Language, objectivity, and public inquiry: a pragmatist theory of expertise


  • Roberto Gronda University of Pisa



scientific objectivity, public objectivity, scientific expertise, language, public inquiry, community of inquirers


Scientific objectivity is a highly complex notion. As a consequence of its intrinsic complexity, the notion is usually conceived of as lacking a core of essential properties. A pluralist account has thus been put forth, which acknowledges a variety of senses in which that notion can be understood. The aim of this paper is to add a further sense to the list. By shifting the attention from a peer-to-peer scenario to an expert-layperson framework, I argue for the notion of “expressive objectivity” as a key to clarifying what public objectivity is. Public objectivity is the result of a well-conducted public inquiry. Unlike the scientific inquiry, which is carried out by scientists, the public inquiry is conducted by an enlarged community of inquirers, encompassing scientific experts and citizens. Since citizens do not have any scientific training, I endorse the view that if an agreement is to be reached, it can only be reached at the linguistic level. The thesis that I develop in the article is that public objectivity can be achieved if and only if the public language in which the inquiry is conducted is rich enough to make it possible for each member of the community of inquirers to formulate their viewpoint and to express their epistemic values.