Moral inquiry
: we're all in this together

  • Nick Küspert

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis (PhD)


Moral inquiry is often thought of as an individualistic enterprise. This is in large part because morality not only seems to require doing the right thing, but being in touch with moral reality in the right way: to act well, it is necessary to ground our actions on an insight into moral reasons—reasons we can only understand when we inquire for ourselves. In this dissertation, I defend a picture of moral inquiry according to which such inquiry is fundamentally social: we are not alone when it comes to making moral decisions. In particular, I argue that the conception of moral inquiry as an individualistic enterprise wrongly delegitimises a central resource of moral inquiry, moral testimony. To this end, I first argue that moral agreement is of crucial justificatory value in moral inquiry. I then go on to address some worries connected to moral testimony, arguing that reliance on moral testimony is not intrinsically wrong and indeed oftentimes permissible if not required of us. I complement this with a discussion of moral expertise, arguing that the search for moral experts has often been too focused on theoretical knowledge. However, practical experience is a much more reliable way of identifying those we can rely on with respect to a particular moral issue. Lastly, I discuss one consequence this more social picture of moral inquiry has, namely that blame can not only be allocated to a wrongdoing agent, but also to those who guided the agent to that act. This concludes my contribution to the defence of a more social picture of moral inquiry. Overall, however, my aim is not to do away with the importance of being rightly connected to moral reality—it is just that the best connection to moral reality available is often not through ourselves, but through others.
Date of Award10 Jun 2024
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of St Andrews
SupervisorJustin Snedegar (Supervisor) & Jessica Anne Brown (Supervisor)


  • Moral epistemology
  • Social epistemology
  • Moral testimony
  • Testimony
  • Moral experts
  • Moral understanding
  • Moral knowledge
  • Identity
  • Blame

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