Are There Moral Experts?

The Monist 58 (4):646-658 (1974)
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There are experts in arithmetic, music, tennis, and fencing. But are there experts in morality? It is not surprising that there should be people like moral philosophers who are experts in moral theory, just as there are experts in tennis or music theory. But the question concerns whether there are analogues in morality of the expert tennis player or violinist. The unsophisticated answer might be that confessors, counselors, and perhaps even psychiatrists seem to qualify as moral experts in the relevant sense. In turn, most conscientious confessors, counselors, and psychiatrists would deny that they themselves are experts in morality, even though they might claim expertise in divinity, marital advising, or treating emotional disorders. There are, moreover, persuasive philosophical arguments against the possibility of anyone’s being a moral expert, of which certain venerable reasonings of Socrates, Kant, and Ryle may be taken as representative. By examining several venerable arguments against the possibility of moral experts, we will, however, discover much to be said for the unsophisticated answer to the question.



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