Knowing with Experts: Contextual Knowledge in and Around Science

Gábor Kutrovátz


The original concept of epistemic dependence suggests uncritical deference to expert opinions for non-experts. In the light of recent work in science studies, however, the actual situation of epistemic dependence is seen to involve the necessary and ubiquitous need for lay evaluations of scientific experts. As expert knowledge means restricted cognitive access to some epistemic domain, lay evaluations of expert knowledge are rational and informed only when the criteria used by non-experts when judging experts are different from the criteria used by experts when making their claims. The distinction between ‘substantial knowledge’ and ‘contextual knowledge’ allows for the laypeople to know with experts without having to know precisely what experts know. Such meta-expert evaluations are not specific to the public sphere outside science, nor are they limited internally to science, but they are present in a wide range of contexts in and around science. The paper legitimizes the concept of contextual knowledge by relating it to the relevant literature, and expounds the idea by identifying some elements of such a knowledge.


epistemic dependence; expertise; public understanding of science; social epistemology; testimony

Full Text:

PDF (Čeština)

Copyright (c)

TEORIE VĚDY / THEORY OF SCIENCE – journal for interdisciplinary studies of science is published twice a year by the Institute of Philosophy of the Czech Academy of Sciences (Centre for Science, Technology, and Society Studies). ISSN 1210-0250 (Print) ISSN 1804-6347 (Online) MK ČR E 18677 web: /// email: