Considerable attention in bioethics has been devoted to moral expertise and its implications for handling applied moral problems. The existence and nature of moral expertise has been a contested topic, and particularly, whether philosophers are moral experts. In this study, we put the question of philosophers’ moral expertise in a wider context, utilizing a novel and global study among 4,087 philosophers from 96 countries. We find that despite the skepticism in recent literature, the vast majority of philosophers do believe in moral expertise and in the contribution of philosophical training and experience to its acquisition. Yet, they still differ on what philosophers’ moral expertise consists of. While they widely accept that philosophers possess superior analytic abilities regarding moral matters, they diverge on whether they also possess improved ability to judge moral problems. Nonetheless, most philosophers in our sample believe that philosophers possess an improved ability to both analyze and judge moral problems and that they commonly see these two capacities as going hand in hand. We also point at significant associations between personal and professional attributes and philosophers’ beliefs, such as age, working in the field of moral philosophy, public involvement, and association with the analytic tradition. We discuss the implications of these findings for the debate about moral expertise.
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We are thankful to all the philosophers who devoted their precious time to participate in this study. We are also grateful to Shlomi Segall, Keith Dowding, Nir Eyal, Ittay Nissan-Rozen, Daniel Statman, and two anonymous reviewers for their valuable feedback on the manuscript.
© 2022 The Authors. Bioethics published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
- experimental philosophy
- moral expertise
- moral judgment
- moral understanding