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"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."1
The acceptance of moral testimony has been challenged on the basis that it does not make knowledge available to the recipient and therefore the use of such a knowledge is illegitimate.Before the reasons for this objection are discussed it is worth noting that little academic attention has actually been paid to the idea of whether or not testimony can be a legitimate source of moral beliefs.2
"we should be open to being persuaded by others, responsive to moral argument; but we should not take their word on moral issues, not allow ourselves to be influenced by the fact that they hold a certain view''.if, on the other hand, reliance on moral testimony is legitimate, there will still be questions about the conditions under which it is so". 3
This means that even though it is hard for us as humans to reject or accept moral judgements and considerations subconsciously , we cannot let these considerations to become a part of our analyses in real life. For example my idea that a certain person is "racist" or a "liar" is based on my own perceptions and experiences. When dealing with this person my prejudices will inevitably suffice (even though in a very subtle manner).However any action by a third party based on my views or "moral testimony" should not be relied upon. Even if my moral testimony does form the basis of another party's reaction or action and it is subsequently accepted Hopkins(2007) believes that there should be a more "solid" reason for doing so rather than my own value judgements.

It has been further suggested that "moral discourse, for some reason or other, cannot meet the conditions necessary for learning from the word of others. Since the epistemology is wrong, there is no knowledge to be had from testimonial transactions on moral matters."(Hopkins 2007). It is for this reason that it is believed that it would be rather "illegitimate" to let other's claims guide one's moral belief. For example as an employer of a person I might be faced with the moral testimony of the hiring committee that this person has "moral shortcomings" but I cannot base my judgement on these moral shortcomings. Firstly because morality is largely a matter of perception and the evidence offered in this regard will also be based on "feelings" or the personal experiences of the moral expert, and not actual evidence of their shortcoming like theft or irresponsibility on the job.
Of course the contrary view in this regards is that in the right circumstances, moral dialogue may meet and fulfil all the criteria of testimonies in general (Hopkins 2007). The problem however remains that moral testimony lies in a standard that only relates to morals and since knowledge is right, testimony does make moral knowledge available. (Hopkins 2007)

For a more profound analysis of this issue it is necessary to delve deeper into what the words "moral" and "testimony" entail in ...Show more


This essay discusses the philosophical premises, which can lead to either the acceptance or rejection of moral testimony in theory and practice. Academic and philosophical opinion has pointed out a number of objections to this proposition in the forms of moral non-cognition and the problems in the identification and credibility of moral experts or moral authority.
Author : mohrsamanta
Moral testimony
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