Why Does the Denial of Moral Facts Undercut Knowledge of Any Kind?

by Bill Pratt

Moral skeptics frequently argue that evolution has tricked us into thinking that our moral judgments are based on mind-independent moral facts. Even though it seems like our moral judgments are examples of authentic reasoning, they are not. Joshua Greene is a typical voice of moral skepticism:

Moral judgment is, for the most part, driven not by moral reasoning, but by moral intuitions of an emotional nature. Our capacity for moral judgment is a complex evolutionary adaptation to an intensely social life. We are, in fact, so well adapted to making moral judgments that our making them is, from our point of view, rather easy, a part of “common sense.” And like many of our common sense abilities, our ability to make moral judgments feels to us like a perceptual ability, an ability, in this case, to discern immediately and reliably mind-independent moral facts. As a result, we are naturally inclined toward a mistaken belief in moral realism. The psychological tendencies that encourage this false belief serve an important biological purpose, and that explains why we should find moral realism so attractive even though it is false. Moral realism is, once again, a mistake we were born to make.

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Although we may think we are making moral judgments based on mind-independent moral facts, this is imply an illusion caused by evolution. We are simply mistaken to think that moral facts actually exist. According to “New Atheist” Sam Harris, “Greene alleges that moral realism assumes that ‘there is sufficient uniformity in people’s underlying moral outlooks to warrant speaking as if there is a fact of the matter about what’s ‘right’ or ‘wrong,’ ‘just’ or ‘unjust…’’

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