Deference Done Better

Philosophical Perspectives 35 (1):99-150 (2021)
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Abstract

There are many things—call them ‘experts’—that you should defer to in forming your opinions. The trouble is, many experts are modest: they’re less than certain that they are worthy of deference. When this happens, the standard theories of deference break down: the most popular (“Reflection”-style) principles collapse to inconsistency, while their most popular (“New-Reflection”-style) variants allow you to defer to someone while regarding them as an anti-expert. We propose a middle way: deferring to someone involves preferring to make any decision using their opinions instead of your own. In a slogan, deferring opinions is deferring decisions. Generalizing the proposal of Dorst (2020a), we first formulate a new principle that shows exactly how your opinions must relate to an expert’s for this to be so. We then build off the results of Levinstein (2019) and Campbell-Moore (2020) to show that this principle is also equivalent to the constraint that you must always expect the expert’s estimates to be more accurate than your own. Finally, we characterize the conditions an expert’s opinions must meet to be worthy of deference in this sense, showing how they sit naturally between the too-strong constraints of Reflection and the too-weak constraints of New Reflection

Author Profiles

Kevin Dorst
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Ben Levinstein
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Bernhard Salow
Oxford University

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