This paper explores a novel type of argument in legal theory—a psychological debunking argument—by the example of the justification of human rights and based on a psychological dual-process model of decision-making. Debunking arguments undermine confidence in a belief because of shortcomings of the empirical conditions under which it was formed. They thereby open a route from the descriptive to the evaluative, from Is to Ought, without illicitly crossing metaethical waters since they involve normative premises. As they are epistemic, they cannot replace substantive arguments on the merits. However, they may be useful when substantive arguments are stalled or the necessity to make a judgment precludes further discussions.
The controversial justification of human rights is a good test case for debunking arguments. The challenge is to find features in the formation of beliefs about human rights that undermine their epistemic justification. Some psychologists claim that relevant beliefs arise from the rationalization of intuitions. This process is ill-suited to generate correct beliefs; so formed beliefs may be debunked. This also shows how legal reasoning might be improved.