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Jean Goodwin
Iowa State University of Science and Technology (Ames, IA 50011-2000)

Summer Stipends
Research Programs

[Grant products]

$6,000 (approved)
$6,000 (awarded)

Grant period:
5/1/2010 – 9/30/2010

The Rhetorical Force of the Appeal to Expert Authority

We rely on experts in our civic deliberations. But at the same time we are rightfully wary of the appeal to expert authority, both because it is difficult for the lay auditor to assess the expert's knowledge, and also because of concerns that expert judgment will displace democratic decision-making. In this project, I propose a philosophical analysis of the appeal to expert authority as a rhetorical strategy, examining how a speaker through her discourse makes her knowledge effective in the world of politics. In the course of "blackmailing" or forcing her audience towards deference to her judgment, the speaker must also undertake a "bond," backing her judgment with her reputation as an expert. And the presence of this "bond" relieves some of our worries about the authority of experts, because the lay audience is in a position to assess the security it offers, and because it encourages experts to self-limit the potentially dominating use of their authority.