A defense of the very idea of moral deference pessimism

  • Max LewisEmail author


Pessimists think that there is something wrong with relying on deference for one’s moral beliefs—at least if one is morally mature. Call this no deference. They also tend to think that what explains our aversion to cases of moral deference is the fact that they involve deference about moral claims. Call this moral explanation. Recently, both no deference and moral explanation have come under attack. Against no deference, some philosophers offer purported counterexamples involving moral advice. I argue that proponents of this objection face a trilemma depending on how they spell out the details of their counterexamples. Against moral explanation, some philosophers offer debunking explanations of our aversion to moral deference. They present cases of non-moral deference that are troubling and argue that the feature that explains our aversion to this non-moral deference also explains our aversion to moral deference. I argue that none of these explanations (nor their conjunction) can explain all troubling cases of moral deference and that they face objections of their own. I conclude that we should be optimistic about the prospects of moral deference pessimism.


Moral testimony Moral deference Moral advice Pessimism Moral epistemology 



Thanks to Grace Boey, Robert Cowan, Adina Covaci, Julia Driver, Alison Hills, Sarah McGrath, Mallory Medeiros, Paulina Sliwa, Mark van Roojen, and Michael Vazquez. Thanks also to the participants, organizers, and teachers of CEU’s 2018 Summer School in Moral Epistemology. A special thanks to Errol Lord for comments on an earlier version of this paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaUSA

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