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Five pragmatist insights on scientific expertise

Mathias Girel


A common objection to a pragmatist perspective on scientific expertise is that, while there is a well-known pragmatist theory of inquiry, which was formulated first by Peirce, then refined by Dewey and others, this theory cannot provide a clear-cut account of scientific expertise. In this paper, after addressing this objection in the second section, I claim that, on the contrary, pragmatism offers robust tools to think scientific expertise. In Sections 3 to 7, I present five important insights that one can derive from a pragmatist epistemology when responding to contemporary problems posed by expertise: about science and scientific expertise in a legal context (sections 3 and 4), about collective expertise (sections 5 and 6), and even about expertise on ignorance (section 7).


pragmatism; scientific expertise; skepticism; criteria; ignorance

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