EXPERT UNCERTAINTY: ARGUMENTS BOLSTERING THE ETHOS OF EXPERTISE IN SITUATIONS OF UNCERTAINTY
Kjeldsen, J. E.*, Mølster, R. Ihlen, Ø. (Forthcoming, 2021). Expert uncertainty: Arguments bolstering the ethos of expertise in situations of uncertainty. In Oswald, S., Lewinski, M., Greco, S. & Villata, S. (Eds.), The Pandemic of Argumentation. Springer.
Uncertainty is inherent in crises like the COVID-19 pandemic, but even though this is well-recognized, research has not adequately theorized how authorities should best manage “uncertainty to help publics cope and respond appropriately” (Liu et al., 2016, p. 479). More specifically, to the best of our knowledge, no literature addresses the peculiar challenge of how to preserve a position as an expert that can issue advice on particular policies or actions in a situation where uncertainty must be acknowledged. This has been a challenge faced by many experts during the COVID-19 crisis. Thus, we ask: How do experts secure and bolster their ethos of expertise in cases where they must also acknowledge uncertainty and insufficient knowledge?
We examine argumentative ethos-strategies used by Scandinavian public health experts during the COVID-19 pandemic, by exploring how they introduce uncertainty and lack of knowledge, while simultaneously bolstering their ethos of expertise. Theoretically, we draw on the converging fields of argumentation studies. (e.g. Walton, Macagno, & Reed, 2008) and studies in expertise and experience (e.g. Goodwin, 2011; Walton, 1989b), as well as studies of rhetoric and ethos (e.g. Hartelius, 2011; McCroskey & Young, 1981).