Accounting for the appeal to the authority of experts

Posted on 14 July 12

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Goodwin, Jean. “Accounting for the Appeal to the Authority of Experts.” Argumentation 25 (2011): 285-96.

Work in Argumentation Studies (AS) and Studies in Expertise and Experience (SEE) has been proceeding on converging trajectories, moving from resistance to expert authority to a cautious acceptance of its legitimacy. The two projects are therefore also converging on the need to account for how, in the course of complex and confused civic deliberations, nonexpert citizens can figure out which statements from purported experts deserve their trust. Both projects recognize that nonexperts cannot assess expertise directly; instead, the nonexpert must judge whether to trust the expert. But how is this social judgment accomplished? A normative pragmatic approach from AS can complement and extend the work from SEE on this question, showing that the expert’s putting forward of his view and ‘‘bonding’’ it with his reputation for expertise works to force or ‘‘blackmail’’ his audience of citizens into heeding what he says. Appeals to authority thus produce the visibility and accountability we want for expert views in civic deliberations.

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