Liberal–democratic values and philosophers' beliefs about moral expertise

Yarden Niv*, Raanan Sulitzeanu-Kenan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In recent decades, the discipline of bioethics has grown rapidly, as has the practice of ethical consultation. Interestingly, this new recognition of the relevance of moral philosophy to our daily life has been accompanied by skepticism among philosophers regarding the existence of moral expertise or the benefits of philosophical training. In his recent article in Bioethics, William R. Smith suggested that this skepticism is rooted in philosophers' belief that moral expertise is inconsistent with liberal–democratic values, when in fact they are compatible. In this paper, we provide a unique opportunity to empirically examine Smith's observation by utilizing and extending global data on philosophers' beliefs about moral expertise, involving 4087 philosophers from 96 countries. Our findings support Smith's theoretical observation and show that societal levels of support for liberal–democratic values are associated with greater skepticism about moral expertise. We suggest that these findings might be explained by the cognitive process of motivated reasoning and an invalid inference of “is” from “ought.” Consequently, the potential tension between moral expertise and liberal–democratic values is invalidly used for rejecting the existence of moral expertise, while its main and valid implication is for how moral expertise should be applied in liberal–democratic settings.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)551-563
Number of pages13
Issue number6
StatePublished - 16 May 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Authors. Bioethics published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


  • cultural differences
  • experimental philosophy
  • liberal–democratic values
  • moral expertise
  • motivated reasoning


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