Evolutionary debunking of (arguments for) moral realism

Arnon Levy*, Itamar Weinshtock Saadon

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Moral realism is often taken to have common sense and initial appearances on its side. Indeed, by some lights, common sense and initial appearances underlie all the central positive arguments for moral realism. We offer a kind of debunking argument, taking aim at realism’s common sense standing. Our argument differs from familiar debunking moves both in its empirical assumptions and in how it targets the realist position. We argue that if natural selection explains the objective phenomenology of moral deliberation and judgement, then this undermines arguments from that phenomenology. This results in a simpler, and in some ways more direct, challenge to realism. It is also less vulnerable to the main objections that have been leveled against such arguments. If accepted, our conclusion should make a real difference to the dialectic in this area. It means that neither realism nor its denial is the default, to-be-refuted, position.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number168
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
For their detailed and extremely valuable written comments on earlier drafts, we'd like to thank Dan Baras, John Bengson, Michael Dale, Stephen Darwall, David Enoch, Ayala Collete Haddad, Uri Leibowitz, Yair Levy, Thomas Pölzler, Russ Shafer-Landau, Kyle Stanford, Preston Werner, Erik Wielenberg, and two anonymous referees at this journal.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature B.V.


  • Evolutionary debunking arguments
  • Metaethics
  • Moral anti-realism
  • Moral phenomenology
  • Moral realism


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