How is moral disagreement a problem for realism?

David Enoch*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

62 Scopus citations


Moral disagreement is widely held to pose a threat for metaethical realism and objectivity. In this paper I attempt to understand how it is that moral disagreement is supposed to present a problem for metaethical realism. I do this by going through several distinct (though often related) arguments from disagreement, carefully distinguishing between them, and critically evaluating their merits. My conclusions are rather skeptical: Some of the arguments I discuss fail rather clearly. Others supply with a challenge to realism, but not one we have any reason to believe realism cannot address successfully. Others beg the question against the moral realist, and yet others raise serious objections to realism, but ones that-when carefully stated-can be seen not to be essentially related to moral disagreement. Arguments based on moral disagreement itself have almost no weight, I conclude, against moral realism.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)15-50
Number of pages36
JournalJournal of Ethics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2009

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgments For helpful conversations and comments on earlier drafts I thank Hanina Ben-Menahem, Alon Harel, Andrei Marmor, Joshua Schechter, Sharon Street and Ruti Weintraub. The research for this paper was supported by a grant from the Israel Science Fund.


  • Disagreement
  • Moral realism
  • Objectivity
  • The argument from relativity


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