tit Expertise as a methodological and ethical problem

Expertise as a methodological and ethical problem

Expertise as a methodological and ethical problem

Seminario del Grupo Ciencia, Razón y Fe.
Agnieszka Lekka-Kowalik. Pamplona, 18 de junio de 2019.


Agnieszka Lekka-Kowalik is Professor of Philosophy at the John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin (KUL); MSc in chemistry from Maria Curie-Skłodowska University in Lublin, PhD and habilitation in philosophy from KUL. 1993-1996 associate researcher at the Department of Philosophy, Université de Neuchâel/Switzerland; since 1997 employed at KUL; since 2011 the Chair of the Department of the Methodology of Sciences in the Faculty of Philosophy, 2009-2012 Vice Dean of that Faculty, 2013 Vice Rector of KUL; since 2014 Director of the John Paul II Institute KUL and Editor-in-chief of the quarterly “Ethos”; member of the Editorial Board of The Universal Encyclopedia of Philosophy and The Encyclopaedia of Polish Philosophy; member of the editorial board of “Summarium” (a yearbook of the Learned Society of KUL). Main research areas: philosophy of science, research ethics, information ethics, general methodology of science and practical logic. Co-founder and member the Board of the Polish Association for Technology Assessment.


In the knowledge society, we observe a "dictatorship of experts" and at the same time a declining confidence in them due to "expert duels". The development of the philosophy of expertise is the answer to this state of affairs. In my lecture, I will consider scientific expertise as something that is supposed to transform knowledge into "capacity to act". (N. Stehr) I will argue that expertise is an implicite declaration of epistemic-methodological and ethical values.  I build my argument by analyzing two problems: (1) using data in the expertise. The use of data is a recognition of its reliability, and because knowledge is hypothetical, it is also a determination of the level of acceptable uncertainty. These are not only epistemic-methodological but also ethical issues, because the data are saturated with values and the selection of data is guided by values. There is a "abundace of data" - research questions and data can be selected in such a way as to support the desired actions (S. Lem: "expertolysis"); (2) expected result. Is the expertise to be a recommendation for action? If so, there is the question of inferring "ought" from “is”, and also the question of value: recognition of the recommended action as legitimate, its consequences as acceptable, and risk as acceptable (what and to what extent can be risked). Or is the expertise only to select effective means to achieve the principal's objective? If so, there is a problem of responsibility for the effects of the use of expertise and participation in the division of power. I will ultimately show that there is no value-neutral expertise and that it is impossible to divide expertise into epistemic-methodological and ethical elements. I will illustrate this with an analysis of four types of experts (R. Pielke): neutral researcher; scientific arbiter; advocate of a solution; an honest broker of alternatives.