Debunking Challenges to Moral Realism

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Braddock, Matthew C.


Sinnott-Armstrong, Walter

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Heightened awareness of the evolutionary, socio-cultural, and psychological origins of our moral judgments pushes many of us in the direction of moral skepticism, in the direction of doubting the objective truth of our moral judgments. But should awareness of the origins of our moral judgments shake our confidence in them? Are there good moral debunking challenges or debunking arguments from premises concerning the accessible origins of our moral judgments to skeptical conclusions regarding them? In vigorous pursuit of these questions, this dissertation sifts three promising moral debunking challenges to moral realism, namely Richard Joyce's (2001) evolutionary debunking argument from epistemic insensitivity, Sharon Street's (2006) "Darwinian Dilemma," and David Enoch's (2010) "Epistemological Challenge." It is argued that each challenge faces cogent objections that not only demonstrate the inadequacy of the best debunking challenges available but also instructively guide us to the development of new and more forceful debunking challenges to moral realism. This dissertation develops two new and forceful debunking challenges, both of which target the epistemic reliability and justification of our moral judgments on realist views of the moral facts. The first new debunking challenge starts from the premise that the best explanation of our moral judgments does not appeal to their truth and invokes a new species of epistemic insensitivity to secure the conclusion that our moral belief-forming processes are epistemically unreliable. The second new debunking challenge reasons that the best explanation of the fact that moral realists have no good explanation of the reliability of our moral belief-forming processes is that there is no such reliability.






Braddock, Matthew C. (2012). Debunking Challenges to Moral Realism. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from


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