Archive for January, 2015


“A New Debunking Argument” (01/30/2015)

January 28, 2015

Elizabeth O’Neill

Abstract: I introduce and defend a new debunking argument, which I call the argument from inconsistent variability. I distinguish this argument from other debunking arguments, such as the argument from unreliable processes and the argument from irrelevant influences. I show that the argument from inconsistent variability has particular value in contexts where we have limited evidence about whether propositions are true or false. In the moral domain, where the truth value of many moral propositions is contested, this debunking argument, unlike others, enables us to reach conclusions about the epistemic status of moral beliefs while avoiding normative assumptions about the truth value of moral propositions. The argument does this by showing that the variability in the truth value of a moral proposition is inconsistent with the degree of variability in a person’s attitude about that proposition—this may be because the person’s attitudes about the proposition fluctuate too much or too little. I apply this argument to the case of moral beliefs about certain political questions. People’s beliefs about these questions are too likely to vary over the course of the lifetime for them to be tracking the truth. As a result, I claim that people should decrease confidence in their beliefs on these questions.