Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2018

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

Graham Oddie

Second Advisor

Alastair Norcross

Third Advisor

Terence Cuneo

Fourth Advisor

Chris Heathwood

Fifth Advisor

Michael Huemer


This dissertation is a development of the argument for moral realism advanced by Terence Cuneo (2007) and Nathan Nobis (2005). I call it the “Epistemic Argument for Moral Realism.” It proceeds as follows: epistemic realism is true; if epistemic realism is true, then moral realism is true; hence moral realism is true. Chapter 1 provides a general overview of the argument and its significance. In chapter 2, I argue in favor of epistemic realism indirectly – thereby supporting the first premise of the Epistemic Argument – by arguing against the two forms of epistemic anti-realism that I take to be the most plausible: normative error theory and epistemic instrumentalism. I argue that normative error theory is self-defeating, and that epistemic instrumentalism cannot do justice to our intuitions about the authority of epistemic reasons. Over the course of chapters 3 and 4, I provide three independent arguments for the “Parity Premise,” the claim that if epistemic realism is true, then moral realism is also true. Cuneo and Nobis argue that the best arguments for moral anti-realism overgeneralize to impugn epistemic realism; since rejecting epistemic realism is absurd, we should reject the best arguments for moral anti-realism. I agree with their reasoning; however, I also want to show that the truth of moral realism follows from the truth of epistemic realism. Finally, in chapter 5, I argue against normative pluralism, the view that all normative judgments are relative to normative domains, rather than being absolute. This is important because normative pluralism needs to be rejected if we are to establish the claims made in the preceding chapters.