International Conference 2012

Abstracts Detail

Philosophers of Science as Interactional Experts.

Kathryn Plaisance

University of Waterloo

In their (2007) book, Rethinking Expertise, Harry Collins and Robert Evans draw a distinction between two kinds of expertise. Contributory expertise captures the kind of knowledge that we typically ascribe to practicing scientists who contribute new knowledge to their field, while interactional expertise is held by those who can speak the language of the discipline well enough to “pass” as a contributory expert, but without the ability to practice. As such, interactional expertise helpfully characterizes the kind of expertise held by many philosophers of science. In this talk, I apply the concept of interactional expertise to philosophy of science, drawing on my own work in behavioral genetics. In doing so, I identify lessons for philosophers of science that emerge from this case study, illustrating how Collins and Evans’ framework can be useful in reflecting on our own approaches as philosophers of science. In addition, I show the potential for making important contributions not only to the interactional experts’ own field but also to the fields in which they have gained interactional expertise, in some cases blurring the line between interactional and contributory expertise.