Testimony and sincerity

Ratio 25 (1):79-92 (2012)
Is there a justified presumption that a speaker is testifying sincerely? Anti-reductionism about testimony claims that there is, absent reasons to the contrary. Yet why believe this, given the actuality and prevalence of lies and deception? I examine one argument that may be appropriated to meet this challenge, David Lewis's claim that truthfulness is a convention. I argue that it fails, and that the supposition that there is a presumption of sincerity remains unsupported. The failure of Lewis's argument is instructive, however, for it shows us a better way of approaching language use than the standard anti-reductionist treatment. As speech is an intentional action, so a presumption of the sincerity or otherwise of others' testimony must be explicable in the terms we normally use to explain action
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DOI 10.1111/j.1467-9329.2011.00517.x
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