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A Moral Expert: Is There Such a Thing? Essay

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Updated: Apr 23rd, 2022

Introduction

According to Anderson (2010, p. 7), Plato defines a moral expert as a person who has the knowledge to state and identify what is already known. In this case, a moral expert can take the position of educating, resolving debates, and most importantly improving people’s morality. It should be known that there a lot of definitions that have been augmented towards moral experts whereby they are also referred to as people who have acquired the knowledge that is necessary to understand major ethical values, concepts, and theories (Hoffmaster et al, 1989, p. 13). This means that they are capable of relating these values, concepts and theories to certain situations thereby having the knowledge to usefully apply them in resolving any ethical dilemma.

As far as all these definitions are concerned, the purpose of this paper is to take a position on whether moral experts exist? In addition, it will also support defense by using credible evidence. Finally, the paper will also anticipate for possible proponents and respond to them.

Initial Position

I believe that there is no such a thing as a moral expert based on two assumptions. First, many of us have controversial moral believes based on cultural and religious backgrounds. The second assumption is based on the idea that we cannot deliberately identify a moral expert because of confusion in the literature that regards to the definition of moral experts. There is no specific check or an independent measurement tool that can possibly be used to identify moral experts.

Using Credible Evidence to Support Initial Position

McGrath (2007, p. 45) argues that there is no obvious way that one can find him/herself in the space of a moral expert at the expense of others. This is because there is lack of an independent check that is crucial in ascertaining if one is a moral expert or not. In this case, there is no existing measurement for moral expertise. This is not as simple as an eye exam whereby which we might determine whose moral vision is wrong or right. Therefore, the truth about a given individuals level of moral expertise is mysterious and inexplicable. There are a lot of controversial believes and after considering these ideas, it is difficult to prove that although we all have controversial moral beliefs, they are uncontroversial among moral experts (McGrath, 2007, p. 29).

It should be known that getting answers to questions regarding the existence of moral experts depends on answering the questions of how to justify moral judgments (Gesang, 2008, p. 34). This speaks of the idea that moral believes are controversial and these controversial believes will not only direct the moral decision but also the justification of choosing it over another. Along the same line, Driver (2006, p. 28) argues that unwillingness to support the existence of moral experts is due to the fact that some possess controversial views about moral judgment.

In this case, she believes that it is impossible to have a situation where moral judgment is neither true nor false because it is based on emotional responses. I really agree with this idea because what someone reveals as a false moral judgment can be presumed to be true by another person. She believes that a moral expert forms his beliefs under conditions of cognitive consistency and trustworthiness. This therefore means that when we are identifying moral experts, we need to determine these conditions. As much as this might be practical, I argue that it is impossible to determine these conditions which are still mysterious and ambiguous.

Anticipation of Possible Proponents along with Responses

Some possible proponents might claim that moral experts exist and argue that philosophers might be moral experts. However, I believe that philosophers are not moral experts for many reasons that are based on existing literature.

First, Archard (2009, p. 29) points out some reasons that might explain why moral philosophers are not moral experts. One of these important reasons is the reality that there are extreme differences in opinion between moral philosophers about moral issues. Additionally, another reason is the difficulty in clearly identifying who is a moral expert. These difficulties can be looked at from two different angles. In this case, expertise cannot be claimed with lack of objectivity, and secondly, an average person does not follow the advice of moral experts.

The author offers a better reason that strongly doubts why moral philosophers should not be moral experts. In fact, he argues that modern moral philosophers think that their developed theories are related to common-sense morality. This is something that commands ordinary individuals to use such theories to regulate their own lives (Archard, 2009, p. 50). Such believes can guide philosophers to use their theories and apply them in resolving ethical dilemmas. This should be understood as a crucial point because some theories are far from common-sense morality.

According to Singer (1972, p. 114), moral judgments are simply controversial. He clarifies the idea that anyone’s moral views can be as good as anyone else’s. Therefore, he claims that there is no such thing as a moral expert which means that moral philosophers are not moral experts. In fact, it should be understood that since there is lack of agreement between philosophers regarding the principles and values of morals, philosophers are not moral experts (Miller et al, 1984, p. 35).

Conclusion

Personally, I lean towards the non-cognitive philosophical view which is based on the idea that if moral expertise involves the possession of particular moral beliefs, and if moral judgments do not express someone’s believes, then there can never be moral experts whose expertise consists of their moral beliefs (Cholbi, 2007, p. 327). I don’t envisage a point where an individual can be able to suppress his or her own moral believes which defiantly guides moral judgments.

Reference List

Anderson, R. D. (2010). Plato on Moral Expertise. Review of Metaphysics, 63, 3.

Archard, D. (2009). Why moral philosophers are not and should not be moral experts. Bioethics, 25, 3, 119-127.

Cholbi, M. (2007). Moral Expertise and the Credentials Problem. Ethical Theory & Moral Practice, 10, 4, 323-334.

Driver, J. (2006). Autonomy and the Asymmetry Problem for Moral Expertise. Philosophical Studies, 128, 3, 619-644.

Gesang, B. (2008). Are moral philosophers moral experts? Bioethics, 24, 4, 153-159.

Hoffmaster, C. B., Freedman, B., &Fraser, G. (1989). Clinical ethics: Theory and practice. Clifton, N.J: Humana Press.

McGrath, S. (2007). Moral Disagreement and Moral Expertise. Oxford Studies in Metaethics, 3, 87-108.

Miller, F. G., McAllen, P. G., & Delgado, R. (1984). Do Moral Experts Exist? Hastings Center Report, 14, 4, 50.

Singer, P. (1972). Moral Experts. Analysis, 32, 4, 115-117.

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