Xunzi on Moral Expertise


This paper is about two proposals endorsed by Xunzi. The first is that there is such a thing as a moral expert, whose moral advice we should adopt even when we cannot appreciate for ourselves the considerations in favor of it. The second is that certain political authorities should be treated as moral experts. I identify three fundamental questions about moral expertise that contemporary philosophy has yet to address in depth, explicate Xunzi’s answers to them, and then give an account of politically authorized moral expertise as Xunzi understands it. The three questions at the heart of this study are these: how should we distinguish between knowing the correct course of action on another’s authority and knowing it for oneself? What exactly are the underlying considerations that the expert grasps and the novice does not? Who are the experts and in what spheres of life can they legitimately claim expertise?

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Tiwald, J. Xunzi on Moral Expertise . Dao 11, 275–293 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11712-012-9282-1

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  • Xunzi
  • Autonomy
  • Political authority
  • Moral cultivation