Moral Expertise and the Credentials Problem

Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 10 (4):323-334 (2007)
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Philosophers have harbored doubts about the possibility of moral expertise since Plato. I argue that irrespective of whether moral experts exist, identifying who those experts are is insurmountable because of the credentials problem: Moral experts have no need to seek out others’ moral expertise, but moral non-experts lack sufficient knowledge to determine whether the advice provided by a putative moral expert in response to complex moral situations is correct and hence whether an individual is a bone fide expert. Traditional accounts of moral expertise require that moral experts give reliably correct moral advice supported by adequate justification, an account which, I argue, is too lean in allowing for the possibility of a moral expert who is motivationally indifferent to her own moral judgments and advice. Yet even if the proposition that a moral expert is an individual who provides reliably correct moral advice supported by adequate justification and is necessarily motivated by that advice exhausts the necessary and sufficient conditions for moral expertise, this proposition cannot function as an applicable criterion for non-experts to use in appraising would-be experts’ claims to expertise. The credentials problem thus remains unanswered.



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Michael Cholbi
University of Edinburgh

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Autonomy and the Asymmetry Problem for Moral Expertise.Julia Driver - 2006 - Philosophical Studies 128 (3):619-644.
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On forgetting the difference between right and wrong.G. Ryle - 1958 - In Abraham Irving Melden (ed.), Essays in moral philosophy. Seattle: University of Washington Press.
Ethics and Experts.Cheryl N. Noble - 1982 - Hastings Center Report 12 (3):7-15.

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