Moral Deference


The scaffolded essay assignment requires you to identify a question about the theory you’ve

chosen, which will then motivate your essay. In other words, your essay will respond to that

question. Here are notes about the kind of question you should or can choose:

• Your question should be a question that people can debate philosophically, rather than

one that can be answered by appealing just to scientific data. (On the nature of

philosophical questions, see the first lecture on power in Week 1.)

• The question could focus on one key part of the theory you’re analyzing, rather than the

whole entire theory. For example, if Young on oppression were an option, you could ask

a question that relates to only one face of oppression, say exploitation. Then in your

theory summary and essay, you could highlight this part of Young and situate it within

the rest of her theory.

• The question should be one that you truly have about the theory: i.e., one that came up

for you while reading the author’s piece.

• The question should engage directly with the author of the theory (as noted below).

In the essay, you could either agree with how the author would/does respond to your question

or you could disagree with them. You might decide that ultimately you do agree, in which case

you’ll defend the author’s position against objections that others would raise to it.

Alternatively, you might disagree with the author, in which case you should defend your own

view against objections, that is, from the author and perhaps from others. (On the importance

of raising and responding to objections in your essay, see the online lecture “Philosophy Essay

Writing,” which appears under the Syllabus tool.)

You could engage with the theory you choose for this assignment in a very practical way if

you’d like. The question you pose could have to do with what the theory suggests about a

particular practical problem (e.g., the exploitation of migrant workers or of women in

traditional families). You might think that the theory falls short when it is applied to the

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problem you’re interested in or that it is helpful in allowing us to understand that problem

better or to figure out how to solve it.

Concerning the readings that you can choose from (see below), some but not all of them will

have been covered in lectures by the time you do your Theory Summary or Essay. We’ll take

into account in our grading whether the theory you’ve tackled is one for which lectures have

been posted and class discussion has occurred. 


         Moral Deference

When trying to help people who have experienced moral pain and prevent such further experiences, sometimes one lacks a complete experience in the diminished social category, but that does not mean one cannot fully understand the moral pain of others. Thomas (1993) do not agree with Hume’s view that one can prevent the woe and pain of other people by simply sufficiently cultivating sympathy and benevolence, which helps one understand others’ pain better. Thus, Thomas (1993) suggests the theory of moral deference, which, unlike Hume’s views, one must have a perfect though not complete of the effects of the wrongdoing that happened to others so that they can sufficiently help them. This entails listening to the account of a person from a diminished social category and bearing witness to the moral pain experienced. Just as there is no problem with deferring to a doctor about one’s physical health issues, Thomas’s (1993) theory of moral deference suggests that nothing is problematic with deferring with members fro from a disadvantaged group about the experiences they have gone through and basing our moral evaluation on their accounts. Even though not everyone can be deferred to, I agree with Thomas’s (1993) argument that deferring with members of a diminished social category o issues involving the moral pain they have experienced due to their social construction is appropriate.  However, can Hume’s view of the sufficient cultivation of sympathy and benevolence adequately promote public good without moral deference?

From Hume’s argument, one’s moral sentiments are those not products of pure self-interest, implying that people must have the capacity to take an interest in others’ misfortunes and fortunes by getting outside of self. Moral evaluation should be based on disapproving the qualities and actions that cause moral pain to others and approving that benefit both the possessor and others. In this view, it is impossible to have moral evaluation when people lack the capacity to partake the pain or pleasure of others that share their underlying human nature. As a result, sympathy is the capacity that allows people to be interested in the public good, thus making moral evaluation possible. However, due to the central role played by sympathy in Hume’s view, it deserves more attention. Nonetheless, unlike Thomas’s (1993), which requires listening to the other person’s account and bearing witness of their pain, Hume’s moral theory is based on first forming an idea of what others are going through observation and using it to experience what others are thinking and feeling. One’s idea of another person’s feelings can also be formed through but observing their usual causes. For instance, an individual feels terrified for a person about to be arrested even though they have not been taken to prison; the observer has already developed a prior mental association between incarceration and pain.

Sympathy is crucial, especially in influencing people’s capacity to disapprove or approve of motives, actions, and characters as morally right or wrong, which in turn shapes the capacity to judge, motives, actions, and characters are morally right or wrong. Without it, a morally decent community would be impossible because sympathy through the ability to make moral judgments and evaluations plays an important role in supporting and enhancing community bonds. Therefore, it is evident that, as Thomas (1993) argues, through Hume’s emphasis on sufficiently cultivating sympathy and benevolence, his heart was in the right place. However, Hume’s idea cannot achieve a morally decent community alone in a world with misfortunes, privileged social category groups, and diminished social category groups……………for help with this assignment contact us via email Address:

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