the threat of global warming.

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