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Thursday, February 18, 2021

Intuitive Expertise in Moral Judgements.

Wiegmann, A., & Horvath, J. 
(2020, December 22). 


According to the ‘expertise defence’, experimental findings which suggest that intuitive judgements about hypothetical cases are influenced by philosophically irrelevant factors do not undermine their evidential use in (moral) philosophy. This defence assumes that philosophical experts are unlikely to be influenced by irrelevant factors. We discuss relevant findings from experimental metaphilosophy that largely tell against this assumption. To advance the debate, we present the most comprehensive experimental study of intuitive expertise in ethics to date, which tests five well-known biases of judgement and decision-making among expert ethicists and laypeople. We found that even expert ethicists are affected by some of these biases, but also that they enjoy a slight advantage over laypeople in some cases. We discuss the implications of these results for the expertise defence, and conclude that they still do not support the defence as it is typically presented in (moral) philosophy.


We first considered the experimental restrictionist challenge to intuitions about cases, with a special focus on moral philosophy, and then introduced the expertise defence as the most popular reply. The expertise defence makes the empirically testable assumption that the case intuitions of expert philosophers are significantly less influenced by philosophically irrelevant factors than those of laypeople.  The upshot of our discussion of relevant findings from experimental metaphilosophy was twofold: first, extant findings largely tell against the expertise defence, and second, the number of published studies and investigated biases is still fairly small. To advance the debate about the expertise defencein moral philosophy, we thus tested five well-known biases of judgement and decision-making among expert ethicists and laypeople. Averaged across all biases and scenarios, the intuitive judgements of both experts and laypeople were clearly susceptible to bias. However, moral philosophers were also less biased in two of the five cases(Focus and Prospect), although we found no significant expert-lay differences in the remaining three cases.

In comparison to previous findings (for example Schwitzgebel and Cushman [2012, 2015]; Wiegmann et al. [2020]), our results appear to be relatively good news for the expertise defence, because they suggest that moral philosophers are less influenced by some morally irrelevant factors, such as a simple saving/killing framing. On the other hand, our study does not support the very general armchair versions of the expertise defence that one often finds in metaphilosophy, which try to reassure(moral) philosophers that they need not worry about the influence of philosophically irrelevant factors.At best, however, we need not worry about just a few cases and a few human biases—and even that modest hypothesis can only be upheld on the basis of sufficient empirical research.