Biology & Philosophy

, Volume 31, Issue 5, pp 727–746 | Cite as

Dehorning the Darwinian dilemma for normative realism



Normative realists tend to consider evolutionary debunking arguments as posing epistemological challenges to their view. By understanding Sharon Street’s ‘Darwinian dilemma’ argument in this way, they have overlooked and left unanswered her unique scientific challenge to normative realism. This paper counters Street’s scientific challenge and shows that normative realism is compatible with an evolutionary view of human evaluative judgment. After presenting several problems that her adaptive link account of evaluative judgments faces, I outline and defend an evolutionary byproduct perspective on evaluative judgment. I then argue that a consideration of levels of analysis in biological–behavioral explanation suggests that the realist who adopts the byproduct perspective I outline is not at a prima facie disadvantage to the normative anti-realist on grounds of parsimony. This perspective, I suggest, can enable normative realists to answer evolutionary challenges to their view.


Evolution Normative realism Evolutionary debunking arguments Evolutionary byproduct Levels of analysis 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Multidisciplinary Studies and The Center for Genomic AdvocacyIndiana State UniversityTerre HauteUSA

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