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 I hypothesize 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 I posit.
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. I agree that that has been a problem with many evolutionary theories. However, it is not a problem for mine because logical derivations are not involved. My theory is a late contender. Some philosophers just assume that it has the same problems as the evolutionary theories that they are familiar with. I find that annoying. I maintain that objections to adaptationist evolutionary theories are not automatically transferrable to by-product theories. Maybe, my theory has the same flaws but I don’t see that it does, nobody has shown that I am wrong, and I don’t see why they should get a free ride.
We do not derive moral truths from non-moral facts using logic. Instead, we just intuit the moral facts. I argue that our moral intuitions are no different from some of our linguistic intuitions. Note that I say some, not all, and that I have particular linguistic intuitions in mind. The ones I have in mind are the intuitions of native English speakers about when to use the passive instead of the active voice. Sometimes, this has to do with what they believe about what their audience knows and does not know. Typically, they can say which 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, I do not see any reason to think that there are any non-human members.
Copyright Brian Zamulinski.