Chapter 12. Expert authority and ad verecundiam arguments*

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Discussions of <i>ad verecundiam</i> arguments have always engaged with an essential tension between two kinds of possible approaches. On the one hand, <i>ad verecundiams</i> are typically classed under the heading of &#8216;fallacies&#8217; as potentially abusive and non-rational argument forms, especially in the field of &#8216;informal logic&#8217; (Copi, Walton). Similarly, the pragma-dialecticians focus on &#8216;fallacious&#8217; uses by treating fallacies as violations of the rules of rational discussion. On the other hand, frequent appeals to authority are part and parcel of human cognitive enterprises ranging from lay knowledge to highly specialized scientific research, as recognised by fileds such as social epistemology (Coady, Goldman), the history of science (the problem of testimony &#8211; Kusch, Shapiro), or recent trends in the social studies of science and technology (&#8216;studies of expertise and experience&#8217;, Collins, Evans). Recently Walton approaches these appeals in the framework of argument schemes. The paper tries, in the context of recent trends both in the public understanding of science and in the study of argumentation, to contrast these approaches with each other, and with empirical considerations concerning appeals to authority based on Internet blog discussions of the H1N1 case.


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