Vol. 42 No. 2 (2022): New challenges in decision-making processes

Trust, experts, and the potential side effects of critical thinking

Francesca Pongiglione
Università Vita-Salute San Raffaele

Published 2022-12-24


  • trust in experts; epistemic vigilance; intellectual humility

How to Cite

Pongiglione, F. (2022). Trust, experts, and the potential side effects of critical thinking. Teoria. Rivista Di Filosofia, 42(2), 163–174. https://doi.org/10.4454/teoria.v42i2.163


Our epistemic duties as citizens of the global world require us to seek information to ensure that our actions do not harm others or ourselves. As we integrate that information, we should not passively accept everything we are told without thinking it through—without ensuring, at the very least, that the sources we rely on are reliable. This avoidance of excessive trust is the counsel of an epistemically vigilant attitude. However, the intention to exercise critical thinking sometimes translates into the opposite excess: distrust and suspicion improperly extended even to experts recognized as such by the scientific community and by the individuals themselves. If a passive or compliant attitude risks leading individuals into error, so does an excessively critical attitude. We need to redefine the role of experts in order to establish a relationship with them that is neither one of passive subordination nor one of distrust. It will be shown how a correct relationship with experts also passes through the exercise of a particular epistemic virtue—intellectual humility.