Moral Expertise, Marginalisation, & Deference

Yong-Ai Grace Boey, University of Pennsylvania


In this dissertation, I make the broad case against overestimating the moral epistemic capacities of adult moral agents, and the demands placed upon them to figure things out for themselves, morally speaking.

This work is split into three chapters. In Chapter 1, ‘Moral Expertise & Experience’, I argue that moral expertise in some moral sub-domain, or one’s competence at forming moral knowledge in response to morally relevant features within that moral sub-domain, is typically generated through experience with the concrete world. I reject the claim that moral philosophers are the best candidates for being moral experts, and that imagination provides us an equally good path towards moral expertise as experiences does.

In Chapter 2, 'Moral Expertise on Oppression', I argue that oppressed group members are often in a better position to become a moral expert with respect to the type of oppression experienced by that group. For instance, women are in a better position to become moral experts with respect to the moral sub-domain of sexism, as opposed to men.

In Chapter 3, ‘Virtuous & Worthy Moral Deference’, I vindicate the practice of deference to second-hand moral testimony, and agents who defer, in the face of what I call the ‘reasons unresponsiveness observation’. This is because in certain contexts, it’s important for them to be motivated by a concern for doing the right thing in itself. Pure moral deference, practiced in the right way, can allow us to exercise virtues, and act with moral worth.