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Does public justification face an ‘expert problem’? some thoughts in light of the COVID-19 pandemic

Reid, A. ORCID: (2024) Does public justification face an ‘expert problem’? some thoughts in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy. ISSN 1743-8772

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1080/13698230.2024.2313953


Policies are often justified to the public with reference to factual claims that most people cannot easily verify or scrutinise because they lack relevant knowledge or expertise. This poses a challenge for theories of public justification which require that laws are justified using reasons that all can accept. Further difficulties arise in cases such as the response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic where the factual base of knowledge used to justify policies is limited, subject to a high degree of disagreement amongst experts, and marked by rapid changes. This paper reviews some strategies that public justification theorists might draw on to address the question of how to justify policies that depend on this kind of expert knowledge. Whilst such strategies cohere with existing theories of public justification, they do not yield intuitively attractive recommendations. Ideally, theories of public justification would provide criteria by which to evaluate expert testimony such that it guides and informs, but does not lead, policy making. However, in cases like the pandemic response, theories of public reason currently tend towards recommendations that are intuitively unattractive: either requiring citizens to defer to ‘experts’ in a fairly uncritical way or being overly permissive of most factual claims.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Politics, Economics and International Relations > Politics and International Relations
ID Code:115313
Uncontrolled Keywords:Sociology and Political Science, Philosophy
Publisher:Informa UK Limited


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