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A New Reliability Defeater for Evolutionary Naturalism

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The author identifies the structure of Sharon Street's skeptical challenge to non‐naturalist, normative epistemic realism (NNER) as an argument that NNER is liable to reliability defeat and then argues that Street's argument fails, because it itself is subject to reliability defeat. As the author reconstructs Street's argument, it is an argument that the normative epistemic judgments of the realist could only be probabilistically sensitive to normative epistemic truths (if there any) by sheer chance. The author then recaps Street's own naturalist translation of normative epistemic judgments into purely descriptive, contingent probability statements, and argues that, on her own terms, the reasoning that leads her to rationally believe in evolutionary theory (and other scientific theories) could only be probabilistically sensitive to the relevant purely descriptive, contingent probabilities by sheer chance. The author's argument is addressed to Street, but it applies to all evolutionary naturalist accounts of epistemic rationality. The author explains how his argument differs from Plantinga's Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism (EAAN) and shows how it avoids the objections to Plantinga's EAAN. The author closes with the outline of an explanation of how evolution could have made human reasoning probabilistically sensitive to metaphysically necessary normative epistemic standards, even though those standards did not exert and, indeed, could not have exerted any kind of causal influence on the evolutionary process.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: November 1, 2016

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