Talk: “Do It! But Don’t Listen to Me!: Moral Testimony and Practical Inference” by Ulf Hlobil, Department of Philosophy, University of Pittsburgh
DATE: Wednesday, February 10
What, if anything, is wrong with acting on moral beliefs that we accept merely on the say-so of others? Why could it be problematic to act on a moral belief that we take to be true without understanding why it is true? I defend a qualified and novel version of what is called “pessimism” in the controversy over pure moral testimony. I argue that we can rationally come to hold the premises of moral reasoning through testimony, but that moral testimony is problematic in cases where the agent lacks the ability to make the correct practical inference. The problem is that inferential abilities cannot be shared via testimony. The role that moral testimony can play in our moral lives is therefore limited. My account gives the correct verdicts for common examples in the literature on moral testimony. It, moreover, incorporates many of the optimists’ insights and is more general and informative than rival accounts.