Learning From Words: Testimony as a Source of Knowledge

Oxford University Press (2008)
Abstract
Testimony is an invaluable source of knowledge. We rely on the reports of those around us for everything from the ingredients in our food and medicine to the identity of our family members. Recent years have seen an explosion of interest in the epistemology of testimony. Despite the multitude of views offered, a single thesis is nearly universally accepted: testimonial knowledge is acquired through the process of transmission from speaker to hearer. In this book, Jennifer Lackey shows that this thesis is false and, hence, that the literature on testimony has been shaped at its core by a view that is fundamentally misguided. She then defends a detailed alternative to this conception of testimony: whereas the views currently dominant focus on the epistemic status of what speakers believe, Lackey advances a theory that instead centers on what speakers say. The upshot is that, strictly speaking, we do not learn from one another's beliefs - we learn from one another's words. Once this shift in focus is in place, Lackey goes on to argue that, though positive reasons are necessary for testimonial knowledge, testimony itself is an irreducible epistemic source. This leads to the development of a theory that gives proper credence to testimony's epistemologically dual nature: both the speaker and the hearer must make a positive epistemic contribution to testimonial knowledge. The resulting view not only reveals that testimony has the capacity to generate knowledge, but it also gives appropriate weight to our nature as both socially indebted and individually rational creatures. The approach found in this book will, then, represent a radical departure from the views currently dominating the epistemology of testimony, and thus is intended to reshape our understanding of the deep and ubiquitous reliance we have on the testimony of those around us
Keywords Social epistemology
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Call number BD175.L33 2008
ISBN(s) 0199219168   9780199575619   9780199219162
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Citations of this work BETA
Paulina Sliwa (2012). In Defense of Moral Testimony. Philosophical Studies 158 (2):175-195.
Jason Kawall (2010). The Epistemic Demands of Environmental Virtue. Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 23 (1-2):109-28.
Jennifer Lackey (2009). Knowledge and Credit. Philosophical Studies 142 (1):27 - 42.

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Robert Hopkins (2007). What is Wrong with Moral Testimony? Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 74 (3):611-634.
Jennifer Lackey (2010). Testimony: Acquiring Knowledge From Others. In Alvin I. Goldman & Dennis Whitcomb (eds.), Social Epistemology: Essential Readings. Oxford University Press.
Axel Gelfert (2006). Kant on Testimony. British Journal for the History of Philosophy 14 (4):627 – 652.
Jennifer Lackey (2006). The Nature of Testimony. Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 87 (2):177–197.
Jennifer Lackey (2006). Learning From Words. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 73 (1):77–101.
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