Character and Knowledge: Learning from the Speech of Experts [Book Review]

Argumentation 25 (3):341-353 (2011)
Abstract
This paper discusses the ways in which a person’s character ( ethos ) and a hearer’s emotional response ( pathos ) are part of the complex judgments made about experts’ claims, along with an actual assessment of those claims ( logos ). The analysis is rooted in the work of Aristotle, but expands to consider work on emotion and cognition conducted by Thagard and Gigerenzer. It also draws on some conclusions of the general epistemology of testimony (of which expert testimony is a special subset), where it is argued that we learn not just from the transmission of another’s beliefs, but from the words they speak. This shifts the onus in testimony away from the intentions of a speaker onto the judgments of an audience, capturing better its social character and reflecting our experience of receiving testimony. I conclude, however, that accepting the arguments of experts involves much more than simply believing what they say
Keywords Character  Cognitive environment  Ethos  Expert testimony  Trust  Wakefield case
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