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The Journal of Philosophy

Volume 111, Issue 5, May 2014

David Enoch
Pages 229-258
DOI: 10.5840/jphil2014111520

A Defense of Moral Deference

This paper has two aims – the first is to mount a defense of moral deference, and the second is to offer a (non-debunking) diagnosis of its suspiciousness. The paper defends moral deference by arguing that in the face of moral uncertainty, it is morally obligatory to minimize the risk of one's wrongdoing, and this moral requirement entails that deferring to a moral expert is sometimes not just morally permissible but also admirable, and indeed morally required. I explain the suspiciousness of moral deference by noting that the need to defer indicates a failure to respond to the right- or wrong-making features of the situation de re. The combination of this vindication of moral deference and diagnosis of its fishiness nicely accommodates some related phenomena, like the status of moral beliefs that are based on opaque evidence, and the fact that the scope of suspected deference includes also other normative domains.