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Moral Testimony and Moral Understanding

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In this paper I argue against the charge that dependence on moral testimony is at odds with good moral agency, and moral specifically with the ideal of having moral understanding and using it to make moral judgments. My argument has four main strands. First, I contend that one of the grounds that is often adduced for the value of moral understanding—namely, that it is important for justifying ourselves to others—does not offer an adequate basis for criticizing dependence on moral testimony. Second, I show how dependence on moral testimony is not incompatible with moral understanding. Third, I argue that, in fact, dependence on moral testimony can be an important avenue for achieving moral understanding. Fourth, and finally, I contend that moral understanding is not always an ideal we have sufficient reason to seek. If my arguments are successful, they provide new resources for a defense of dependence on moral testimony.

Affiliations: 1: University of Portland,


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