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Why moral philosophers are not and should not be moral experts

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published

Journal publication date03/2011
JournalBioethics
Journal number3
Volume25
Number of pages9
Pages119-127
Early online date29/07/09
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Professional philosophers are members of bioethical committees and regulatory bodies in areas of interest to bioethicists. This suggests they possess moral expertise even if they do not exercise it directly and without constraint. Moral expertise is defined, and four arguments given in support of scepticism about their possession of such expertise are considered and rejected: the existence of extreme disagreement between moral philosophers about moral matters; the lack of a means clearly to identify moral experts; that expertise cannot be claimed in that which lacks objectivity; and that ordinary people do not follow the advice of moral experts. I offer a better reason for scepticism grounded in the relation between moral philosophy and common-sense morality: namely that modern moral philosophy views even a developed moral theory as ultimately anchored in common-sense morality, that set of basic moral precepts which ordinary individuals have command of and use to regulate their own lives. Even if moral philosophers do nevertheless have a limited moral expertise, in that they alone can fully develop a set of moral judgments, I sketch reasons – grounded in the values of autonomy and of democracy – why moral philosophers should not wish non-philosophers to defer to their putative expertise.