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The materials for trust-building in expertise

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The need for expertise is undisputed in today’s complex society, but what expertise is, how to identify it, and how to build trust in it is hotly contested. Some philosophers presume that experts should be trusted and provide cursory means of assessment. Other philosophers argue that only experts can identify other experts, and thus we can do nothing but trust experts and hope for the best. Still other philosophers rightly point out that experts have failed some groups of people (and been part of past injustices), so trust is something that must be earned. This debate takes place against a backdrop of an increasing rejection of expertise in Western democracies, and thus addressing these issues takes on some urgency. In this talk, I will argue that expertise consists of a fluency of judgement in a complex terrain. While such fluency cannot be transferred to non-experts quickly or easily (we cannot all become experts in everything), expertise can and should be assessed by non-experts. I will articulate plausible bases for assessment experts by non-experts, and argue that crucial trust-building materials are to be found among them.

This talk is part of the Departmental Seminars in History and Philosophy of Science series.

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