Exemplars and expertise: what we cannot learn from saints and heroes

Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy (forthcoming)
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According to a popular line of thought, moral exemplars have a key role to play in moral development and moral education and by paying attention to moral exemplars we can learn about what morality requires of us. However, when we pay attention to what many moral exemplars say about their actions, it seems that our moral obligations are much more demanding than we typically think they are. Some philosophers have argued that this exemplar testimony gives us reason to accept a radically demanding view of morality. We argue against this view by appealing to similar testimony from aesthetic exemplars. If we accept that the testimony of moral exemplars gives us reason to accept a radically demanding view of morality, then we should accept that the testimony of aesthetic exemplars supports a radically demanding view of aesthetic normativity. We argue that we should reject both arguments for radically demanding views, and instead see the testimony of exemplars as having something important to tell us about the nature of ideals. What we learn about morality and aesthetics from attending to the lives of moral exemplars is that those who embody an ideal are subject to obligations that others are not.



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Author Profiles

Matthew Dennis
Delft University of Technology
Alfred Archer
Tilburg University

Citations of this work

Hypocrisy and Epistemic Injustice.Brian Carey - forthcoming - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice:1-18.

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References found in this work

Moral saints.Susan Wolf - 1982 - Journal of Philosophy 79 (8):419-439.
Saints and heroes.J. O. Urmson - 1958 - In Abraham Irving Melden (ed.), Essays in moral philosophy. Seattle: University of Washington Press.
Aesthetic Commitments and Aesthetic Obligations.Anthony Cross - 2022 - Ergo: An Open Access Journal of Philosophy 8 (38):402-422.
There Are No Purely Aesthetic Obligations.John Dyck - 2021 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 102 (4):592-612.
Grounding Aesthetic Obligations.Robbie Kubala - 2018 - British Journal of Aesthetics 58 (3):271-285.

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