Self-Worth and Moral Knowledge

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Self-Worth and Moral Knowledge I argue that persons are unlikely to have moral knowledge insofar as they lack certain moral virtues; that persons are commonly deficient in these virtues, and hence that they are regularly unlikely to have adequate moral knowledge. I propose a version of this argument that employs a broad conception of self-worth, a virtue found in a wide range of moral traditions that suppose a person would have an appropriate sense of self-worth in the face of tendencies both to overestimate and underestimate the value of one’s self. I begin by noting some distinctive features of this argument that distinguish it from more common arguments for moral skepticism. This is followed by an elucidation of the virtue of self-worth. I then consider some connections between self-worth and moral knowledge and, more briefly, the extent of self-worth among persons. Finally, I respond to the objection that the argument is incoherent because it presupposes moral knowledge that it later undermines. My aim is to offer a brief defense of an argument for a moderate moral skepticism that is rooted in morality itself as often understood. In general form, the argument is based on the contention that persons are unlikely to have moral knowledge insofar as they lack certain moral virtues; it continues with the claim that persons are commonly deficient in these virtues, and it concludes that they are regularly unlikely to have adequate moral knowledge. I will propose a version of this argument that employs a broad conception of self-worth, a virtue found in a wide range of moral traditions that suppose a person should have an appropriate sense of self-worth in the face of tendencies both to overestimate and underestimate the value of one's self. I begin by noting some distinctive features of this argument that distinguish it from more common arguments for moral skepticism (section I). This is followed by an elucidation of the virtue of self-worth (section II). I then consider some connections between self-worth and moral knowledge (sections III and IV), and, more briefly, the extent of self-worth among persons (section V). Finally, I respond to an objection that may be made against this argument (section VI). I. The argument I defend here is in several respects different than familiar arguments for moral skepticism. First, moral skeptics often purport to show that there is no moral knowledge and sometimes that there can be none. (1) The present argument claims only that persons commonly are likely to be deficient in moral knowledge and hence that there is less moral knowledge among persons than might be thought.

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