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Social Philosophy Today

Volume 35, 2019

Health, Well-Being, and Society

Ben Almassi
Pages 143-158
DOI: 10.5840/socphiltoday201973062

Skepticism and Pluralism on Ethics Expertise

Does expertise have a place in ethics? As this question has been raised in moral philosophy and bioethics literatures over the past twenty years, skepticism has been a common theme, whether metaphysical (there is no such thing as ethics expertise), epistemological (we cannot know who has ethics expertise) or social-political (we should not treat anyone as having ethics expertise). Here I identify three common, contestable assumptions about ethics expertise which underwrite skepticism of one form or another: (1) a singular conception of ethics expertise constituted by a core property or unity among multiple properties, (2) equivocation of ethics expertise and ethicists’ expertise, and (3) priority of moral deference as an unavoidable implication of ethics expertise. Taken separately, each assumption can have unpalatable implications for ethics expertise that make skepticism seem more attractive; taken together, the resulting picture of ethics expertise is that much worse. Each of these assumptions is vulnerable to criticism, however, and jettisoning them enables a pluralist approach to ethics expertise less prone to skepticism and better suited for the ranging functions of ethics expertise in healthcare and other contexts.

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