Moral Deference

Everyone agrees, I think, that there is something fishy about moral deference and expertise, but that's where consensus ends. This paper has two aims – the first is to mount a defense of moral deference, and the second is to offer a (non-debunking) diagnosis of its fishiness. I defend moral deference by connecting the discussion of moral deference to the recent discussion of the appropriate response to uncertainty. It is, I argue, morally obligatory to minimize the risk of one's wrongdoing (at least when all other things are held equal), and this moral requirement entails that deferring to a moral expert is sometimes not just morally permissible but also admirable, and indeed morally required. If moral deference is often justified, why is it fishy? I offer an explanation in terms of the emotions moral judgments are often related to, and their nature (roughly speaking) as directed at the good or bad, right or wrong, de re rather than de dicto. The combination of this vindication of moral deference and diagnosis of its fishiness nicely accommodates, I argue, some related phenomena, like the (neglected) fact that our uneasiness with moral deference is actually a particular instance of uneasiness with opaque evidence in general when it comes to morality, and the (familiar) fact that the scope of this uneasiness is wider than the moral as it includes other normative domains.
Keywords Moral Deference  Moral Expertise  Moral Uncertainty
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