Philosophy Prof. Dustin Locke awarded Sanders Prize in Metaethics

September 22, 2020

Dustin Locke, an Associate Professor of Philosophy, has been named the 2018 Marc Sanders Prize in Metaethics winner for his co-authored paper, “Against Minimalist Responses to Moral Debunking Arguments.”

The paper will appear in Oxford Studies in Metaethics, Vol. 15 in summer 2020, and Locke will present at the 13th Annual Wisconsin Metaethics Workshop (“MadMeta”) later this month at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The Sanders Prize in Metaethics, which rewards early-career scholars, is administered by Russ Shafer-Landau, Professor of Philosophy at the UW-Madison and editor of Oxford Studies in Metaethics.

“The Philosophy Department is delighted by this external validation of what we have long already known—that Dustin's philosophical work in metaethics is shedding important light on the epistemic foundations of moral truths,” said Amy Kind, Russell K. Pitzer Professor of Philosophy. “He is clearly a scholar on the rise, and as this prize shows, he is doing cutting-edge work of the very highest caliber. We consider ourselves fortunate to have him amongst our ranks."

Locke co-authored the paper with Daniel Z. Korman, Professor of Philosophy at UC Santa Barbara. Their paper starts from the assumption that basic moral intuitions are largely the product of evolution by natural selection, Locke said, “for example, we evolved to think we morally ought to take care of our children.”

“Some have argued that once we realize that our moral intuitions are the products of evolution by natural selection, we ought to treat those intuitions as an illusion. To paraphrase (New York University Philosophy Professor) Sharon Street, nothing really matters, evolution just made us think things matter. We don't endorse this argument in the paper, but we argue that it is more resilient than its critics have supposed,” he said.

Locke worked on the paper during his post-tenure sabbatical in 2015-16. He and Korman are also working on two related papers: one on the relationship between the evolutionary argument and moral relativism, and another developing, defending, and applying to other contexts the central principle of their winning submission.

Locke received his Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of Michigan and his B.A. in Philosophy from Texas Tech University. He has been at CMC since 2009.

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