What is authority delegation? How should it be defined?
It has long been recognized that division of epistemic labour is an essential feature of scientific communities. Biologists defer to physicists on matters of physics. Astronomers defer to sociologists on matters of sociology. The concept of authority delegation is an attempt to capture the nature of such relationships among scientific communities and subcommunities that hold authority over different elements of a scientific mosaic.
In the scientonomic context, this term was first used by Nicholas Overgaard and Mirka Loiselle in 2016. The term is currently accepted by Scientonomy community.
In Scientonomy, the accepted definition of the term is:
- Epistemic agent A is said to be delegating authority over question x to epistemic agent B iff (1) agent A accepts that agent B is an expert on question x and (2) agent A will accept a theory answering question x if agent B says so.
It can be argued that authority delegation with regard to knowledge has been an essential feature of human society since time immemorial. Treating Homo sapiens as an epistemic community, Bernard Williams postulates that in early human societies, the division of epistemic labour was essential to survival: some knew best how to find berries; others were expert at tracking the movements of dangerous predators.1 Aristotle recognized that if you wish to learn about the nature of bees, you’ll do better to ask an apiarist than to talk with your barber.2
In recent decades, social epistemologists and sociologists of scientific knowledge have observed that most of what we know derives from the testimony of trusted others.345 Ludwik Fleck was one of the first to apply such ideas specifically in a scientific context. In his concepts of Denkkollectiv and Denkstil, he emphasized the fact that most individual knowledge derives from, and is embedded in, social sources.3 Thomas Kuhn also recognized the central importance of testimony in the education and training of scientists – of their induction into a disciplinary matrix. His central notions of paradigm and disciplinary matrix depend heavily on sources of authoritative testimony such as textbooks, journals, oral presentations at conferences, and informal information sharing networks. Similarly, Philip Kitcher used the concept of deference to authority.6
Such notions have been applied in a variety of contexts. Steven Shapin, for example, argued that only gentlemen were accorded epistemic authority within the Royal Society of 18th century England.7 From a highly individual pursuit in the 18th century, many areas of science evolved by the 20th century into massive and complex projects conducted by large groups – so-called big science. In this context, John Hardwig proposed that science is fundamentally a group effort. Citing a single scientific paper on the lifespan of subatomic particles, with 99 authors (in the Physics Review Letters in 1983), Hardwig argued that within such a group, trust in authoritative testimony is essential to the creation of scientific knowledge.8 In contrast, Theodore Porter analyzed peer evaluation of work emanating from the one-of-a-kind neutrino observatory in Sudbury, concluding that assessment of character and integrity were essential to authority delegation in this instance.9 Unbeknownst to Porter, this work would later be so highly valued as to gain a share of the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physics.
|Community||Accepted From||Acceptance Indicators||Still Accepted||Accepted Until||Rejection Indicators|
|Scientonomy||7 September 2016||The publication of the article by Overgaard and Loiselle titled Authority Delegation is a good indication of acceptance of the question.Overgaard and Loiselle (2016)||Yes|
|Authority Delegation (Overgaard-Loiselle-2016)||Community A is said to be delegating authority over topic x to community B iff (1) community A accepts that community B is an expert on topic x and (2) community A will accept a theory on topic x if community B says so.||2016|
|Authority Delegation (Patton-2019)||Epistemic agent A is said to be delegating authority over question x to epistemic agent B iff (1) agent A accepts that agent B is an expert on question x and (2) agent A will accept a theory answering question x if agent B says so.||2019|
|Community||Theory||Accepted From||Accepted Until|
|Scientonomy||Authority Delegation (Overgaard-Loiselle-2016)||1 February 2017||6 February 2023|
|Scientonomy||Authority Delegation (Patton-2019)||6 February 2023|
|Modification||Community||Date Suggested||Summary||Verdict||Verdict Rationale||Date Assessed|
|Sciento-2016-0003||Scientonomy||7 September 2016||Accept the notion of authority delegation.||Accepted||There was a community consensus that the concept of authority delegation is a significant contribution to scientonomy, as it "sheds light on the mechanism by which the more local, specialized mosaics of epistemic/scientific sub-communities gives rise to the more global scientific mosaic (of *the* Scientific Community), and all in terms of theories and methods".c1 It was also noted that the concept "has already been tacitly accepted by our community"c2 as it has been incorporated in some recent scientonomic research. One further suggestion was to continue refining the concept of authority delegation by focusing on cases "where the delegating community applies its own additional criteria before accepting what the experts tell them".c3||1 February 2017|
|Sciento-2019-0017||Scientonomy||26 December 2019||Accept the definitions of authority delegation, and its subtypes, that generalize the currently accepted definitions to apply to all epistemic agents, rather than only communities.||Accepted||The commentators found the modification uncontroversial.c1 c2 It was noted that the modification "merely attempts to capture what is already de facto accepted - namely, the idea that authority can be delegated by and to epistemic agents of all kinds (both communal and individual)" as indicated by the "fact that the canonical examples of authority delegation often involve individual experts (see, for example, Loiselle 2017)".c3 It was agreed that the modification "introduces a necessary rewording in the definitions of authority delegation and its species".c4||6 February 2023|
In Scientonomy, the accepted definition of the term is Authority Delegation (Patton-2019).
Authority Delegation (Patton-2019) states: "Epistemic agent A is said to be delegating authority over question x to epistemic agent B iff (1) agent A accepts that agent B is an expert on question x and (2) agent A will accept a theory answering question x if agent B says so."
The definition tweaks the original definition of the term by Overgaard and Loiselle to ensure that the relationship of authority delegation can obtain between epistemic agents of all types. It also substitutes question for topic, as the former is the proper scientonomic term that should be used.
In Scientonomy, there are currently no accepted claims concerning the existence of Authority Delegation.
In Scientonomy, no classes are currently accepted as disjoint with Authority Delegation.
In Scientonomy, there are currently no accepted subtypes of Authority Delegation.
In Scientonomy, there are currently no accepted supertypes of Authority Delegation.
In Scientonomy, there are currently no accepted associations of Authority Delegation.
If a question concerning the ontology of authority delegation is missing, please add it here.
If a question concerning the dynamics of authority delegation is missing, please add it here.
- ^ Williams, Bernard. (2002) Truth and Truthfulness: An Essay in Genealogy. Princeton University Press.
- ^ Barseghyan, Hakob. (2015) The Laws of Scientific Change. Springer.
- a b Bird, Alexander. (2000) Thomas Kuhn. Princeton University Press.
- ^ Coady, Cecil. (1994) Testimony, Observation and "Autonomous Knowledge". In Matilal and Charkrabarti (Eds.) (1994).
- ^ Lipton, Peter. (1998) The Epistemology of Testimony. Studies in the History and Philosophy of Science 29 (1), 1-31.
- ^ Kitcher, Phillip. (1993) The Advancement of Science: Science without Legend, Objectivity without Illusions. Oxford University Press.
- ^ Shapin, Steven. (1994) A Social History of Truth: Civility and Science in Seventeenth-Century England. University of Chicago Press.
- ^ Hardwig, John. (1985) Epistemic Dependence. The Journal of Philosophy 82 (7), 335-349.
- ^ Porter, Theodore. (1995) Trust in Numbers: The pursuit of objectivity in science and public life. Princeton University Press.