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This paper defends moral testimony pessimism, the view that there is something morally or epistemically regrettable about relying on the moral testimony of others, against several arguments in Lillehammer (2014). One central such argument is that reliance on testimony is inconsistent with the exercise of true practical wisdom. Lillehammer doubts whether such reliance is always objectionable, but it is important to note that moral testimony pessimism is best understood as a view about the pro tanto, rather than the overall, badness of relying on testimony. One must also be clear about what counts as genuine moral testimony: there will be morally charged occasions when a virtuous person will properly rely on the views of others. It can also plausibly be argued that relying on moral testimony may constitute a lack of full autonomy. After discussing some remaining issues concerning the definition of moral testimony, a possible analogy between lying and relying on testimony, and the implications of untrustworthiness for the truth of moral testimony pessimism, the paper ends with a return to the case against relying on moral testimony, grounded on a conception of the role of knowledge and understanding in virtue.


Institute for Religion and Critical Inquiry

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Journal Article

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