Disaster Governance, Moral Experts, and Confucian Moral Philosophy

Disaster Governance, Moral Experts, and Confucian Moral Philosophy

Work in progress – Please do not cite, quote or summarise or circulate without permission.

Abstract for Workshop on Engaging Expertise in Disaster Governance at Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore.

Experts and expert knowledge have an important role in disaster preparation, response, and recovery in a world characterised by the fact of expertise. The question of who are experts (and, who are non-experts) is one of the central questions in disaster governance, as it addresses the issue of legitimacy (i.e. who can make decisions?) and ascribes responsibility (i.e. who should make decision?) before, during, and after disasters strike. Different accounts of the boundary between experts and non-experts have been offered. For example, it has been suggested that expertise is socially constructed, and thus the all boundaries in decision-making should be open for contestation (e.g. Jasanoff, Wynne); on the other hand, it is argued that expertise is grounded on objective standards (e.g. Sunstein), and thus it is the experts who have legitimacy and responsibility of decision-making. Interestingly, moral expertise is either denied or ignored in the discussion. Yet, the possibility of moral expertise will have significant implications to the decision-making in disaster governance, particularly to the questions of legitimacy and responsibility. Using Confucian moral philosophy as an example, I illustrate the need to (re)consider the question about moral expertise in disaster governance and its implications to the field.