Document Type



Master of Arts



Date of Defense


Graduate Advisor

Billy Dunaway, Ph. D


Lauren Olin, Ph.D

Eric Wiland, Ph.D


Evolutionary debunking arguments assume that morality could, conceptually speaking, be about anything. A response to this contention is that there are some moral conceptual truths which counter assertions that we could be in error about basic moral truths. According to proponents of moral conceptual truths, some things, by definition, cannot count as moral. Putative moral conceptual truths, such as “stealing is wrong,” are thought to enjoy a privileged epistemic status because anyone who denies them forfeits their ability to engage in competent moral reasoning. This paper explores whether moral conceptual truths can offer a satisfactory response to the debunkers’ premise that morality could conceptually be about anything. This paper clarifies epistemic safety and explains how safety should be understood as a basic consideration in any theory of knowledge. A plausible theory of the evolution of human morality and acquisition of moral concepts is outlined. Based on this evolutionary account, three scenarios are provided which demonstrate how our moral concepts could have easily differed from the ones we actually have. Based on this result, the author concludes that moral conceptual truths do not meet safety conditions and thus do not constitute a successful response to the debunker’s premise that morality could be about anything.