The Epistemology of Expertise: New Directions

August 30, 2024 - August 31, 2024
Applied Epistemology Project, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Chapel Hill
United States

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Cory Clark
University of Pennsylvania
Michigan State University
Nottingham University
Northwestern University
University of York
University of Utah
Institute for Futures Studies
Gale Sinatra
University of Southern California


University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

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It’s a truism of the moment among the intellectual classes both that people should heed the testimony of experts and that they generally don’t do so enough. Nevertheless, the last couple of decades have seen significant controversies about expertise and deference to experts emerge in both the philosophical and social-scientific literature. Questions that have been explored include: is deference to experts  sometimes problematically in tension with intellectual autonomy? Should the testimony of experts “screen off” or “preempt” our other reasons for belief, or not? Can ordinary people form justifiably identify experts so as to defer to them? Are there experts about moral matters, and if so, is there nevertheless something problematic about deference to them?  

This workshop will bring together philosophy and social scientists to both push forward work on these established questions and also examine some other, somewhat less well-explored questions about expertise, for example: 

  • How should we understand the notion of an ‘expert’ in the first place? 
  • What are the potential pathologies of experts, and how does the possibility of such pathologies affect the rationality of deference to experts? 
  • Could deference to experts perpetuate epistemic injustice, when the experts disproportionately come from privileged groups? 
  • Does deference to experts conflict in any way with democratic ideals? 
  • What practical measures can we take to encourage ordinary people to defer to experts more appropriately? What works and what doesn’t? 
  • What should we teach students about how to handle expert testimony in educational settings, including K-12 education? 

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August 11, 2024, 9:00am EST

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