In this chapter, I step back a bit and look at the theory from a meta-ethical point of view.
Many philosophers have thought that moral facts just have to be weird. So, I start out this chapter by arguing that the moral facts posited by evolutionary intuitionism are like other facts that nobody has any problems with. Nobody thinks it is weird that a set of propositions can be consistent or inconsistent, say, or weird that someone is a hypocrite. If those facts are not too strange to believe in, then neither are the moral facts.
The big problem most philosophers have had with evolutionary ethics is that evolutionary ethics seems to be saying that we can logically derive prescriptions from descriptions. Since we cannot do that, they say, evolutionary ethics is false. That has been a problem with many adaptationist theories. However, it is not a problem for evolutionary intuitionism because such logical derivations are not involved. Objections to adaptationist evolutionary theories are not automatically transferrable to by-product theories.
We do not derive moral truths from non-moral facts using logic. Instead, we just intuit the moral facts. Our moral intuitions are no different from some of our linguistic intuitions. The ones they resemble are the intuitions of native English speakers about when to use the passive instead of the active voice. These intuitions have to do with what they believe about what their audience knows and does not know. Typically, they can say which voice should be used but they cannot explain why. We are in the same situation when it comes to moral intuitions.
The big problem with old versions of ethical intuitionism is that people disagreed and there was no way to determine who was right. Evolutionary intuitionism has two ways of doing it. First, you can use the theory to determine the moral facts. Reliable intuitions are the ones that correspond to the moral facts. Second, you can try to eliminate the factors that distort intuitions, namely, ignorance and error. If those factors are eliminated, the intuitions that remain should be reliable.
In the rest of the chapter, I talk about why moral principles are impossible, and argue that the theory is realist, objectivist and universalist. In other words, there is such a thing as right and wrong, right and wrong is not just a matter of opinion or taste, and right and wrong are the same everywhere. The theory is not “speciesist” either. Human beings are not necessarily members and non-humans could be members. However, there is no reason to think that there are any non-human members.
Copyright Brian Zamulinski.