The epistemological challenge to metanormative realism: How best to understand it, and how to cope with it

David Enoch*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

135 Scopus citations


Metaethical-or, more generally, metanormative-realism faces a serious epistemological challenge. Realists owe us-very roughly speaking-an account of how it is that we can have epistemic access to the normative truths about which they are realists. This much is, it seems, uncontroversial among metaethicists, myself included. But this is as far as the agreement goes, for it is not clear-nor uncontroversial-how best to understand the challenge, what the best realist way of coping with it is, and how successful this attempt is. In this paper I try, first, to present the challenge in its strongest version, and second, to show how realists-indeed, robust realists-can cope with it. The strongest version of the challenge is, I argue, that of explaining the correlation between our normative beliefs and the independent normative truths. And I suggest an evolutionary explanation (of a preestablished harmony kind) as a way of solving it.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)413-438
Number of pages26
JournalPhilosophical Studies
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2010

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgements I worked on this paper as a fellow of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Jerusalem. I am grateful for the Institute’s support. I would also like to gratefully ackowledge the support of the Israel Science Fund. I presented this paper at the IAS in Jerusalem, and at the research workshop at the Bar Han University philosophy department, and I thank the participants for the helpful discussions that followed. For helpful conversations and comments on previous versions I am grateful to Erez Aloni, Hagit Benbaji, Pete Graham, David Heyd, Yair Levy, Ofer Malcai, Josh Schechter, Mark Schroeder, Yonatan Shemer, Sigrún Svavarsdóttir, Mark van Roojen, Ralph Wedgwood, and Ruti Weintraub.


  • Moral epistemology
  • Moral realism


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