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Social Theory and Practice

Volume 44, Issue 3, July 2018

Joshua D. McBee
Pages 349-375

Circularity in Setiya’s Knowing Right from Wrong

Recently, Kieran Setiya suggested that we might respond to evolutionary debunking arguments by arguing that, even if we cannot explain our reliability in ethics, we might justify believing ourselves reliable using a track record argument. Not surprisingly, several critics have claimed that this response is circular. I consider two senses in which they might be right, concluding that, though Setiya’s argument does not beg the question, it is epistemically circular. Perhaps surprisingly, its epistemic circularity need not prevent Setiya’s argument from justifying its conclusion; nevertheless, I argue, reflection on this issue helps to bring out why realists would do well to eschew the strategy Setiya explores, focusing instead on showing that there is a suitable explanatory connection between our ethical beliefs and the facts.

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