Monday, August 29, 2016

Why Should You Trust Philosophers?

A group of fifteen philosophers and bioethicists gathered in Switzerland and came up with this document outlining their public policy proposal to severely limit doctors being allowed to opt out of certain procedures and practices which violate their conscience (some among the group being notorious advocates of infanticide). The statement is called "Consensus Statement on Conscientious Objection in Healthcare."

My question is a simple one: why should we trust them?  The document does not outline any detailed arguments, it simply lists their recommendations and (implicitly) asks us to take their word for it--that is, the word of the consensus of fifteen philosophers.

But we shouldn't take their word for it without either knowing a lot more about each of them or their arguments.  Here is why:

1. Whatever expertise philosophers have is over matters wherein there is (a) rational disagreement, (b) no consensus among philosophers, or (c) both.  This follows from the nature of philosophy.
2. This being the case, if (e.g.) fifteen philosophers agree about some proposition p, there will be c.fifteen who disagree about p (or at least there will either be rational disagreement, no consensus, or both about p).
3. If 2 is the case, no one should take any fifteen philosophers' testimonies (without additional knowledge) as justification about something of which they claim to be experts. For that matter, one has reason for doubt about the testimonysince the philosophers have delusions of grandeur, (implicitly) asking the public to take their word for something about which there is rational disagreement, no consensus, or both.
4. ...therefore, etc., this document is rubbish as a matter of public evidence for shaping public policy.  At best it is simply a political document.

But don't take my word for it.

No comments:

Post a Comment