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A Companion to the Philosophy of Technology by Vincent F. Hendricks, Stig Andur Pedersen, Jan Kyrre Berg Olsen Friis

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Chapter 35

Expertise

EVAN SELINGER

Dating back at least as far as Plato’s writings on techne, issues of expertise have been vexing for quite some time. Today, they have become inter-disciplinary topics that are widely acknowledged as having profound social and political consequences as well as decidedly epistemic and normative dimensions.

For example:

Questions about how to identify experts and when to defer to them remain daunting. The problem of whether genuine expertise can be distinguished from its social markers cuts across and even reshapes disciplinary boundaries. The conundrum of how to classify and organize different kinds of expertise traverses descriptive and prescriptive terrain.

While scientific and technological authority remain at the forefront of the expertise debates, phenomenological concerns, such as the nature and scope of skill acquisition and embodied action, also occupy a central role. Matters of discretionary power, media bias, litigation and shared governance occupy center stage as well. Here’s why.

In the abstract, it is easy to see experts as special kinds of people whose relation to knowledge, skill and experience entitles them to respect. In an increasingly specialized age in which information is rapidly proliferating and scientific research is delegated to teams of inquirers, it seems rather difficult for people to acquire in-depth understanding of multiple specialized fields. And, while the division of labor makes it incumbent to diversify and proliferate ...

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