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Conscientious objection should not be equated with moral objection: a response to Ben-Moshe
  1. Nathan Emmerich1,2
  1. 1 School of Medicine, Australian National University, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia
  2. 2 Institute of Ethics, Dublin City University, Dublin, Ireland
  1. Correspondence to Dr Nathan Emmerich, School of Medicine, Australian National University, Canberra ACT 0200, Australia; nathan.emmerich{at}


In his recent article, Ben-Moshe offers an account of conscientious objection (CO) in terms of the truth of the underlying moral objections, as judged by the standards of an impartial spectator. He seems to advocate for the view that having a valid moral objection to X is the sole criteria for the instantiation of a right to conscientiously object to X, and seems indifferent to the moral status of the prevailing moral attitudes. I argue that the moral status of the prevailing moral attitudes is relevant, and that a good faith disagreement between those who condone the relevant act and those who object to it is a criterion for CO. In this light, I suggest that CO is a sociopolitical device for managing differing ethical perspectives, particularly in the context of collective moral change. Thus, it is misguided to equate having a valid moral objection with the recognition of a CO.

  • conscientious objection
  • abortion
  • euthanasia
  • ethics
  • applied and professional ethics

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  • Contributors I am the sole author of this work.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

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