The Appeal to Expert Opinion in Contexts of Political Deliberation and the Problem of Group Bias

Annals of the University of Bucharest - Philosophy Series 62 (2):91-106 (2013)
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Abstract

In this paper, I will try to answer the question: How are we supposed to assess the expert’s opinion in an argument from the position of an outsider to the specialized field? by placing it in the larger context of the political status of epistemic authority. In order to do this I will first sketch the actual debate around the problem of expertise in a democracy and relate this to the issue of the status of science in society. Secondly, I will review how Douglas Walton’s pragma-dialectical approach offers a practical procedure to assess the expert bias from a nonprofessional’s perspective. Thirdly, I will introduce the problem of group bias using insights from Bohman and Fischer and show how Walton’s solution does not address this specific type of bias. Lastly, I will try proposing a revision of Walton’s solution in order to address this problem. In order to make the explanation more easy to follow I will use a case study concerning the medical expertise in the public debate on second-hand smoke.

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Lavinia Marin
Delft University of Technology

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