Days 1-4: An Evolutionary Objection to Ethical Objectivism

I’ve finally begun officially working on my summer research project. I started by reviewing relevant articles Professor Davies uploaded to the Responsibility and Human Agency blackboard website.

I read “A Comparative Perspective on the Evolution of Moral Behavior” by
Katie Hall and Sarah F. Brosnan first, “Evolution of responses to (un)fairness” by Sarah F. Brosnan and Frans B. M. de Waal, Chapters 8 and 9 of Social by Mathew D. Lieberman, “On the relationships between disgust and morality: A critical review” by Antonio Olivera La Rosa and Jaume Rosselló Mir, and “The New Synthesis in Moral Psychology” by Jonathan Haidt over my first two days of research.

Over the second and third day I came up with a very basic outline of my essay. Additionally, on the third day I began reading Moral Brains: The Neuroscience of Morality by S. Matthew Liao. I’ve finished annotating it today as well as developed a rough outline of the premises I aim to defend in my essay which I have emailed my advisor for feedback. I’m concerned I may be tackling too broad a topic, but I’m even more enthusiastic than I was when I first decided on the idea. Naively, I didn’t expect to find so much literature on moral neuroscience, nor for there to already be deliberate divisions among philosophers on the interpretation of modern findings in neuroscience.

As mentioned in my abstract, I’m basically arguing that scientific research can explain why we have moral intuitions and act morally. I believe that if science can explain this, then it is incredibly difficult to defend ethical objectivism, which dictates, most simply, that there must be at least one moral truth. Much of the research I’ve read has not directly attacked this notion, but I wouldn’t be surprised if another philosopher has already made this argument, as moral skepticism has been around for quite a while. Personally, I don’t see any way of proving that even one objective moral truth exists. Most arguments I’ve read have been based appealing to intuition, and even more have been linguistic debates. Once I’ve finished reading this scientific literature, I’m excited to tackle critiquing the arguments for ethical objectivism.