Conversations: Expertise


Europa
When someone says that some opinions are more relevant than others, could that essentially exclusivist thought to be intellectual elitism?

Helena
That depends, what do they mean by more relevant exactly?

Europa
A more relevant opinion is one which has its base in reality, that is to say, holds more truth than another opinion. Now, I understand some might argue that this observation seems to render any doubt of more relevant opinions irrelevant, but isn’t there a danger of alienating a substantial number of people when expressing this exclusivist idea?

Helena
Yes there is, because that is the nature of exclusivist convictions. Now, this sounds bad, but consider the following: What does it mean to have a domain of expertise? – If we admit there are domains of specific knowledge, there are going to be people who express ideas that, say, make more sense than others within that particular domain.

Europa
Could you provide an example?

Helena
Consider a person who needs a wisdom tooth removed. Is this individual going to consult a dentist or oral surgeon, or should he take the advice of someone who suggested he should remove his own wisdom tooth using a brick and a piece of string?

Europa
So anyone with an expensive diploma will automatically make more sense than someone without one?

Helena
Absolutely not, remember the maxim we already discussed: a more relevant opinion is one which holds more truth than another opinion. In this example, the patient should not consider the alternative solution because it does not hold any truths. That is to say, in that particular opinion, there are no truths which realise a greater amount of human happiness and well-being in any way – not because it is uneducated.

Europa
If I follow your reasoning correctly, it is necessary to exclude some opinions (or at the very least ridicule them) in order to have domains of expertise which can further the cause of man – generate human happiness and well-being.

Helena
Quite so. And in this respect it is interesting to consider a question asked by Sam Harris, “Does the Taliban [or any religious fundamentalism for that matter] have a point of view on physics that is worth considering? No. How is their ignorance any less obvious on the subject of human well-being?”

See other: Philosophical Conversations

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