This article discusses the concept of epistemic authority in the context of English law relating to experttestimony. It distinguishes between two conceptions of epistemic authority, one strong and one weak, and argues that only the weak conception is appropriate in a legal context, or in any other setting where reliance on experts can be publicly justified. It critically examines Linda Zagzebski's defence of a stronger conception of epistemic authority and questions whether epistemic authority is as closely analogous (...) to practical authority as she maintains. Zagzebski elucidates a kind of deference that courts generally, and rightly, try to avoid. Her concept of ‘first person reasons’, however, does capture an important aspect of the deliberations of conscientious legal actors. (shrink)
While courts depend on expert opinions in reaching sound judgments, the role of the expert witness in legal proceedings is associated with a litany of problems. Perhaps most prevalent is the question of under what circumstances should testimony be admitted as expert opinion. We review the changing policies adopted by American courts in an attempt to ensure the reliability and usefulness of the scientific and technical information admitted as evidence. We argue that these admissibility criteria are (...) best seen in a dialectical context as a set of critical questions of the kind commonly used in models of argumentation. (shrink)
In this paper we address the question of how it can be possible for a non-expert to acquire justified true belief from experttestimony. We discuss reductionism and epistemic trust as theoretical approaches to answer this question and present a novel solution that avoids major problems of both theoretical options: Performative ExpertTestimony (PET). PET draws on a functional account of expertise insofar as it takes the expert’s visibility as a good informant capable to (...) satisfy informational needs as equally important as her specific skills and knowledge. We explain how PET generates justification for testimonial belief, which is at once assessable for non-experts and maintains the division of epistemic labor between them and the experts. Thereafter we defend PET against two objections. First, we point out that the non-expert’s interest in acquiring widely assertable true beliefs and the expert’s interest in maintaining her status as a good informant counterbalances the relativist account of justification at work in PET. Second, we show that with regard to the interests at work in testimonial exchanges between experts and non-experts, PET yields a better explanation of knowledge-acquisition from experttestimony than externalist accounts of justification such as reliabilism. As our arguments ground in a conception of knowledge, which conceives of belief-justification as a declarative speech act, throughout the rearmost sections of this paper we also indicate to how such a conception is operationalized in PET. (shrink)
A consensus in a scientific community is often used as a resource for making informed public-policy decisions and deciding between rival expert testimonies in legal trials. This paper contains a social-epistemic analysis of the high-profile Bendectin drug controversy, which was decided in the courtroom inter alia by deference to a scientific consensus about the safety of Bendectin. Drawing on my previously developed account of knowledge-based consensus, I argue that the consensus in this case was not knowledge based, hence courts’ (...) deference to it was not epistemically justified. I draw sceptical lessons from this analysis regarding the value of scientific consensus as a desirable and reliable means of resolving scientific controversies in public life. (shrink)
There is great skepticism about the admittance of expert normative ethics testimony into evidence. However, a practical analysis of the way ethics testimony has been used in courts of law reveals that the skeptical position is itself based on assumptions that are controversial. We argue for an alternative way to understand such experttestimony. This alternative understanding is based on the practice of clinical ethics.
A recent Supreme Court decision, Kumho Tire Co., Ltd. v. Carmichael, may have substantial impact on psychological experttestimony. Previous criteria for admissibility of scientific experttestimony now apply broadly to experttestimony, not just testimony narrowly grounded in scientific evidence. Judges will determine the relevance and reliability of all experttestimony, including that based on clinical experience or training. Admissible testimony will either satisfy the criteria established in Daubert v. (...) Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc. or meet similarly rigorous standards judged appropriate to the particular field involved. Because psychological testimony has varied in its evidentiary basis, sometimes relying on science and otherwise on clinical training or experience, court decisions will gradually determine the precedent for its admissibility. We also discuss long-term consequences for the credibility of psychological experttestimony and the relation between psychology and law. (shrink)
We examined the dilemmas posed by the involvement of expert witnesses in court cases and the institutional constraints on the ethics of experttestimony. The causes for the incorporation of bad science into legal decisions, potential solutions to this dilemma, and the limitations of these solutions are considered. We concluded that law, science, and experts must respond to the problems posed by expert witnessing.
By lopsided majorities, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a series of cases, persistently commanded the lower courts to condition the admission of proffered experttestimony on the demonstrated validity of the proponents’ claims of expertise. In at least one broad area – the so-called forensic sciences – the courts below have largely evaded the Supreme Court's holdings. This paper aims to try to explain this massive defiance by the lower courts in terms of social epistemology.
By lopsided majorities, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a series of cases, persistently commanded the lower courts to condition the admission of proffered experttestimony on the demonstrated validity of the proponents’ claims of expertise. In at least one broad area–the so-called forensic sciences–the courts below have largely evaded the Supreme Court's holdings. This paper aims to try to explain this massive defiance by the lower courts in terms of social epistemology.
Participants acting as mock jurors made inferences about whether a person was a suspect in a murder based on an expert's testimony about the presence of objects at the crime scene and the disclosure that the testimony was true or false. Experiment 1 showed that participants made more correct inferences, and made inferences more quickly, when the truth or falsity of the expert's testimony was disclosed immediately after the testimony rather than when the disclosure (...) was delayed. Experiment 2 showed no advantage for prior disclosure over immediate disclosure. Experiment 3 showed that the pattern of inferences when there was no disclosure mirrored the pattern when it was disclosed that the expert's testimony was true rather than false. Participants made more correct inferences from true conjunctions than disjunctions, and from false disjunctions than conjunctions. We discuss the implications for theories of the mental representations and cognitive processes that underlie human reasoning. (shrink)
In this paper I argue that Tyler Burge's non-reductive view of testiomonial knowledge cannot adeqautrely discriminate between fallacious ad vericumdium appeals to expet testimony and legitimate appeals to authority.
Testimony about the future dangerousness of a person has become a central staple of many judicial processes. In settings such as bail, sentencing, and parole decisions, in rulings about the civil confinement of the mentally ill, and in custody decisions in a context of domestic violence, the assessment of a person’s propensity towards physical or sexual violence is regarded as a deciding factor. These assessments can be based on two forms of experttestimony: actuarial or clinical. The (...) purpose of this paper is to examine the scientific and epistemological basis of both methods of prediction or risk assessment. My analysis will reveal that this kind of experttestimony is scientifically baseless. The problems I will discuss will generate a dilemma for factfinders: on the one hand, given the weak predictive abilities of the branches of science involved, they should not admit expert clinical or actuarial testimony as evidence; on the other hand, there is a very strong tradition and a vast jurisprudence that supports the continued use of this kind of experttestimony. It is a clear case of the not so uncommon conflict between science and legal tradition. (shrink)
Through the analysis of the discourse of an interpreter-mediated expert witness examination in a Korean criminal courtroom, this paper examines challenges in obtaining evidence from an expert witness through unskilled interpreters and the related complexity of participation status during the multiparty interactions, namely the courtroom examination. This paper, drawing on the participation framework theories, demonstrates how all participants are engaged in negotiation and interpretation of the meaning of the experttestimony. The two unskilled interpreters, who are (...) primarily responsible for interpreting, collaborate with each other in order to achieve communication when they face problems or difficulties in the other’s interpreted rendition. However, despite the collective efforts to accurately obtain and understand the expert evidence accurately, such efforts are not always successful in the absence of skilled interpreters. Based on these findings, this paper argues that a team of unskilled interpreters is not sufficient to accomplish the demanding task of interpreting expert evidence, and further, the court needs to be meticulous about the quality of courtroom interpreting which have potential implications for achieving just legal outcomes. (shrink)
Using the controversy over the MMR vaccine, I consider the reasons why non-experts should defer to experts, and I sketch a model for understanding cases where they fail to defer. I first suggest that an intuitively plausible model of the expert/non-expert relationship is complicated by shifting epistemic standards. One possible moderate response to this challenge, based on a more complex notion of non-experts' relationship with experts, seems unappealing as an account of the MMR controversy. A more radical suggestion (...) is that non-experts might have a political reason to defer to experts, when not doing so will involve ‘epistemological free-riding’. I investigate the implications. (shrink)
How can we make informed decisions about whom to trust given expert disagreement? Can experts on both sides be reasonable in holding conflicting views? Epistemologists have engaged the issue of reasonable expert disagreement generally; here I consider a particular expert dispute in physics, given conflicting accounts from Harry Collins and Allan Franklin, over Joseph Weber’s alleged detection of gravitational waves. Finding common ground between Collins and Franklin, I offer a characterization of the gravity wave dispute as both (...) social and evidential. While experimental evidence alone may not have forced resolution of the dispute, there were also credibility‐based reasons warranting epistemic trust and distrust. Thus we see how social factors can have evidential significance and how expert disagreement can be reasonable. †To contact the author, please write to: Philosophy Dept., Communication Arts Division, College of Lake County, 19351 W. Washington St., Grayslake, IL 60030; e‐mail: email@example.com. (shrink)
Scientific experttestimony is crucial to public deliberation, but it is associated with many pitfalls. This article identifies one—namely, expert trespassing testimony—which may be characterized, crudely, as the phenomenon of experts testifying outside their domain of expertise. My agenda is to provide a more precise characterization of this phenomenon and consider its ramifications for the role of science in society. I argue that expert trespassing testimony is both epistemically problematic and morally problematic. Specifically, I (...) will argue that scientific experts are subject to a particular obligation. Roughly, this is the obligation to qualify their assertions when speaking outside their domain of scientific expertise in certain contexts. Thus, I argue that scientists who possess expert knowledge are confronted with hard questions about when and how to testify and, therefore, that being a scientific expert comes with great responsibility. Consequently, I provide a concrete “expert guideline” according to which scientific experts, in certain contexts, face an obligation to qualify their assertions when speaking outside their domain of expertise. Furthermore, I consider a number of the conditions in which the guideline is waived or overridden. On this basis, I consider the broader aspects of the roles of scientific experts in a society with a high division of cognitive labor that calls for trust in scientific experttestimony. (shrink)
The past two decades have seen a dramatic growth in the use of statisticians and economists for the presentation of experttestimony in legal proceedings. In this paper, we describe a hypothetical case modeled on real ones and involving statistical testimony regarding the causal effect of lead on lowering the IQs of children who ingest lead paint chips. The data we use come from a well-known pioneering study on the topic and the analyses we describe as the (...)experttestimony are similar to ones that can be found in major scientific journals. The battle of the experts in this hypothetical case resembles that which many encounter as expert witnesses. The paper concludes with some observations and advice. (shrink)
Experttestimony figures in recent debates over how best to understand the norm of assertion and the domain-specific epistemic expectations placed on testifiers. Cases of experts asserting with only isolated second-hand knowledge (Lackey 2011, 2013) have been used to shed light on whether knowledge is sufficient for epistemically permissible assertion. I argue that relying on such cases of experttestimony introduces several problems concerning how we understand expert knowledge, and the sharing of such knowledge through (...)testimony. Refinements are needed to clarify exactly what principles are being tested by such cases; but once refined, such cases raise more questions than they answer. (shrink)
American law is not a singlediscourse, but is the product of diverse andoften discordant voices; nowhere is this moreapparent than during the cross-examination ofparties and witnesses at trial. The sequentialorganization of witness examinations has drawn the attention of conversation analysts,who have examined the effects of theturn-taking system governing suchexaminations on the organization of theinteraction that occurs. This article appliesthe theoretical framework thus developed to theanalysis of an attorney's management of expertcross-examination in a medicalmalpractice case. The article demonstratesthat, rather than simply (...) attempting todiscredit an opposing witness' testimony, thecross-examining attorney actively exploits thequestion-answer sequence by using it as aplatform for the construction of a competingand contrasting version of the facts, and thatthis construction occurs simultaneously withthe deconstruction of the witness' directtestimony. It is shown that, by posingstrategic questions, challenging evasiveanswers, building selected descriptions, andtransforming hypothesis into fact, thecross-examining attorney seeks to substitutehis reanalysis for the witness' testimony. (shrink)
According to an influential Enlightenment ideal, one shouldn't rely epistemically on other people's say-so, at least not if one is in a position to evaluate the relevant evidence for oneself. However, in much recent work in social epistemology, we are urged to dispense with this ideal, which is seen as stemming from a misguided focus on isolated individuals to the exclusion of groups and communities. In this paper, I argue that that an emphasis on the social nature of inquiry should (...) not lead us to entirely abandon the Enlightenment ideal of epistemically autonomous agents. Specifically, I suggest that it is an appropriate ideal for those who serve as experts in a given epistemic community, and develop a notion of expert acceptance to make sense of this. I go on to show that, all other things being equal, this kind of epistemic autonomy among experts makes their joint testimony more reliable, which in turn brings epistemic benefits both to laypeople and to experts in other fields. (shrink)