Is There a Metaethical Argument against Non-Natural Moral Realism?
ABSTRACT: In this paper, I critically examine Daniel Korman and Dustin Locke’s debunking argument against non-natural moral realism (Korman & Locke, forthcoming). They argue that non-natural moral realists cannot rationally believe that their moral beliefs are modally connected without being explanatorily connected. Put another way, they claim that the non-natural moral realists’ inability to give a causal explanation of how their moral beliefs are explained by the moral facts should cause them to doubt the reliability of their moral beliefs. They conclude that non-natural moral realists must suspend their moral beliefs.
I argue that their debunking argument against non-natural moral realism, if it succeeds, overgeneralizes to non-moral domains, thereby forcing Korman and Locke to endorse a general epistemic principle. I call this principle NOMO: No Modal Connection Without an Explanatory Connection Principle. I then argue that NOMO is implausible for three reasons; (1) NOMO entails an implausible constraint on empirical knowledge; (2) NOMO entails rejecting any view that doesn’t equate “explanatory connections” with “causal connections” (which entails debunking non-causal realism across the board); and finally (3) NOMO is self-undermining. I then consider two replies against (i) my claim that NOMO is self-undermining and that (ii) NOMO overgeneralizes. I argue that they both fail.
Nevertheless, even if NOMO is independently plausible, I argue that it still remains dialectically inefficacious against the non-natural moral realist on the grounds that it amounts to question-begging. This is because the non-natural moral realist holds that standard for the modal reliability of a proposition p turns on facts on the domain to which p belongs. I conclude by drawing out a further consequence of my argument: Korman and Locke’s debunking argument isn’t about morality. That is, it is not a metaethical argument against non-natural moral realism—it is a more general epistemic argument against non-causal realism (under which non-natural moral realism falls).