Professor of Philosophy
New York University
Does Anything Really Matter, or Did We Just Evolve to Think So?
October 27th, 2014
Co-sponsored with the Binghamton University Department of Philosophy
5:10 to 6:15 PM (doors open at 5 PM)
Academic A G008
When it comes to questions of how to live, most of us would agree with statements like the following. Life is preferable to death. Health is better than sickness. We should care for our children, not harm them. Altruists are to be admired rather than condemned. Cheaters ought to be punished, not rewarded. These and many other evaluative beliefs assail us with great emotional force. They strike us as self-evidently correct and command a high degree of consensus across time and cultures. It is tempting to suppose that they are recognitions of independent truths about what matters. But what if we hold such values “just” because the mindless process of evolution by natural selection shaped us that way? What if the best scientific explanation of our deepest evaluative convictions is simply that these were the ones that it “paid” to have in the struggle to survive and reproduce? Would the truth of that explanation undermine our values? Or, rather, should
Sharon Street is Associate Professor of Philosophy at New York University. She specializes in metaethics, and is the author of a series of articles on how to reconcile our understanding of ethical objectivity with a scientific conception of the world, especially a Darwinian perspective. Her articles include “A Darwinian Dilemma for Realist Theories of Value” (Philosophical Studies, 2006), “Constructivism about Reasons” (Oxford Studies in Metaethics, 2008), and “Evolution and the Normativity of Epistemic Reasons” (Canadian Journal of Philosophy, 2011). During the 2014-15 academic year, she is a Laurance S. Rockefeller Visiting Fellow at the University Center for Human Values at Princeton University.
Reading will be posted to the EvoS blackboard group. Anyone with a Binghamton University email address can request to be added to the blackboard group by emailing EvoS[at]binghamton[dot]edu.
Audio from talk
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