Gresham College Lectures

Experts in politics: Lessons from Socrates and Aristotle - Melissa Lane

July 09, 2024 Gresham College
Experts in politics: Lessons from Socrates and Aristotle - Melissa Lane
Gresham College Lectures
More Info
Gresham College Lectures
Experts in politics: Lessons from Socrates and Aristotle - Melissa Lane
Jul 09, 2024
Gresham College

Socrates sought to test the expertise of everyone around him: the bombastic know-it-alls, the bashful youths, the confident generals, those (including the enslaved) with unsuspected mathematical competence, the workaday artisans. Aristotle later explored the ways in which expert claims can be made credible to popular judgement.

This lecture considers the role of experts in contributing to public debate in a democracy, bringing Aristotle's work on rhetoric to bear on norms for expert communication and public debate.


This lecture was recorded by Melissa Lane on 30th May 2024 at Barnard's Inn Hall, London

The transcript of the lecture is available from the Gresham College website:
https://www.gresham.ac.uk/watch-now/experts-politics

Gresham College has offered free public lectures for over 400 years, thanks to the generosity of our supporters. There are currently over 2,500 lectures free to access. We believe that everyone should have the opportunity to learn from some of the greatest minds. To support Gresham's mission, please consider making a donation: https://gresham.ac.uk/support/

Website:  https://gresham.ac.uk
Twitter:  https://twitter.com/greshamcollege
Facebook: https://facebook.com/greshamcollege
Instagram: https://instagram.com/greshamcollege

Support the Show.

Show Notes Transcript

Socrates sought to test the expertise of everyone around him: the bombastic know-it-alls, the bashful youths, the confident generals, those (including the enslaved) with unsuspected mathematical competence, the workaday artisans. Aristotle later explored the ways in which expert claims can be made credible to popular judgement.

This lecture considers the role of experts in contributing to public debate in a democracy, bringing Aristotle's work on rhetoric to bear on norms for expert communication and public debate.


This lecture was recorded by Melissa Lane on 30th May 2024 at Barnard's Inn Hall, London

The transcript of the lecture is available from the Gresham College website:
https://www.gresham.ac.uk/watch-now/experts-politics

Gresham College has offered free public lectures for over 400 years, thanks to the generosity of our supporters. There are currently over 2,500 lectures free to access. We believe that everyone should have the opportunity to learn from some of the greatest minds. To support Gresham's mission, please consider making a donation: https://gresham.ac.uk/support/

Website:  https://gresham.ac.uk
Twitter:  https://twitter.com/greshamcollege
Facebook: https://facebook.com/greshamcollege
Instagram: https://instagram.com/greshamcollege

Support the Show.

I want to begin with a question put by the American philosopher David und. So he asks, in life and death medical decisions what could be stupider than holding a vote, or you might consider how you'd feel if you found yourself on an airplane, asked to vote in this scenario. So for those who can't read it, a passenger stands up and says, these SM pilots have lost touch with regular passengers like us. Who thinks I should fly the plane? So these examples, captains and doctors, are pretty compelling illustrations of a case for giving power to experts. Surely a medical doctor is the only person who should take lifesaving decisions in an emergency, and a qualified pilot is the only person whom you'd want in the cockpit of your plane. And it's striking that these were the favorite examples, not just for modern philosophers and cartoonists, but also for the ancient Greek philosopher philosophers, Socrates and Aristotle. Though of course, they were thinking about ship captains, not about airplane pilots. But if we broaden out the scope and the complexity, when we think about an emergency, for example, to the larger scope of the COVID-19 pandemic, the question of the role of a medical doctor, for example, compared to other experts and compared to lay people, starts to appear more complicated. So how should we compare the expertise of the doctor without of the teacher in deciding the length of school closures, for example, or of public health experts versus members of parliament in weighing dangers for essential workers that against those for everyone else. So you can start to see that there are quite a lot of questions in the space of this lecture on experts and politics. One problem is to know which experts to trust and take into an extreme, though that can lead to skepticism against trusting any experts at all as the then cabinet minister Michael Gove famously opined in 2016, prior to the British referendum on Brexit. And of course, this has become a very well known quotation. Um, so first we have the, uh, captains and doctors, but then we have the quotation from Michael Gove. People in this country have had enough of experts, and it might seem that expertise is intention with democracy anyway. After all, isn't the point of democracy that every voter should have an equal say, and if no one's opinion is automatically entitled to more weight than that of anyone else? But again, we have that opposite problem where I started, which is the temptation to think that perhaps we should seed democratic judgment. We should give it up to experts who might be better placed to exercise it. After all, who do we want? Steering what Plato and the Republic memorably depicted as the ship of state. And here's a more up to date version of a ship of state, but in the words that Plato attributed to Socrates in the Republic, he wrote, imagine that something like the following happens on a ship. The sailors are quarreling with one another about steering the ship, each of them thinking that he should be the true captain. And then the quotation goes on, even though he's never learned the art of navigation, right? So we see the two sides of the problem, right? In one side we see the pull of the thought that experts have stronger insight, better reason sometimes to decide, but we also see the pull of the problem that that seems intention with our democratic principles. Indeed, being a master of an art of navigation doesn't give you the right to decide where the ship should go. So captains might understand where it's possible for a ship to go, where they risk beaching on the rocks, where it's more likely to be smooth sailing, but that knowledge doesn't settle the question of a destination. So that's where democratic politics would come in. So there are these two extremes then that threaten the place of experts in politics. At one extreme, we have corrosive skepticism, even leading to conspiracy theories that reject the role of experts at all. And on the even wall, we recognize that there's a real need for educated skepticism for testing expert claims. And of course, I'm giving this lecture in the week following the submission of the report of the infected blood inquiry to the UK Parliament. And so this is a stark reminder of the need to sometimes challenge experts as the report states. And I quote, the picture that emerges overall from the findings in this report is one in which people have been failed, not once, but repeatedly by their doctors, by the bodies NHS and other responsible for the safety of their treatment and by their governments end of quotation. So experts can get it wrong too often with devastating consequences, but at the other extreme, we can have excessive deference to experts and that could undermine democratic decision making and recognition of the many different factors that have to feature in a decision. So how can we find a middle ground? So you won't be surprised to know that my approach is going to be to turn back to the ancient Greeks. And of course, you won't be surprised to know that because it's in the subtitle of the lecture. But, um, some, some of you may remember in fact that in the first lecture that I gave this academic year, I argued that the role of political office is fundamentally common in some key respects between ancient Greece and modern democracies, so that we can learn some things for how to think about challenges today by looking back to Greece. And so, too, I wanna suggest tonight the problem of experts and politics is as ancient as it is modern. So as I've already begun to illustrate, Socrates and Aristotle both reflected on expertise, I've mentioned doctors and captains, they also reflected extensively on the role of generals, for example, experts in military affairs who advised ancient assemblies on decisions about war and peace. And today we grapple with climate scientists advising governments through the intergovernmental panel on climate change. And indeed, um, as was mentioned, climate change will be the topic of my final lecture this academic year on 13 June. But for tonight, I want to look more generally at natural scientists and social scientists as experts. And so we'll explore two dimensions of the problem of experts in politics, drawing on Socrates and Aristotle, that Socrates on the left and Aristotle on the right for guidance. So I'll just give you a little bit more of a roadmap for the lecture before, um, I dig in. So first of all, starting with Socrates, we'll look at that question of how non-experts can know which experts to trust. Socratic interrogation was designed to show that many self-proclaimed experts are not genuine experts at all. And what we can also realize, um, drawing on modern findings, is that even people who have expertise in some respects may still be susceptible to cognitive biases, to making characteristic mistakes. So while we shouldn't give up on finding or needing experts, we do have to make sure to test them, and Socrates can help to guide us in how to do that. In fact, what I'll be arguing is that the best way to test experts is to become healthily skeptical about our own certainties as well. So we experts can be vulnerable to biases, but so can all of us. And so the way to avoid the extreme temptations of conspiracy theories is to recognize that all certainties, those that we have, those that others have, those that experts have, have to be periodically scrutinized with an open mind. And then in the second half of the talk, I'll turn to the question of just how democracies can draw on experts, but without letting them usurp the kinds of judgements that citizens and our representatives should be making. So a key starting point here is the idea that citizens should decide the ends while experts advise on the means. But again, I'm going to suggest that that can turn out to be too simple. Ends and means are actually more closely intertwined. We have to test them both in tandem with one another. Um, indeed at bottom, scientific inquiry and democratic inquiry have to be connected. So the thread running through the lecture as a whole is the idea that while democracies need experts, experts are human too. So it's a mistake to presuppose a stark wholesale contrast between experts and everybody else, as if these were two different species. Instead, there's a continuum. Scientists start out as curious, inquiring ordinary people. They develop a training and commitment to specialized inquiry, but they never learn. They never lose all the weaknesses that ordinary people generally share. And so we all have to try to improve our performance and be aware that we can all make mistakes so we can adapt the saying, trust, but verify. So trust, but only because you also test experts and also yourself. Okay? So that's the roadmap. So now, the first part of the lecture will be on Socrates, on how to tell an expert from a fraud. So Socrates is depicted in Plato's dialogues as refusing to take anyone's claim to expertise or wisdom for granted. Instead, he interrogated the self-proclaimed experts in the Athenian democracy all around him, everyone who claimed mastery of a professional skill that you might think relevant to politics. And in doing that, he laid out some criteria for telling experts from frauds. And these are actually strikingly similar to those that philosophers of science have offered more recently. So consider these four criteria that are actually common to Socrates who died in 3, 9, 9, BCE, and, um, Alvin Goldman still with us, who was born in 1938. So, and each of them also have some other criteria, but this is a central area of overlap. So how can you identify an expert? Well, an expert should put forward testable arguments. The philosopher Carl Popper would say arguments that can at least in principle be falsified. We can disprove them, we can test them. Ideally, experts move towards consensus. We know not always, not all the time, but there's a sort of process of, um, imperfect, but real convergence. We can look at their credentials, their training and education, and we can look at their track record, how have they done have their predictions, their actions generally born fruit. Now the question is then, well, who can deploy these criteria? Does is that itself something that only at other experts can do? So in some Socrates seems to suggest that, that it's only an expert who can recognize another expert. And some modern philosophers have often taken that general stance. So the philosopher Elizabeth Anderson, for example, says, well, there are some things citizens can do. They can look at credentials. There's a few other things they can do, but generally citizens should operate at a kind of deferential arms length. So Anderson sets up the problem as a kind of lopsided battle between a dominant group of credible scientists and few what she calls crackpots. So these are the crackpot, um, uh, fraud scientists, right? And they're pretty easy to identify. You can just look at the picture and see who they are. So for Anderson, it's not so difficult for citizens to know who to trust. She thinks mostly you'll be able to see the dominant group of credible credentialed scientists. And then there's a few crackpots, and we can sort of pretty easily weed them out. But Socrates actually, I think, was more skeptical than that. And again, as the report of the infected blood in inquiry suggests, we have good reason to remain skeptical while not going all the way to wholesale rejection to sort of blanket rejection, right? And so Socrates very interestingly insisted that he did not possess any substantial wisdom or expertise himself. So he sets himself up as a non-expert, but he digs in to testing those explanatory arguments. So it's not just that the criterion is that the experts have to put forward testable arguments, Socrates then actually digs in to test them. So for example, in Plato's dialogue called, um, the, the Laies or the Lockes, um, he tests the knowledge of two Athenian generals of what courage requires. You might think generals should be experts in courage, and he reveals that it's wanting. And the key to his method is to see whether an expert's claims lead them into contradiction. So, and are you test an argument by seeing whether its implications end up being contradictory. You can't actually maintain everything that the expert originally thought that they could claim. And so if your claims end up in self contradiction, if you can't go on consistently defending your position, then it's a good bet that you're not an expert after all. And so that's something that a non-expert can deploy, because logic, contradiction is a kind of capacity that's available to all of us to use and test, right? That gives us a systematic route for discrediting. Some would be experts who turn out to be frauds, but at the same time, Socrates was as tough on himself as he was on others. Remember I said that he insisted that he did not possess expertise himself. He claim he checked out his own understanding and concluded that it didn't deserve the honorific title of knowledge or wisdom. So in his courtroom, self-defense, um, that is depicted in Plato's apology, the word aplo in Greek really means a defense speech. Um, even though we translate it as an apology in that speech, he di he disavowed having any knowledge at all, but yet he went on looking for expertise in others. And so what's interesting about Socrates' approach is that it's a kind of testing and skepticism that doesn't go so far as rejecting the possibility of expertise altogether. It's precisely in holding that expertise was so important that Socrates pursued that scrutiny to make sure that experts were truly up to the job. Now, of course, we are not all Socrates, but we too can learn to assess the kinds of cognitive moves that self-proclaimed experts make. And here I'm gonna suggest some ways that we can go beyond logical self-contradiction to develop a nose for which experts have the kinds of skills and habits that are more likely to lead them to success. And so here I wanna draw on a fascinating study by Philip Tetlock called Expert Political Judgment, which assessed the actual performance of political pundits. So he actually looked at a sample of political pundits who had made predictions over time of what would happen, for example, if the US pulled out of Afghanistan, that sort of political claim, and that those claims could be later tested for success or failure. So Tetlock in his study invoked a classic distinction drawn by the philosopher Isaiah Berlin between hedgehogs and foxes. So Berlin's distinction, which you may know, is that hedgehogs clinging to a single big idea, while foxes are interested in lots of different things. So this is a sort of general categor categorization of different kinds of experts, right? Whether you are a captain or a doctor, you might be more like a hedgehog than a fox. So these are two different ways in which you can pursue your, your typical expertise. And what Tetlock shows is that overall political pundits who are hedgehogs are less successful, and so they're less genuinely expert than the foxes. Okay? So the hedgehogs clinging to a single idea, but that won't always be applicable in the circumstances. But that means also that they're less willing to engage in self scrutiny. They're over invested in their one big idea, and so they become more defensive about their errors, and that makes them more likely to dig in and repeat them. By contrast, the foxes are looking at a wide range of factors. They're interested in a whole range of different explanations, and so they can better calibrate their predictions to the facts, and that means they're also less defensive about their mistakes. So what's interesting about this is that we as observers can actually get a sense of which kinds of pundits are hedgehogs and which are foxes, right? We don't have to have all the political knowledge that they have to see whether a given pundit is always repeating the same kind of explanation or whether they seem to be attentive to a wide range of different factors in different circumstances. So this takes us beyond just having to check credentials. We're able to kind of dig into the argument, not a hundred percent, we're not pundits ourselves, but we can get a better nose for when we might be misled. And so we can think here also of a distinction that two sociologists have drawn, hm, Collins and Robert Evans between what they call on the left contributory expertise. So to have contributory expertise is what enables you to advance an activities objectives to actually sort of do the thing, right? So that's the pundits doing the thing. We can't do that, but we can develop an interactional expertise, we can talk about what they're doing, and we can understand, talk about it without necessarily being able to do the thing ourselves, right? So this is a way where we can start to break down that sharp distinction between experts and everybody else. We're not gonna become experts, but we can get better at assessing the kinds of moves that experts are making. Now, Aristotle would actually two generations later build on Socrates point here. And so now I'm gonna bring in Aristotle, but to complete the first part of the talk before we move on to Aristotle in the second part. So this is Aristotle making a similar kind of point that we've just seen that Socrates to make. So this is in his work. Um, the politics book three, chapter 11, Aristotle confronts this view that we might have that experts such as medical doctors can be assessed only by their expert peers, right? So he states that in the first quotation on the, on the slide, just as a doctor should be inspected by a doctor. So others should be inspected by their peers, right? So again, we might add why listen to any non-doctors if we have two doctors in the house, but in what follows on the slide, Aristotle goes on to explain why we should reject that bait blanket position. And he does so by pointing out that there are various levels of education in a profession like medicine. One might have a general education in a subject, one might be an ordinary practitioner of it, or one might be a master craftsman, a consultant in the British system. And Aristotle implies in this discussion that someone at any of these levels can at least sometimes judge even the most expert doctor right? Now. Notice that this isn't a a, an account of non-experts. You still have to have general education in a subject, but you don't necessarily need to be as expert as the person whom you're assessing. So think of a judge at a gymnastics competition who never reached the heights of the gymnasts whom they're judging, right? A gymnastics judge might have certain competencies and skills that enable them to judge even when they themselves can't do the thing. They can't do the full thing that the people before them are, are doing. Okay? So there we see how it is that different kinds of people might be able to develop the kinds of habits, the repertoire, the awareness, the nose for assessing expert claims. So we don't have to be completely credulous. We can be appropriately skeptical, but that doesn't have to take us all the way to kind of blanket hostility and rejection of expertise. We can find that healthy middle ground. But let me now open the door to the next part, the second half really, of the talk. And this is that even when laypeople do well, when we identify the best experts to trust and who not to trust, that still won't mean that all of those experts are perfect, right? On the contrary, everyone expert and non-expert alike has a general tendency to what has been called, um, an overconfidence bias, um, in response to the presence of uncertainty. So for example, um, it's been noted that as a matter of general human psychology uncertainty can breed wishful thinking and promote optimistic biases. And this leads individuals, and I'm quoting here, um, from an article in nature, climate change to often misinterpret the intended messages conveyed and to do so over optimistically. So this is the result of overconfidence. And here's another example of overconfidence. I don't know if, um, what this shows is a zookeeper, um, who as the result of overconfidence falls into the bears, um, enclosure. So overconfidence can be fatal. And indeed Plato, um, in his dialogue, the laws condemns what he calls, and I quote, fearlessness and confidence, that is too great, ill timed and toward things one must not do, right? So Plato, um, shares Socrates concern with the kind of overconfidence that can lead us astray. But what's important is that this kind of overconfidence in the presence of uncertainty is just one of the many cognitive biases that experts and laypeople actually share. So, um, cognitive psychologists have cataloged these biases. They're very well known. So besides overconfidence, there's confirmation bias, right? Where the, you can see in this slide, the facts and your prior beliefs intersect to determine what you see. We tend to overvalue evidence that will prove what we already are inclined to think, right? And so one author has summarized a whole host of other biases. And here I'm going to give an extended quote, um, from an article In climatic Change, we, we violate basic rules of probability and do not update our beliefs. We underestimate uncertainty. That's the overconfidence bias. We engage in wishful thinking, we make different decisions, de depending on the way data are presented, that's framing. And when we're exposed to irrelevant information that's anchoring, okay? And there's a whole host of other biases that's the end of that quotation. Um, uh, but what's important is, again, that this same author writes, and I quote, scientists and professionals, not only ordinary people suffer from many of these judgmental biases. Now, this might actually lead us to despair. It's not just that it, we can't get it right, but experts can't get it right either. But there's a silver lining to this analysis. Nobody's perfect, right? We're all human. But part of the point of the scientific method is to try to help scientists to minimize these weaknesses, right? So the point of the scientific method is that it makes us go back and check. We try to check whether we're being led astray by our prior assumptions, for example, by our overconfidence, by our confirmation bias. And so actually, sometimes scientists are more likely to get it right, precisely because they engage in this kind of learning process. Um, uh, even though it's still not perfect, they may still sometimes get it wrong. And so the good news is not just that the scientists might then do better, it's that we too, as ordinary people could also find ways to engage in a learning process, right? We also can do some work to try to guard against these cognitive vices and cultivate some better epistemic habits, some better mental habits, right? After all, we're all inquirers scientists and, and non-scientists alike. So we can all become better and inquirers more self-aware. So that then leads me to my final, um, discussion in the latter part now of the second half of the talk, which is to draw an Aristotle to think about, well, if we are able to get better at this, how can we as democratic publics make decisions that take the findings of science into account? How are the claims of experts then once we've scrutinized and checked them relevant to politics? So here I want to recall a quotation that I shared in my fourth Gresham lecture, which was on ancient and modern democracy. Uh, so this is Aristotle, and this is the quotation. So this is, um, found in the acid's history. Um, this is, um, a Ahan Aus who was a democratic leader in ancient Syracuse. And he asserted the best judges of what they hear are the many meaning, the Democratic many, right? So the many can be good judges of what we hear. And I think that thought remains the key to a basic paradigm about the place of expertise and democracy. Experts give advice. We can say the experts propose. They can propose means the many, the people judge and decide, and especially we judge the ends to which the means can lead. So Aristotle developed this basic paradigm in some powerful passages in his work, in the politics, as well as the rhetoric, right? So he emphasized, well, what's the role of the judge? Why is that important in politics? And by what he means by a judge Here, it's important. It's not just a judge in a court of law. It's a judge in any context where you're making decisions about what you should do. So e by when we talk about judges here, that's also in a, in a political assembly and a council as well as in the law courts, right? And Aristotle, in the rhetoric rights, we may say that anyone is your judge whom you have to persuade, okay? So the redder, the the orators, again, are trying to persuade the democratic public who will then judge. So that then leads Aristotle to ask, okay, then who is the better judge? An expert maker or a non-expert user? And this is a long quotation, so let me help to guide you through it. It's a very famous passage of the politics. So Aristotle writes, there are some crafts in which the maker might not be either the only or the best judge. And these are the ones where those who do not possess the craft, nevertheless have knowledge of its products. For example, the maker of a house. So the builder or the architect is not the only one who has some knowledge about it. The one who uses it, the house owner or renter is an even better judge, right? A captain judges a rudder better than a carpenter and a guest rather than a cook. The feast, okay? So here I've given just some images for that, right? So these are the homeowners or renters with the, uh, builder, right? And, um, the captain with the carpenter making their rudder, right? And here we have the guests, um, and the chef, um, judging the feast, right? So what's interesting about this is this is yet another way in which ordinary people can have a kind of expertise. And of course, the colloquial way of thinking about this is, you know, it's knowing where the shoe pinches, right? So the person who's wearing the shoe is sometimes a better judge actually than the shoemaker. That's the same fundamental idea. It's because we're using some of these crafts that we're able to judge. So again, we don't need to be the experts, but there are ways in which we can judge the products that experts make. So that is the kind of Aristotelian idea that again, points us towards the means and distinction, right? The carpenter produces the rudder, but it's only a means to the pilot's art and the pilot's art is a means to the people's decision of the ship, of state, of deciding where to go. So what the people decide is the fundamental direction. It's this choice of guideposts, right? And the experts advise on how to get there. That's basically the ends means to distinction. Now, as I said earlier, I do think that distinction is important, and I think it's basically the right framework. Um, and part of the reason for that is that actually, um, people who are masters of means in one area won't always know how to assess the means in another. So this is the problem that I alluded to during the pandemic, for example, where public health experts were experts on one domain of the question, but there were other domains such as education that also needed experts to weigh in. And there's a very interesting reflection from the former director of the National Institutes of Health during the pandemic in the United States. Francis Collins, who in a more recent, um, panel discussion came to acknowledge this, and this is a very interesting self-aware reflection by Collins. So he says, if you're a public health person, you have this very narrow view of what the right decision is, and that is something that will save a life. It doesn't matter what else happens. So you attach infinite value to stopping the disease and saving a life. And what he was suggesting there is that that was one crucial set of values, but there were other questions that needed other experts to weigh in. And so that's why the ends had to be determined by political experts, um, rather than only by, by scientists in any domain. And so, here's a graphic that I made with a former student, Cameron Langford, um, of this men's means ends relationship. So at the top part of the graphic, and we, we don't need to go through all of this, but basically what you see is that in the top most left, um, area, we see the citizens deliberating about the values that they find most important, right? Then they tell the scientists, okay, these are the questions we wanna ask answered. Tell us how to get to the destination that we've chosen, right? And then the scientists tell the citizens how to get there. Okay? So the top part is basically that, um, ends to means decision framework. But the bottom arrow, right? As you can see, the bottom arrow takes us back in the other direction. And this is the point that I wanted to make about ends and means not being wholly separable. Okay? And that's because often when we think about the end that we might want to pursue, we do need to know something about the means in order to even decide what end do we think is the best one to choose, right? Again, remember those examples I gave about steering the ship? We might think that's a great destination without knowing that if we aim for that destination, we're more likely to end up a ground on rocks. And so ends and means have to be tested against one another in an iterative and interactive learning process, right? Citizens learn more by being in dialogue with experts about possible means. And scientists might also be able to refine the questions that they're asking by better understanding the relationship between those ends. And those means we need to get a sense of what's feasible or risky, right? What kinds of reasonable ends we might pursue. Okay? So finally then, how can we get better at doing this? So I've been suggesting ways we can as individuals develop better cognitive habits, right? We can develop that nose by observing who's a hedgehog, who's a fox. Those we can, we can reflect on the kinds of means that scientists give. We can test expert claims and, and not be cowed into undo credulousness, right? And there are some institutions that might also help us to do that better. So for example, the political scientist, James Fishkin, has advocated deliberative polls. Now, again, some of you may remember that in my last Gresham lecture I talked about citizens juries, right? So citizens juries evaluate policy proposals where it is, whereas deliberative polls discuss expert claims. So you can get citizens together, expose them to balanced information, ask them to reflect on the judgments that experts have made, and then they can make that better informed judgment of which expert decisions should feed into policy formation. And some have suggested that we should even require people to participate in these deliberative polls much as we're required to do jury duty in order to make us better at assessing expert claims, right? But we can also, um, experiment as citizens with becoming lay scientists in some way so we can participate in the crowdsourced formation of knowledge. Um, so Gresham's own professor of astronomy, Chris Lin taught, for example, is a co-founder of the Zoo universe, citizen science platform, right? Which enrolls people in, in collecting scientific data for studies. And so, again, it exposes you to the sorts of methods that scientists use. Um, or you can participate in the big Garden bird Watch every year. This took place in January organized by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, which is again, a form of this kind of crowdsource citizen knowledge. And again, by participating in this, we sort of practice being scientists. And that gives us, again, a better understanding. It helps to close that gulf or at least reduce the Gulf so that it's not as sharp binary, um, gulf between, uh, people and scientists. So to conclude, the key in all these domains is to foster the self-awareness and openness to self-criticism that can save us from putting our trust in false profits, but also save us from the corrosive skepticism that would threaten the use of expertise all together. Or as two scholars of Plato's Socrates have put it a true expert, and this is their words, reporting, Socrates, um, is always seeking the truth and wants to be free from error and makes caring for common goods the priority in practicing her expertise. Thank you very much. Thank, Thank you, Melissa, for as usual, wonderful and brilliant exposition. Uh, it's, it strikes me, I suppose I would end up naturally in the position of an expert.'cause I know an awful lot about. Not very much. And if you, you a hedgehog Yeah, the hedgehog, yeah. But if you, um, try and rationalize that relationship with the public, I think it only works if I tell the truth. And it only works the f the most difficult person to tell the truth to is yourself. Yes. And then to the next person you're talking to, and then to the, to the wider public.'cause without truth, there's trust. And we are living now in an era where each of those things is quite difficult to define. And, uh, you sort of alluded to it in the time of Socrates and Aristotle that they were similar problems, but is, is it more extreme or more dangerous now than it was more difficult to identify that? Or are people less comfortable in telling the truth, which allows the public whatever they are to make a decision based on that information? Yeah. Thank you Martin. I think that truth and honesty are the first virtues of science. Um, and they're the first virtues of public communication also. And in fact, this is something that I'm going to be arguing in my final lecture on 13 June, looking at climate change communication and what are the duties of the expert scientists who are involved in that, particularly, that's going to be one dimension, um, of the final lecture, which you can see, um, there. Um, in terms of the question of whether things were as difficult in ancient Greece as today, um, you know, I think it's always tempting to think that we live in the most perilous and difficult time. And, you know, we can see that there are certain step changes in the existence of the internet and, um, uh, deep, you know, machine learning and so on, artificial intelligence that are do pose in some ways new dangers. But I think it is always helpful to remember that there have always been sort of new forms of cutting edge learning that are difficult for other people, ordinary people to assess. So in the time of the Greeks, I was talking about the, the generals and, and the philosophers. But for example, where there were the experts who had memorized Homer and were able to perform Homer, and that gave them a kind of amazing cultural authority that was very difficult for other people to challenge, challenge. So today probably nobody could memorize all of Homer, right? We would find that almost impossible. So we'd become sort of less expert in a funny way in that domain. So, and you know, of course writing, which had really only been introduced, you know, um, within kind of, um, the, the, the, you know, sort of the Greeks, it wasn't quite living memory, but they were very aware that writing was a relatively new technology that of course they had adapted, um, from the Phoenician and from the Near East. And it, and they were aware that there had been a time before writing. And so actually for Plato, one of the main threats that Plato and Socrates are thinking about is, you know, what is the threat that writing poses to memory, um, for example. And that's not so dissimilar from the, some of the threats that we see, um, computer, um, uh, technology as posing. So, you know, I think, I think there are differences, but I think still we can gain perspective, um, from the comparison. So If I, I'm gonna put myself in the position. Yeah. Inverted commas the public. Yeah. Um, I sat as a member of a, a jury in a people's tribunal looking at forced organ harvesting in China. So I knew nothing about it really, but I was receiving evidence from other sources, which I then had to make a judgment about. Two things were very relevant in the way that I was able to undertake that role. One was time, so I was able to give a con or chose to give a considerable amount of time to it. And the second was data. So if we, if in our modern world, yeah, if you are asking the public in commas, again to make decisions about important democratic principles, and especially if you are trying to do it through the situations you described as putting them aside to think about it time and the understanding of how data is managed must be critical. Yeah. And you sort of implied that that was still the case in in yeah. In the ancient era. How would you apply that principle now? Yeah. Well, so I think it's interesting. Of course now we have, you know, immense amounts of data, but we feel that we have much less time, um, precisely because of so much data, therefore our attention is actually challenged. And so I, I would agree with those scholars who have emphasized that it's really attention, which is the crucial variable and how we cultivate the right kinds of attention. But again, that I think picks up on the hedges and foxes, you know, hedge odds and foxes we're able to, you know, pay attention to certain features of their different cognitive styles. And again, I think that's exactly what the Greeks were concerned with, with writing. They were concerned that, that if we proliferate writing, we may not be able to pay attention to really what matters. So in that sense, I think the structural similarity was actually, um, you know, is, is actually recognizable again. Um, it's that variable of attention, which really, um, uh, is the, the crucial connection between time and data. What do you think the role of essis, which as I understand it, is the acquisition of wisdom, um, in developing expertises? How, how would you place that in the context of importance here? Yes, thank you. Um, so, so in Aristotle's terms, um, ESIS is practical wisdom or practical expertise. So he would distinguish between what we might call natural scientific knowledge. Um, so let's call that natural scientific knowledge. And then the kind of expertise, which is what enables you and he would say naturally translates into you doing the thing correctly. So it's practical when you have to make a decision about something that you could do one way or you could do in a different way. Or the thing could be one way, or it could be in a different way, as opposed to the truths of logic and mathematics that are for Aristotle v the kind of paradigm cases of, um, scientific understanding in, in that sort of natural sciences sense. Um, and so one of the things that, that question sort of invites one to talk about is the idea, and this is a nice point 'cause I didn't make this point, that esis in that sense, that kind of expertise always also requires experience and practice, right? So this is another way that you might be able to look at experts and kind of get a sense of whether they know what they're talking about. There will be a lot of domains of expertise where you can, you know, the track record question, you can say, well, you know, how did you learn to do that? Where have you practiced it? You know, how did it go when you practiced it? So that that dimension of practice sort of mimicry, um, apprenticeship that whole domain, you know, can be important to, to gaining a number of different domains of expertise. Um, we just seen today or yesterday, the closure of one of our daily newspapers. And this question really leads on to, um, the importance of scrutiny. How should citizens or how could citizens scrutinize experts in a political system that operates through represented democracy as the media fades away in importance? And we are, we are seeing, seeing news, particularly news delivered to us because we're already interested in that topic rather than seeing Yeah. Proper criticism. Yeah, I mean, so this is a very, um, important question, and this is where I started to just throw out some ideas at the end of the lecture about, you know, are there new kinds of institutions that we could cultivate? So I think it's the questioner is right to suggest, you know, for a long time the answer in effect to how can citizens scrutinize, certainly politics and the scientists who are part of a political process was, you know, well the journalists in a way will do it for us. You know, they'll do a lot of the legwork for us. So in some sense, it was another kind of expert who was able to do that. And, you know, that's still, that's still significant, but because it's vulnerable and under threat, we have to look at, you know, are there ways that citizens themselves or other ways that we can develop those kinds of capacities? And, you know, again, I was talking at the end about citizen scientists in a way helping to crowdsource scientific data. But again, we could have citizen cooperatives who, you know, sort through all the data about a, a, a particular expert's performance and raise red flags and the kinds of ways that journalists once did. So it may be that, again, we have the data, what we need is the, the time the organization, the attention, the sort of forms of collective engagement to actually engage with it. And it is very striking that one of the kind of known ways that you can, um, sort of stymie accountability is just to do data dumping. So it's a kind of paradox, right? You say, look, we're giving you all this data here, we're being so transparent, and then you dump all the data and people are so overwhelmed by it that actually that makes the people who dump the data less accountable rather than more. So I think it's absolutely right that what we really need to do is focus on this, this issue of attention selection, you know, and then leading to scrutiny and accountability. Do you think that groups of experts advance their own group's self-interest, either historically or in the present day to the detriment of wider society? And I, you know, having been part of a group like that where you're trying to exert influence, it's actually quite easy to use the tools of expertise to push people in another direction. Absolutely. So this is a great question. It's again, actually something I'm going to address directly in my final lecture, but I think that's a very real danger, you know, so there, um, one of the, um, founding fathers in the United States, um, said, oh, experts, you know, have no interest of their own, their interest is just the interest of the common good. And I think, again, that's too credulous, right? We, we know that, that it's absolutely right that people can cultivate or be led to develop a kind of in-group mentality. They can try to defend, you know, their turf as it were. Um, they can just, through their specialized training, just inadvertently kind of, you know, come to emphasize some factors and not others. So I think that is a very real danger. Again, that's why I wanted to emphasize throughout this lecture that we shouldn't allow there to be this kind of stark opposition between experts and everybody else. We have to try to break down that walls, but it's very real possibility and, and reality that sometimes people throw up those walls and then you need to work harder, um, to, to, um, to dismantle them. Uh, well, you welcome, um, the question on a previous occasion from me about Egypt in connection with Aon, AMEA and omi and the more traditional forms of wisdom. But the question about wisdom prompts me to ask about a completely different scenario where, um, the wisdom of Egypt, um, uh, with animal gods and local gods and la lady gods are sort of pluralistic wisdom, um, but a traditionalist, um, ideal rather than an obsessing about democracy. I mean, after all, the Egyptians did last for 3000 years more than any other civilization, including the Chinese and the, and the in practice, the Greeks were very unsuccessful indeed, um, in terms of killing each other and, and so on. If it weren't for the Romans, uh, I don't think Greek culture would've survived. Yeah, tha thank you very much. It's, it's absolutely, and, and I may have said on the previous occasion also, I think many of the Greeks, you know, including in Plato's own writings, really recognized that longevity of Egyptian sit, um, civilization. They recognized that there was, you know, expertise that they had developed in terms of how to manage the Nile and so sort of cultivate agriculture that enabled them to have a very large population. They recognized Egyptian writing and actually Egyptian medical practice, um, is something that Plato talks about, um, very directly. So, you know, I absolutely take that point. I think the other thing that is interesting to comment on is that, you know, what about religious wisdom, as it were, right? So this is the wisdom of priests, um, who ha who, you know, claim to have a special kind of channel and antiquity to the divine. And that was something common to, um, ancient Egypt and to, um, ancient Greek, um, cultures as well. And that's another kind of example of, of expertise that again, Plato and Socrates would say, but we should test that, right? We shouldn't just sort of bow down before it. So I, you know, I take your point. I think there are many ways in which, um, you know, ancient Egypt gives us, gives us a lot to think about. Um, in these, in these respects, All you've just talked about is that, is the balance in a way between belief and science.'cause to me, science means is, is this replicable? If it can be done twice, it probably true. If it can be done three times, it's more likely to be true than before. Yeah. But if you can't replicate it, it doesn't really exist. So the problem of belief versus science in the context you described is quite important because what, um, a good rhetorician might do is persuade rather than actually tell the truth. Yes. I mean, this is, so, this answer I think opens two large a set of questions for us to be able to discuss. Now, at the end of the lecture, I mean, some sociologists of religion would say, you know, for many religious believers, many experiences that come with religion are replicable. The feeling of community, the sense of hope. So I don't think we wanna make a kind of, you know, um, discrediting analysis of religious belief compared to scientific belief. But the que the question of rep replicability, as I said, sort of testability replicability. I think that is central, um, to the modern, um, scientific method. Melissa, thank you very much for yet another brilliant lecture, and we look forward to your last one of this year on the 13th of June. Ladies and gentlemen, professor Melissa here, thank.