Dr. Jon Leefmann
Dr. Jon Leefmann
Jon Leefmann studied Biology and Philosophy in Tübingen, Heidelberg and Pavia up until 2008. He was a fellow in the Research Training Group “Bioethics” of the German Research Foundation at the University of Tübingen and completed his doctoral degree there in Philosophy with a thesis on personal autonomy and authenticity in the ethics of neuroenhancement. Following posts as a research associate at the Department of Philosophy of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz and the Department of Ethics and History of Medicine at the University Medical Center Göttingen, in 2016 he joined the ZIEW (since 4/1/2017 Center for Applied Philosophy of Science and Key Qualification, ZiWiS) as a research associate in the area of applied philosophy of science. His main research interests are ethics and science theory of neurosciences as well as social epistemology.
The Epistemology of Scientific Expert Testimony
Social Epistemology is concerned with the manifold epistemic relations between different subjects of knowledge. One question central to this strand of research concerns knowledge acquisition from the testimony of others. The communicative relation between scientific experts and laypersons is a special case of testimony, which is important for understanding processes of knowledge transmission between science and the public and processes of knowledge-production in interdisciplinary research teams.
Even though the testimony debate in Social Epistemology has brought about several suggestions how knowledge from testimony can be justified despite the hearer’s epistemic dependence on the truth of the asserted proposition and the speaker’s truthfulness, the specific question of how a layperson’s knowledge from expert testimony can be justified has gained comparatively little and unsystematic attention in the literature.
The research project intends to explain how laypersons can gain scientific knowledge from expert testimony despite their epistemically asymmetric relation to scientific experts. Central to the investigation are the concepts of “epistemic trust” and “epistemic authority”. The proposed research project aims to explore, first, the nature of the layperson’s epistemic trust in expert knowledge and authority as a special attitude taken towards the expert. Second, it will investigate what (if anything) makes epistemic trust a reliable method for knowledge acquisition under the specific conditions of the layperson-expert-relationship. Special emphasis will be given to the hypothesis that a layperson’s expert testimony based beliefs can only be justified, if the interpretation of expert testimony as a form of unilateral information transmission is abandoned in favor of a bilateral communication based approach.
Funding: German research foundation (DFG), 2018-2020; Grant number (LE 4086/1-1)
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