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Professional duties of conscientious objectors
  1. Francesca Minerva
  1. Department of Philosophy and Moral Sciences, Universiteit Gent Faculteit Letteren en Wijsbegeerte, Gent, Belgium
  1. Correspondence to Dr Francesca Minerva, Philosophy and Moral Sciences, Universiteit Gent Faculteit Letteren en Wijsbegeerte, Gent 9000, Belgium; Francesca.Minerva{at}

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In his paper ‘The truth behind conscientious objection’ Nir Ben-Moshe develops a new approach aimed at justifying conscientious objection (CO) without relying on respect of moral integrity of the conscientious objector or tolerance towards her moral views.1 According to Ben-Moshe, the problem with justifications of CO based on moral integrity and tolerance is that ‘truth of conscience’s claims is irrelevant to their justification’. He argues, to the contrary, that whether the claims of the conscientious objector are true or false makes a difference in assessing whether their objection is justifiable or not. He goes on explaining that someone’s CO can be justified if it can be proved that ‘conscience can express true moral claims’.

Ben-Moshe then proceeds to explain how one can determine true moral claims. He develops an account of conscience that is modelled on that of Adam Smith. In particular, he uses the idea of the ‘impartial spectator’ to show how a true claim of conscience can emerge after careful thinking from the point of view of an impartial perspective. So, if the healthcare practitioner wants to object to a certain medical procedure after considering the issue at hand from the moral standpoint of such impartial spectator, then her claims of conscience are true (or …

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  • Contributors I, FM, am the only author.

  • Funding This study was supported by the Fonds Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

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