Synthese 197 (1):427-446 (2020)

Michael Klenk
Delft University of Technology
Several moral objectivists try to explain the reliability of moral beliefs by appealing to a third factor, a substantive moral claim that explains, first, why we have the moral beliefs that we have and, second, why these beliefs are true. Folke Tersman has recently suggested that moral disagreement constrains the epistemic legitimacy of third-factor explanations. Apart from constraining third-factor explanations, Tersman’s challenge could support the view that the epistemic significance of debunking explanations depends on the epistemic significance of disagreement. This paper aims to show that disagreement does not constrain the epistemic legitimacy of third-factor explanations in metaethics, and it suggests a way forward in addressing the view that debunking depends on disagreement. First, Tersman’s constraints are impossible to violate, given the assumption that the justification relation exhibits monotonicity. Second, some disagreements are irrelevant, given that they cannot be about beliefs whose reliability the objectivist seeks to defend. Third, actual disagreement about moral beliefs is implausible, given recent ethnographic findings. In light of this discussion, the paper shows that the prospects of the disagreement view depend on which moral beliefs objectivists need to defend and the criteria we use to assess epistemically relevant moral disagreement.
Keywords evolutionary debunking arguments  third-factor explanations  moral disagreement  moral realism
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1007/s11229-018-1875-8
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 68,916
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

A Darwinian Dilemma for Realist Theories of Value.Sharon Street - 2006 - Philosophical Studies 127 (1):109-166.
Reflection and Disagreement.Adam Elga - 2007 - Noûs 41 (3):478–502.
The Ethical Project.Philip Kitcher - 2011 - Harvard University Press.
Higher Order Evidence.David Christensen - 2010 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 81 (1):185-215.

View all 38 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Debunking Arguments.Daniel Z. Korman - 2019 - Philosophy Compass 14 (12).
Evolution and Moral Disagreement.Michael Klenk - 2018 - Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy 14 (2).
The Epistemology of Evolutionary Debunking.Justis Koon - 2021 - Synthese 199 (5-6):12155-12176.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

The Moral Evil Demons.Ralph Wedgwood - 2010 - In Richard Feldman & Ted A. Warfield (eds.), Disagreement. Oxford University Press.
The Epistemology of Moral Disagreement.Richard Rowland - 2017 - Philosophy Compass 12 (2):1-16.
Moral Disagreement and Moral Skepticism.Katia Vavova - 2014 - Philosophical Perspectives 28 (1):302-333.
Moral Disagreement.Folke Tersman - 2006 - Cambridge University Press.
What Pessimism About Moral Deference Means for Disagreement.James Fritz - 2018 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 21 (1):121-136.
Crispin Wright on Moral Disagreement.Folke Tersman - 1998 - Philosophical Quarterly 48 (192):359-365.
Conciliationism and Moral Spinelessness.James Fritz - 2018 - Episteme 15 (1):101-118.
An Ethics of Uncertainty.C. Thi Nguyen - 2011 - Dissertation, UCLA
Moral Disagreement and Moral Expertise.Sarah McGrath - 2008 - In Russ Shafer-Landau (ed.), Oxford Studies in Metaethics: Volume 4. Oxford University Press. pp. 87-108.
On Explaining Political Disagreement.Andrew Mason - 1987 - Dissertation, University of Oxford (United Kingdom)
Possible Disagreements and Defeat.Brandon Carey - 2011 - Philosophical Studies 155 (3):371-381.
The Self-Undermining Arguments From Disagreement.Eric Sampson - 2019 - Oxford Studies in Metaethics 14:23-46.
Moral Intuitions, Reliability, and Disagreement.David Killoren - 2009 - Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy 4 (1):1-35.
The Real Problem with Evolutionary Debunking Arguments.Louise Hanson - 2017 - Philosophical Quarterly 67 (268):508-33.


Added to PP index

Total views
71 ( #160,081 of 2,497,981 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
6 ( #118,941 of 2,497,981 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes