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Review of Philosophy and Psychology

, Volume 8, Issue 2, pp 455–476

First Online: 01 March 2016DOI: 10.1007-s13164-016-0300-9

Cite this article as: Pölzler, T. Rev.Phil.Psych. 2017 8: 455. doi:10.1007-s13164-016-0300-9


Moral realists believe that there are objective moral truths. According to one of the most prominent arguments in favour of this view, ordinary people experience morality as realist-seeming, and we have therefore prima facie reason to believe that realism is true. Some proponents of this argument have claimed that the hypothesis that ordinary people experience morality as realist-seeming is supported by psychological research on folk metaethics. While most recent research has been thought to contradict this claim, four prominent earlier studies by Goodwin and Darley, Wainryb et al., Nichols, and Nichols and Folds-Bennett indeed seem to suggest a tendency towards realism. My aim in this paper is to provide a detailed internal critique of these four studies. I argue that, once interpreted properly, all of them turn out in line with recent research. They suggest that most ordinary people experience morality as -pluralist- rather than realist-seeming, i.e., that ordinary people have the intuition that realism is true with regard to some moral issues, but variants of anti-realism are true with regard to others. This result means that moral realism may be less well justified than commonly assumed.

Autor: Thomas Pölzler


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