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Worries about philosopher experts

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Well-functioning modern democracies depend largely on expert knowledge and expert arrangements, but this expertise reliance also causes severe problems for their legitimacy. Surprisingly, moral and political philosophers have come to play an increasing role as experts in present-day policy-making, and this paper elaborates on and assesses the force of the epistemic and democratic worries raised by the presence of philosopher experts in contemporary governance, and suggest measures to alleviate them. It is argued that philosophers are likely to have some distinctive biases that may reduce the quality of their advice, and the characteristics of their expertise, and controversies around what their competences amount to, make it hard to distinguish proper from less proper philosopher experts. Reliance on philosopher experts may also intensify democratic worries not least due to the depoliticization pressures that the introduction of ethics expertise tends to give rise to. Still, philosophers have competences and orientations that policy discussions and democratic deliberations are likely to profit from. Worries about philosopher experts may moreover be mitigated by means of a proper design of expert arrangements. However, confronted with the genuine epistemic risks and democratic challenges of contemporary governance any quick fix is obviously unavailable.

This talk is part of the CamPoS (Cambridge Philosophy of Science) seminar series.

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