Knowing Moral Agents:

Heidi E. Grasswick

in Out from the Shadows

Published in print March 2012 | ISBN: 9780199855469
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199932788 | DOI:

Series: Studies in Feminist Philosophy

Knowing Moral Agents:

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In this essay, I examine feminist analyses of moral knowledge and consider their implications for the possibility of knowing through testimony in the moral realm. I frame my questions in terms of epistemic responsibility, considering whether feminist analyses of moral knowledge indicate circumstances in which we should rely on others’ moral testimony rather than depend solely on our own moral assessment. Feminist analyses of moral knowledge that draw attention to the important role of moral perception suggest some concerns about moral knowing through testimony, yet also suggest that testimony may be very important in the moral realm. I reconcile these two directions of feminist thought, clarifying what we should expect from responsible moral knowers who remain epistemically dependent. I conclude that if we are to make sense of obtaining moral knowledge through testimony, while avoiding certain undesired ramifications of the analysis, feminist considerations of moral testimony must be embedded in a broader understanding of various forms of our epistemic interdependence. Deferrals to moral testimony must be assessed within the context of certain practices that either engage our critical agency even as we defer, or not. I suggest that these conclusions help identify and remedy some shortcomings of the standard nonfeminist testimony literature, which has thus far had little to say about the moral realm.

Keywords: moral knowledge; moral perception; testimony; feminist epistemology; epistemic responsibility

Chapter.  13620 words. 

Subjects: Feminist Philosophy

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