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Reading: Evolutionary Biology, Moral Intuitions and the Is-Ought Problem

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Evolutionary Biology, Moral Intuitions and the Is-Ought Problem

Author:

Geoff Keeling

London School of Economics, GB
About Geoff

Special thanks go to Farbod Akhlaghi-Ghaffarokh and Ben Lange for many helpful discussions. Further thanks go to Dr Orsolya Reich for an informative commentary at the LSE-Bayreuth Conference, and to Dr Jonathan Birch for recommended reading.

BSc student in the Department of Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method. He is the Editor in Chief of the British Journal of Undergraduate Philosophy, and his research interests include philosophy of biology and cognitive science.

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Abstract

In this paper, I argue that deriving normative conclusions from moral intuitions commits Hume’s is-ought fallacy. First, I argue that moral intuitions evolved to maximise reproductive success and not to track moral truth. I use this to support the claim that moral intuitions are better seen as biochemical states of affairs, rather than indicators of moral truth. Second, I argue that this provides reason to think that deriving normative conclusions from moral intuitions commits Hume’s is-ought fallacy. I defend this against two objections: (1) that the argument commits the genetic fallacy, and (2) that the argument pre-supposes meta-ethical objectivism.

How to Cite: Keeling, G., 2015. Evolutionary Biology, Moral Intuitions and the Is-Ought Problem. Rerum Causae, 7(1), pp.106–116.
Published on 01 Jan 2015.
Peer Reviewed

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