Striking coincidences: How realists should reason about them

Ratio 32 (4):260-274 (2019)
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Many metaethicists assume that our normative judgments are both by and large true, and the product of causal forces. In other words, many metaethicists assume that the set of normative judgments that causal forces have led us to make largely coincides with the set of true normative judgments. How should we explain this coincidence? This is what Sharon Street (2006) calls the practical/theoretical puzzle. Some metaethicists can easily solve this puzzle, but not all of them can, Street argues; she takes the puzzle to constitute a specific challenge for normative realism. In this article I elucidate Street's puzzle and outline possible solutions to it, framed in terms of a general strategy for reasoning about coincidences. I argue that the success of Street's challenge crucially depends on how we set the ‘reference class’ of normative judgments that we could have endorsed, assuming realism. I conclude that while the practical/theoretical puzzle falls short of posing a general challenge for normative realism, it can be successful as a selective challenge for specific realist views.

Author's Profile

Jeroen Hopster
Utrecht University


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