The Myth of ‘Just do it’: Thought and Effort in Expert Action preface

INTRODUCTION: Why a philosophy of expertise?

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INTRODUCTION: Why a philosophy of expertise?

Science, Richard Feynman once said, is the belief in the ignorance of experts. If so—though I wouldn’t put it in quite those words—then perhaps my project should be dubbed scientific, for it is my belief that a wide range of experts who have written about expertise have been mistaken. In particular, I believe that various psychologists, philosophers, neuroscientists, and other experts on high-level performance have erroneously concluded that expert action proceeds best when the mind is relatively less active, when action occurs automatically, and when bodily movements are effortless. These expertise-experts, I believe, are wrong.

If science is not the belief in the ignorance of experts, or rather, if it is not only this but also involves creating theories that are both based on the results of observation and are capable of empirical refutation, then perhaps, here too, at least part of the task I am engaged in should be seen as scientific. For although I have not recorded and analyzed my observations in the sort of systematic, quantitative way characteristic of scientific investigation, my understanding of expertise is grounded in observations of hundreds of experts with whom I have spoken with or read about and have observed in action and, as such, is capable of being proven wrong by further observational data.

However, if science requires performing controlled experiments of the sort found in much of the psychology of expertise and drawing conclusions based on their results, then this work is hardly scientific, for I have conducted no such experiments.1 Indeed, I have no lab; I have no research staff; I am, as the old joke goes, one of those great bargains for the university. But philosophical investigation is only a bargain if it provides something worthwhile, and you might be wondering, “What can a philosopher tell you about expertise?”

One answer to this question, of course, is to invite you to read the rest of the book and find out. However, for those who may need some reason to read on in the first place, let me try a different tack.

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