Moral Testimony and Moral Understanding

In: Journal of Moral Philosophy
View More View Less
  • 1

In this paper I argue against the charge that dependence on moral testimony is at odds with good moral agency, and moral specifically with the ideal of having moral understanding and using it to make moral judgments. My argument has four main strands. First, I contend that one of the grounds that is often adduced for the value of moral understanding—namely, that it is important for justifying ourselves to others—does not offer an adequate basis for criticizing dependence on moral testimony. Second, I show how dependence on moral testimony is not incompatible with moral understanding. Third, I argue that, in fact, dependence on moral testimony can be an important avenue for achieving moral understanding. Fourth, and finally, I contend that moral understanding is not always an ideal we have sufficient reason to seek. If my arguments are successful, they provide new resources for a defense of dependence on moral testimony.

  • Anderson R. Producer . 2008, November 30. 60 Minutes. Television Broadcast. Washington, D.C.: CBS News.

  • Cholbi Michael . 2007. “Moral Expertise and the Credentials Problem.” Ethical Theory and Moral Practice. 10 (4): 323334.

  • Coady C.A.J. 1992. Testimony: A Philosophical Study. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  • Crisp Roger . 2014. “Moral Testimony Pessimism: A Defence.” Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume. 88 (1): 129143.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Elgin Catherine . 2007. “Understanding and the Facts.” Philosophical Studies. 132 (1): 3342.

  • Enoch David . 2014. “A Defense of Moral Deference.” Journal of Philosophy. 111 (5): 229258.

  • Groll Daniel and Decker Jason . 2014. “Moral Testimony: One of These Things Is Just Like the Others.” Analytic Philosophy. 55 (1): 5475.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Hills Alison . 2009. “Moral Testimony and Moral Epistemology.” Ethics. 120 (1): 94127.

  • Hills Alison . 2010. The Beloved Self: Morality and the Challenge from Egoism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  • Hills Alison . 2013. “Moral Testimony.Philosophy Compass. 8(6): 552559.

  • Hopkins Robert . 2007. “What Is Wrong with Moral Testimony?” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research. 74 (3): 611634.

  • Jones Karen . 1999. “Second-Hand Moral Knowledge.” Journal of Philosophy. 96 (2): 5578.

  • Korsgaard Christine . 2008. The Constitution of Agency: Essays on Practical Reason and Moral Psychology. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Lackey Jennifer . 2013. “Deficient Testimonial Knowledge.” In Knowledge, Virtue, and Action: Essays on Putting Epistemic Values to Work. Eds. Henning T. and Schweikard D. .

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • McGrath Sarah . 2009. “The Puzzle of Pure Moral Deference.” Philosophical Perspectives. 23 (1): 321344.

  • McGrath Sarah . 2011. “Skepticism about Moral Expertise as a Puzzle for Moral Realism.Journal of Philosophy. 108 (3): 111137.

  • Nickel Philip . 2001. “Moral Testimony and its Authority.” Ethical Theory and Moral Practice. 4 (3): 253266.

  • Paul L.A. 2014. Transformative Experience. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  • Pearson Erica . 2013, April 18. “Woman Who Hid in Bathroom for Three Months to Escape Genocide Becomes U.S. Citizen.” New York Daily News. Retrieved from http://www.nydailynews.com.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Scanlon Thomas . 1998. What We Owe to Each Other . Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

  • Sliwa Paulina . 2012. “In Defense of Moral Testimony.” Philosophical Studies. 158 (2): 175195.

  • Sliwa Paulina . Forthcoming. “Understanding and Knowing.” The Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society.

  • Tiberius Valerie . 2005. “Wisdom and Perspective.” The Journal of Philosophy. 102 (4): 163182.

Content Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 599 351 33
Full Text Views 251 24 5
PDF Downloads 78 21 5