Political Epistemology, Experts, and the Aggregation of Knowledge

Stephen Turner


Begin with a bit of political theory, in this case the emblematic passage in the most consequential political theory text of the twentieth century, Carl Schmitt’s Concept of the Political: [...] What does this have to do with expertise? Plenty. Expert claims routinely “affect, combat, refute, and negate” someone or some faction or grouping of persons. When scientists proclaim the truth of Darwinism, they refute, negate, and whatnot the Christian view of the creation, and thus Christians. When research is done on racial differences, it affects, negates, and so on, those who are negatively characterized. This is why Phillip Kitcher argues that it should be banned (2001, 95). Some truths are too dangerous to ever inquire into, because, he reasons, even by inquiring we legitimate the negation that racial distinctions already carry. Expert claims also favour or disfavour policies or decisions which have factions or persons supporting them. When Robert Oppenheimer insisted on technical grounds that the H- Bomb was unfeasible, his opinion disfavoured, not to say negated and combated, the faction that supported the decision and favoured the position of Stalin (cf. Turner 2003). Claims about the human contribution to climate change favour the faction that believes in an extensive role of the state in regulating the economy. All these claims are “political”...

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.4245/sponge.v1i1.2970