Overcoming Expert Disagreement In A Delphi Process. An Exercise In Reverse Epistemology

Humana Mente 8 (28):87-103 (2015)
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Abstract

Disagreement among experts is a central topic in social epistemology. What should an expert do when confronted with the different opinion of an epistemic peer? Possible answers include the steadfast view (holding to one’s belief), the abstemious view (suspending one’s judgment), and moderate conciliatory views, which specify criteria for belief change when a peer’s different opinion is encountered. The practice of Delphi techniques in healthcare, medicine, and social sciences provides a real-life case study of expert disagreement, where disagreement is gradually transformed into consensus. An analysis of Delphi shows that moderate conciliatory views are descriptively more adequate than rival views. However, it also casts doubt on whether the debate in social epistemology is explanatory relevant vis-à-vis real life cases of expert disagreement, where consensus replaces truth, and acceptance is more explanatorily relevant than belief.

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Elisabetta Lalumera
University of Bologna

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