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Dissolving a Darwinian dilemma for moral realism

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Controversies over the implications of Darwinism for ethics have been swirling about for some time. Two of Darwin’s contemporaries, Frances Cobbe and Henry Sidgwick, defend rather different views of the matter. While Cobbe maintained that Darwin’s theory, if correct, delivered a deathblow to ethics, Sidgwick dismissed evolutionary theory as irrelevant to ethics. Descendents of these contrasting views are to be found in contemporary discussions. In this paper, I consider those of the deathblow variety that aim to undermine moral knowledge. I argue that moral knowledge may be difficult to establish, but that none of these difficulties arise from Darwinian considerations.

This talk is part of the Departmental Seminars in History and Philosophy of Science series.

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