Debunking debunking: a regress challenge for psychological threats to moral judgment

Regina A. Rini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper presents a regress challenge to the selective psychological debunking of moral judgments. A selective psychological debunking argument conjoins an empirical claim about the psychological origins of certain moral judgments to a theoretical claim that these psychological origins cannot track moral truth, leading to the conclusion that the moral judgments are unreliable. I argue that psychological debunking arguments are vulnerable to a regress challenge, because the theoretical claim that ‘such-and-such psychological process is not moral-truth-tracking’ relies upon moral judgments. We must then ask about the psychological origins of these judgments, and then make a further evaluative judgment about these psychological origins… and so on. This chain of empirical and evaluative claims may continue indefinitely and, I will argue, proponents of the debunking argument are in a dialectical position where they may not simply call a halt to the process. Hence, their argument cannot terminate, and its debunking conclusion cannot be upheld.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)675-697
Number of pages23
JournalPhilosophical Studies
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2016


  • Moral judgment
  • Moral psychology
  • Psychological debunking
  • Regress argument

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy


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