The Rule of Experts: Academic Freedom, Professional/Academic Ethics & Disciplinary Science

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The structure of Academia and the shortcomings of disciplinary science are discussed by critically analyzing professional and academic ethics, as depicted during the fierce controversy in Israel (2017-2018) regarding academic freedom and the academic code of ethics (which was supposed to demarcate proper academic expressions from political ones), whose draft was proposed by Prof.
Asa Kasher. This paper vindicates Kasher’s analysis (as accurate description of Academia) and criticizes it (as demonstrating the perils and shortcomings of professional ethics and disciplinary science). The article considers Kasher’s characterization a credible description of Academia and of professional ethics, and their limitations. The paper shows how attempts to distinguish valid or “pure” academic expressions from “politicized” discourse, eventually portray ‘science’
as inherently discipline-based, thus making debatable presumptions regarding Science and the way Academia should work. Such presumptions conforms the way Academia is currently structured: assigning excessive power to “experts”, which nest in semi-feudalinherently subdivided system of disciplinary science. This system is based on logically fallacious arguments such as arguments from
authority (reputation, consensus), both to impress outsiders and to undermine heretical views from within the discipline, and adhominem arguments (e.g., critics are "unqualified", if they are not considered "experts" in a given discipline). This system is inherently inhospitable to criticism, doubt or skepticism (refutation).
Professional ethics cannot overcome these shortcomings since, according to Kasher, it is "wider" than plain morality as it include also the professional part, which relies on disciplinary presumptions and values. The professional (amoral) part give experts the power to establish alleged-truths (regarding reality). Since experts have the power and authority to define Truth, they ipso-facto receive the power to establish the Good, making professional ethics a tool of disciplinary
power hierarchies and experts, inadequate to challenge established practices, even if seemingly unethical (vices) or logically unfounded (errors). This system makes technocracy and experts-technocrats nearly immune to criticism, undermining the ability of professional ethics to provide checks and balances in professional settings, and thus undermine democracy and basic human rights and freedoms. Implications include rejection of scientism, and the endorsement of
epistemological ethics, as expressed in the Hebrew notion of DAAT.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)23-62
JournalSocial Ethics Society Journal of Applied Philosophy
Issue number2
StatePublished - Oct 2019


  • academic freedom
  • Professional ethics
  • Bioethics
  • Philosophy of science
  • Academia
  • Epistemology
  • Controversies
  • technocracy
  • Ecology


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