A theory of intellectual expertise

Webb, Rocky Kris

January 2015

Thesis or dissertation

© 2015 Rocky Kris Webb. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

Experts pervade public life. We live in an expertise saturated society. Experts are turned to in order to solve problems, justify positions, and are thought to progress our thinking and technology. But what makes an expert an expert? In answering this question, we may want a theory that characterises expertise across the ages, from ancient Greece through to modernity.

I argue for a controversial position: namely that knowledge, by which I mean justified true belief, is not a sensible prerequisite for qualification as an intellectual expert. Intellectual experts from as far back as Aristotle through to Newton have held many false positions. If the past is anything to go by, it may be sensible to question how much knowledge intellectual expertise presupposes.

As an alternative to knowledge, I argue that intellectual expertise can be understood as a matter of possessing a sufficient quantity of epistemically rational beliefs. We can understand intellectual expertise forgoing truth altogether.

In part 1 of my thesis, I focus on building a robust theory of intellectual expertise. It is designed to deal with both epistemically impoverished and epistemically prosperous situations alike. In part 2 of my thesis, I highlight some implications of my theory of intellectual expertise. These include implications for our understanding of moral expertise, intellectual trust, and the relationship between intellectual experts and democracy. As such, my theory of intellectual expertise is a thesis in the domain of social epistemology.

Department of Politics, Philosophy and International Studies, The University of Hull
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