Philosophical Studies

, Volume 158, Issue 2, pp 175–195 | Cite as

In defense of moral testimony

  • Paulina SliwaEmail author

Moral testimony has been getting a bad name in the recent literature.1 It has been argued that while testimony is a perfectly fine source for nonmoral belief, there’s something wrong with basing one’s moral beliefs on it. This paper argues that the bad name is undeserved: Moral testimony isn’t any more problematic than nonmoral testimony.2

Some people claim that there is something intuitively problematic about deferring to others for one’s moral beliefs: there seems to be something valuable about coming to one’s moral beliefs by oneself. Hills, argues for example:

Once you have reached maturity as an adult and have the ability to think about moral questions by yourself […] you have strong reasons to do so, indeed that refusing to do so is unacceptable.3

While children may be in need of moral education and hence should take their parents’ word for what’s right and wrong, it seems that as adults we shouldn’t rely on others for our moral beliefs. Worries about moral testimony are further...


Moral Judgment Moral Belief Moral Norm Moral Realist Moral Fact 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



For helpful comments and discussions, the author would like to thank Nomy Arpaly, Alex Byrne, Tom Dougherty, Tyler Doggett, David Gray, Daniel Greco, Sally Haslanger, Brian Hedden, Richard Holton, Sophie Horowitz, Miranda Fricker, Elisa Mai, Julia Markovits, Josh Schechter, Miriam Schoenfield, Daniel Star, Katia Vavova, and Kenny Walden. The author would also like to thank the audiences of the 2011 Bellingham Summer Philosophy Conference, the 2011 Rocky Mountain Ethics Congress, the Boston University Ethics Group, and the MIT Work in Progress Seminar.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Massachusetts Institute of TechnologyCambridgeUSA

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