Why take our word for it?

Abstract
We find out a lot about the world through people telling us things. And we can (and do) come to know many of these things that people tell us, without running background checks to make sure that the tellers are reliable (in the sense that they are likely to know what they are talking about), or trustworthy (in the sense that they are likely to tell us what they know, rather than just whatever is easiest to say, or whatever would be most convenient to have us believe on that occasion). Believing what others say, as we do in testimony, seems a lot riskier than trusting our senses, for instance. Yet, we would know much less than we ordinarily take ourselves to know if we didn’t regularly form beliefs on the basis of testimony. The problem, then, is to explain how this can be, that is, how we can come to know things through people telling us, given that we don’t go to the trouble of making sure that the tellers are reliable and trustworthy.
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