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Global Evolutionary Debunking Arguments in (Meta-) Ethics Revisited

Lecture by Herman Philipse ( University of Utrecht, The Netherlands), organized by the Department of Ethics, Social and Political Philosophy


In the wake of Sidgwick and Moore, most philosophers seemed to agree that “Evolution has very little indeed to say to Ethics” (Moore 1903: 109). In recent years, however, so-called evolutionary debunking arguments (“EDAs”) have become popular among moral philosophers. According to some, evolutionary explanations of our moral intuitions are “highly significant for normative ethics” (Singer 2005: 343).

In this paper, evolutionary debunking arguments in (meta-) ethics are classified, and the soundness of two global ones is assessed. I argue that (a) global evolutionary debunking arguments in support of a moral error theory must be mistaken because of what I call the parasitism of falsehood; and that (b) the evolutionary debunking of robust meta-ethical realism is convincing if and only if realists endorse what I call the independence model.


Herman Philipse took up a University Professorship in Philosophy at the University of Utrecht, The Netherlands, in 2003. He was previously Professor of Philosophy at the University of Leiden (1985-2003), Assistant Professor in Philosophy at that university (1978-85), and Research Assistant at the Husserl Archives, University of Louvain, Belgium (1977-78). He is the author of Heidegger’s Philosophy of Being: A Critical Interpretation (Princeton University Press, 1998), of books in Dutch, such as Atheïstisch Manifest/De onredelijkheid van religie (Bert Bakker, 2004), and of numerous philosophical articles. In February 2012 Oxford University Press published his book God in the Age of Science? A Critique of Religious Reason.

When & Where?

Wed November 12, 2014
Faculty of Philosophy, room Omega

Last modified:27 October 2014 4.08 p.m.