In broad terms this project examines the relationship between science and value. To illustrate one aspect of this research, consider ‘ontological naturalism’ (the assumption that only ‘natural’ objects, events, or states of affairs exist). One of the major challenges facing ontological naturalism is providing a satisfactory understanding of, and foundation for, normativity (that things are ‘good’ or ‘bad’). If the world is made only of natural objects, events, and states of affairs how are we to understand the place of value, be that epistemic, moral, social, environmental, or spiritual? The project addresses this question in a number of realms and in a number of different ways.
Moral Psychology: Many would assert that objective value is central to morality. Indeed some would say that without the existence of objective value morality is without foundation. But it is unclear how ontological naturalism supports the existence of objective value. Setting aside the question of the existence of objective value (for now), the project investigates how a cognitive system generates belief in objective value. An account is being developed according to which belief in objective value are the result of the output of one or more mental modules. Such an account would go some way to explaining the human capacity to consider certain values ‘objective’ in the sense necessary to explain the force of certain moral convictions.
Cognitive Science of Religion: Drawing on insights from philosophy of mind, cognitive science and evolutionary psychology, the project is developing an account of belief in religious agency that postulates such belief is the output of the modular cognitive architecture responsible for ‘folk psychology.’ This account is developed in a number of ways. Using the concept of modular ‘cognitive ontologies’ religious beliefs are examined with reference to Quinean ontological commitment, and drawing on the ecological rationality of Gigerenzer, and the normative cognitive pluralism of Stich.
Environmental Philosophy: the project focuses on ethical and metaethical issues that arise in environmental philosophy. For example, how is it that any responsibility we might have to future generations limits our use of environmental resources.
Authorised by the Acting Head of School, Humanities
23 April, 2012