Box 59, Item 1: Draft of Elaboration of 'Nuclear energy and obligations to the future': a note on expertise and methodology


Box 59, Item 1: Draft of Elaboration of 'Nuclear energy and obligations to the future': a note on expertise and methodology


Typescript of draft, with handwritten emendations, undated.


Unnumbered paper from collection, item number assigned by library staff.


The University of Queensland's Richard Sylvan Papers UQFL291, Box 59, Item 1


This item was identified for digitisation at the request of The University of Queensland's 2020 Fryer Library Fellow, Dr. N.A.J. Taylor.


For all enquiries about this work, please contact the Fryer Library, The University of Queensland Library.


[2] leaves. 1.56 MB.




n/a - location unidentified in manuscript finding aid


Elaboration of *Nuclear energy and obligations to the future*:
A note on expertise and methodology.
Some people may ask why philosophers, who know nothing about
nuclear physics, should be dealing with this area, which surely

should be left to the province of the real experts in the area,

nuclear physicists and those with direct experience and authority
in the area of nuclear power.

One of the most irritating things in this area for a

philosopher is the sight of such people constantly presented, by
themselves and others, as experts and authorities whose pronounce­

ments on the issue should be accepted without question by laymen
(see e.g. articles [15] and [16]), when in fact the issues involve
quite crucially issues of and assumptions about values and morality^

matters concerning which the so-called ’’authorities" and "experts"
commonly know less than the average first year student in philosophy.
Value issues and moral issues and issues of social and political

theory are probably more crucially concerned in the nuclear issues

than are issues of fact concerning nuclear power, and certainly
they are just as important.

Few philosophers nowadays would want to claim to be "experts"
or "authorities" on matters of value or morality in the way nuclear
experts claim to be authorities on matters of nuclear power, who

can tell people what to do in way which is authoritative or
which must be uncritically accepted by the non-experts/non ­


Rejection of the argument from authority is basic

in proper philosophical method, going back to Plato and beyond,
and forming a basic position without which the subject, as critical

inquiry into basic assumptions, could not operate as it does and

traditionally has.

Indeed rejection of the argument from

authority is one feature which distinguishes philosophy proper
from closely related areas such as theology, casuistry, some


areas of legal thought and various types of apology.

But a form

/of the argument from authority*—the claim to entitlement to have

one’s word or views accepted, not on the basis of what one says
and how sound it is,!^ but of who one is - appears however to be

an important element in the modern cult of the ''scientific expert"

which has played such a large part in the contempory Australian
discussion of the neclear issue.

While most philosophers would

reject the view that they were "experts" in this sense on values
or moral issues, philosophers can fairly lay claim to a number of
special skills which enable them to bring out explicit assumptions

about values or morality, and expose defects in arguments.


philosophers also have moral view’s, that is, they believe some
things to be morally acceptable and others morally unacceptable,

although some might prefer to express similar attitudes without
use of explicit moral terminology.

In writing this paper then we don’t hope to be accepted as
’authorities’ or ’experts’ on moral questions, but only to have
skills which may throw light on some areas.

We have tried to

bring out value and moral assumptions, expose logical defects and
inconsistencies in the structure of some of the arguments and in

certain sorts of argumentsconcerning the future, and to argue that

if one accepts a certain moral judgment (which we accept and which

we believe would be widely agreed on*), one should, if one is
going to be consistent, non-arbitrary, and follow through one’s

principles, accept a certain other one.

This seems to us a propei

area for philosophical work.
The non-philosophical or background factual assumptions which

are essential for discussing the issue are not large, and are in
substance only those of the Fox Report (p.110, in particular)•

* We are sure that philosophers can be found who will disagree wit!
virtually every statement we make.



Val Routley and Richard Routley, “Box 59, Item 1: Draft of Elaboration of 'Nuclear energy and obligations to the future': a note on expertise and methodology,” Antipodean Antinuclearism, accessed December 10, 2023,

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