Moral Deference

David Enoch
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
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
Categories (categorize this paper)
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Translate to english
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 65,784
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Respect for the Dead and Dying.Anthony Preus - 1984 - Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 9 (4):409-416.
Legal Obligation as a Duty of Deference.Kimberley Brownlee - 2008 - Law and Philosophy 27 (6):583 - 597.
Moral Flourishing in an Unjust World.Laurence Thomas - 1993 - Journal of Moral Education 22 (2):83-96.
The Puzzle of Pure Moral Deference.Sarah McGrath - 2009 - Philosophical Perspectives 23 (1):321-344.
Saints, Heroes, Sages, and Villains.Julia Markovits - 2012 - Philosophical Studies 158 (2):289-311.
Who Are the Moral Experts?Peter Miller - 1975 - Journal of Moral Education 5 (1):3-12.
What’s Wrong with Morality?C. Daniel Batson - 2011 - Emotion Review 3 (3):230-236.
Aging and Moral Deference.S. Godlovitch - 1988 - International Journal of Applied Philosophy 4 (2):55-61.
Moral Principles As Moral Dispositions.Luke Robinson - 2011 - Philosophical Studies 156 (2):289-309.
Moral Authority and Moral Education.Grenville Wall - 1975 - Journal of Moral Education 4 (2):95-99.


Added to PP index

Total views

Recent downloads (6 months)

How can I increase my downloads?


Sorry, there are not enough data points to plot this chart.

My notes