|Summary||Perhaps most of what we take ourselves to know about the world and its history comes from testimony we have received. The epistemology of testimony is concerned with questions regarding the nature and normativity of testimonial belief and knowledge. The literature on testimony is large and growing, and identifiable subdivisions have begun to appear. In the late 1980s and early 1990s the central question concerned the nature of justification from testimony. Reductionists (or “reductivists”) about testimonial justification, following Locke and Hume, argued that an individual’s justification from testimony reduces to other kinds of justification, such as justification from that individual’s own sensory perception, memory, and inference. The anti-reductionist (or “non-reductivist”), often citing Thomas Reid as inspiration, argued that justification from testimony does not reduce to justification from other sources. However, not all in the reductionist camp agree about what justification from testimony reduces to, and not all in the anti-reductionist camp agree about the nature of the justification from testimony. Other questions addressed in recent epistemology of testimony literature include: Under what conditions are testimonial beliefs justified or epistemically warranted? Is testimony a transmissive source of knowledge or justification, or a generative source? Are there unique epistemic norms governing testimony? Are there unique speech acts within the category of ‘testimony’ that bring with them unique epistemic entitlements? Does testimonial belief enjoy a kind of default justification? Can groups be testifiers, and if so, are the epistemic norms governing the production and reception of group testimony the same or different from those governing testimony from individuals?|
Historical antecedents to the contemporary literature include Locke’s Essay Concerning Human Understanding, Hume’s On Miracles, and Reid’s An Inquiry into the Human Mind and Essays on the Intellectual Powers of Man. Significant contemporary works include: C. A. J. Coady’s Testimony: A Philosophical Study (Coady 1992), Tyler Burge’s “Content Preservation” (Burge 1993) and “Interlocution, Perception, and Memory” (Burge 1997), Elizabeth Fricker’s “Against Gullibility” (Fricker 1994) and “Second-Hand Knowledge” (Fricker 2006), Jennifer Lackey’s Learning from Words (Lackey 2008), and Sanford Goldberg’s Relying on Others (Goldberg 2010). For an overview, John Greco’s “Recent Work on Testimonial Knowledge” (Greco 2012) is a good place to start.
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David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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