The role image of experts and specialists - Researching modern scientific philosophical understanding

Vienna/Innsbruck (FWF) - The ever greater complexity of the world we live in, coupled with the enormous inflation of the body of knowledge and experience at our disposal have had the effect that politicians, judges, administrative officials and other decision makers only rarely have the specialised knowledge they require for specific cases. They must therefore rely on the advice of experts. Anton Hütter and Josef Perger from the Institute of Philosophy at the University of Innsbruck, supported by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF), are researching the role of science and its interplay with jurisdiction, administration, politics and business. The objective of this research is the formulation of suggestions for a more efficient use of the knowledge provided by science based on an analysis of this interplay.

The scientific fundamentals have changed greatly since the role of the expert was anchored in law. The notion that putting a question to the test of the knowledge of a discipline will throw up only one and the same answer is no longer credible. Reverting to "pure knowledge" shows itself to be impossible in particular in decision processes relevant to the environment; here every informational statement is subject to discretion. An expert, as the term is still generally understood, however, is an authority possessing certain knowledge. "One of the objectives of the project is to develop a model that cuts back the old claims of the expert as the guarantor of knowledge, while extending his obligations", Hütter explained.

The solution: mediation procedures
From a modern scientific-philosophical perspective, the role of the expert can only be that of someone who brings his specialist knowledge into a decision making process, but not of someone who through his knowledge is fundamentally making the decisions. Hütter: "Even where in purely formal terms the expert is an assistant to the court, it is often the case that the expert opinion is the true seat of judgement; it is in this context that the expert is often referred to as a judge without robes". In highly complex questions mediation offers itself as an amending supplement to the legal procedure that is significantly more open in formal cases. Hütter: "We are placing our confidence in mediation - a form of conflict solution in which the expert has more opportunity to actively participate in the solution of the conflict." Hütter and Perger are planning to establish mediation as a model for solving conflicts in complex procedures. A first success has already been achieved: mediation was adopted for the first time as a regulating instrument in an Austrian legislative text, the Environmental Impact Assessment Act 2000.


Dr. Anton Hütter
Institute of Philosophy, University of Innsbruck
T +43 5242-72498

Issued by:
CLOOS+PARTNER, Public Relations Agency
T +43 1 710 85 99

Vienna, 14 June 2002