Deference to Experts

In Kurt Sylvan, Ernest Sosa, Jonathan Dancy & Matthias Steup (eds.), The Blackwell Companion to Epistemology, 3rd edition. Wiley Blackwell (forthcoming)
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Especially but not exclusively in the United States, there is a significant gulf between expert opinion and public opinion on a range of important political, social, and scientific issues. Large numbers of lay people hold views contrary to the expert consensus on topics such as climate change, vaccines, and economics. Much political commentary assumes that ordinary people should defer to experts more than they do, and this view is certainly lent force by the literally deadly effects of many denials of established science. But there are complex philosophical issues here, concerning, among other things, (i) what an expert is; (ii) what kind of deference is called for; (iii) and when deference is called for. This entry gives an overview of these three issues and recent work on them. It then examines some potential collective and pragmatic disadvantages of deference, before concluding with reflections on what we can say to those who distrust experts.



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Alex Worsnip
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

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