Philosophical Studies

, Volume 175, Issue 1, pp 71–96 | Cite as

Must realists be skeptics? An Aristotelian reply to a Darwinian Dilemma

  • Micah LottEmail author


In a series of influential essays, Sharon Street has argued, on the basis of Darwinian considerations, that normative realism leads to skepticism about moral knowledge. I argue that if we begin with the account of moral knowledge provided by Aristotelian naturalism, then we can offer a satisfactory realist response to Street’s argument, and that Aristotelian naturalism can avoid challenges facing other realist responses. I first explain Street’s evolutionary argument and three of the most prominent realist responses, and I identify challenges to each of those responses. I then develop an Aristotelian response to Street. My core claim is this: Given Aristotelian naturalism’s account of moral truth and our knowledge of it, we can accept the influence of evolutionary processes on our moral beliefs, while also providing a principled, non-question-begging reason for thinking that those basic evaluative tendencies that evolution has left us with will push us toward, rather than away from, realist moral truths, so that our reliably getting things right does not require an unexplained and implausible coincidence.


Sharon Street Aristotelian naturalism Moral knowledge Moral realism Evolutionary debunking Philippa Foot Michael Thompson Life form 



For helpful feedback on earlier versions of this paper, I thank: Anne Baril, Talbot Brewer, Jorge Garcia, Daniel Groll, John Hacker-Wright, Rosalind Hursthouse, Richard Kim, Mark LeBar, Matthew Lockerman, Joshua McBee, Daniel McKaughan, and Roger Teichmann. I am also grateful to audiences at University of Oslo, The Catholic University of America, and University of Virginia.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Philosophy Department, Stokes Hall NorthBoston CollegeChestnut HillUSA

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