Among contemporary epistemologists of testimony, David Hume is standardly regarded as a "global reductionist", where global reductionism requires the hearer to have sufficient first-hand knowledge of the facts in order to individually ascertain the reliability of the testimony in question. In the present paper, I argue that, by construing Hume's reductionism in too individualistic a fashion, the received view of Hume on testimony is inaccurate at best, and misleading at worst. Hume's overall position is more amenable to (...) testimonial acceptance than has traditionally been thought. In particular, Hume believes that indirect evidence of human nature and of the social world around us, can take the place of first-hand evidence of the track record of individual speakers or specific classes of testimony. In developing this interpretation of Hume's views on testimony, the present paper draws on discussions found in the Treatise, the Enquiry, and in Hume's writings on historical knowledge. (shrink)
In defense of moral testimony Content Type Journal Article Pages 1-21 DOI 10.1007/s11098-012-9887-6 Authors Paulina Sliwa, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, USA Journal Philosophical Studies Online ISSN 1573-0883 Print ISSN 0031-8116.
Nicola Mößner (2011). The Concept of Testimony. In Christoph Jäger & Winfried Löffler (eds.), Epistemology: Contexts, Values, Disagreement, Papers of the 34. International Wittgenstein Symposium. Austrian Ludwig Wittgenstein Society.score: 18.0
Many contributors of the debate about knowledge by testimony concentrate on the problem of justification. In my paper I will stress a different point – the concept of testimony itself. As a starting point I will use the definitional proposal of Jennifer Lackey. She holds that the concept of testimony should be regarded as entailing two aspects – one corresponding to the speaker, the other one to the hearer. I will adopt the assumption that we need to (...) deal with both aspects. Nevertheless, I will show that her concept – which suggests regarding testimony as an act of communication conveying information – is too broad and, therefore, I will end up with a different twofold definition. (shrink)
Most philosophers believe that testimony is not a fundamental source of knowledge, but merely a way to transmit already existing knowledge. However, Jennifer Lackey has presented some counterexamples which show that one can actually come to know something through testimony that no one ever knew before. Yet, the intuitive idea can be preserved by the weaker claim that someone in a knowledge-constituting testimonial chain has to have access to some non-testimonial source of knowledge with regard to what is (...) testified. But even this weaker claim has a counterexample which I develop in close connection with a safety-account of knowledge. Thus, testimonial statements can sometimes enable us to know something for which none of our informants has any source of knowledge available. I conclude that my counterexample nevertheless does not affect the core of our intuitions about testimony, although it establishes that testimony can indeed be a fundamental source of knowledge. (shrink)
Can one gain testimonial knowledge from unsafe testimony? It might seem not, on the grounds that if a piece of testimony is unsafe, then any belief based on it in such a way as to make the belief genuinely testimonial is bound itself to be unsafe: the lack of safety must transmit from the testimony to the testimonial belief. If in addition we accept that knowledge requires safety, the result seems to be that one cannot gain testimonial (...) knowledge from unsafe testimony. In a pair of recent papers, however, Sanford Goldberg has challenged this apparently plausible line of thought. Goldberg presents two examples intended to show that a testimonial belief can be safe, even if the testimony on which it is based is unsafe: the lack of safety need not transmit from the testimony to the testimonial belief. In this paper, I question whether Goldberg’s examples really do show that one can gain safe testimonial belief from unsafe testimony. The problem, I explain, is that both examples appear (for different reasons) to be open to objection. Nevertheless, I argue that although Goldberg’s examples do not establish his conclusion, the conclusion itself is true: one can gain safe testimonial belief from unsafe testimony. I base my argument on an example which differs in structure from Goldberg’s examples, and I argue that due to this difference, my example avoids the problems which Goldberg’s examples face. (shrink)
According to “sensitive invariantism,” the word “know” expresses the same relation in every context of use, but what it takes to stand in this relation to a proposition can vary with the subject’s circumstances. Sensitive invariantism looks like an attractive reconciliation of invariantism and contextualism. However, it is incompatible with a widely-held view about the way knowledge is transmitted through testimony. If both views were true, someone whose evidence for p fell short of what was required for knowledge in (...) her circumstances could come to know that p simply by feeding her evidence to someone in less demanding circumstances and then accepting his testimony. (shrink)
In this paper I focus on John Locke as a representative figure of English Enlightenment theorizing about the legitimacy of cognitive authority and examine the way in which a greater attention to the cultural milieu in which Locke worked can lead to a profound reexamination of his writings on cognitive authority. In particular, I suggest that an inattention to the rise of a culture of reading and the growing availability of books in Early Modern England has led historians of philosophy (...) largely to misrepresent Locke's theory of testimonial justification. At the core of my paper are two interrelated claims. First, with respect to the history of ideas, I argue that the Locke's interest in testimony as a source of justification was in fact greater than that of his Scholastic forebears, and that this fact has a simple, if as yet unacknowledged, cultural cause -- viz., the rise of the book as a mass commodity in the late 17th century. Second, with respect to the history of philosophy more particularly, I argue that this failure to acknowledge the cultural movements that led to a consideration of testimony as a topic of interest to epistemologists in the Modern era has led to a misreading of Locke's work on the subject. Indeed, Locke, though usually read as having attempted to denigrate testimony as a legitimate source of justification, in fact sought to devise an epistemology that would do justice to the centrality of testimony in the intellectual lives of growing numbers of his contemporaries in 17th and 18th century England and Scotland. (shrink)
An ad hominem fallacy is committed when an individual employs an irrelevant personal attack against an opponent instead of addressing that opponent’s argument. Many discussions of such fallacies discuss judgments of relevance about such personal attacks, and consider how we might distinguish those that are relevant from those that are not. This paper will argue that the literature on bias and testimony can helpfully contribute to that analysis. This will highlight ways in which biases, particularly unconscious biases, can make (...) ad hominem fallacies seem effective, even when the irrelevance is recognized. (shrink)
Immanuel Kant is often regarded as an exponent of the ‘individualist’ tradition in epistemology, according to which testimony is not a fundamental source of knowledge. The present paper argues that this view is far from accurate. Kant devotes ample space to discussions of testimony and, in his lectures on logic, arrives at a distinct and stable philosophical position regarding testimony. Important elements of this position consist in (a) acknowledging the ineliminability of testimony; (b) realizing that (...) class='Hi'>testimony can establish empirical knowledge with certainty; (c) establishing a presumptive principle regarding the acceptance of testimony; (d) arguing for a symmetry between knowledge based on experience and knowledge based on testimony. Rejecting testimony as a fundamental source of knowledge merely on the basis that no theoretically necessary ground for its truth can be given, would, as Kant puts it, indicate ‘a lack of moral interest’. Such ‘incredulity’ would be a form of ‘logical egoism’: it demonstrates an unwillingness or inability to think oneself in the place of others, yet this we must do if we are to trust our own judgements. While Kant strongly endorses testimony as a source of empirical knowledge, he does, however, make one important restriction: ‘Propositions of reason’ (Vernunftwahrheiten), such as universal moral principles, may not be adopted on the basis of testimony. I argue that this distinction, between testimonial knowledge of empirical matters of fact and individual knowledge of propositions of reason, is an important element of Kant’s epistemology of testimony, as it explains how his strong endorsement of testimony as a source of knowledge can be squared with his equally strong demand for intellectual autonomy. Finally, I comment on the overall implications of this account for Kant’s discussion, elsewhere in his work, of the public nature of communication. (shrink)
According to the evidential view of testimony (EVT), the epistemic value of testimony is its value as evidence. Richard Moran has argued that because testimony is deliberately produced with the intention of making audiences form a belief, its value as evidence for the attested proposition is diminished; as a result, EVT cannot explain why we regard testimony as such a significant source of knowledge. I argue that this argument against EVT fails, because there is no reason (...) to think that the deliberate nature of testimony diminishes its value as evidence. (shrink)
Most philosophers think that there is an asymmetry between relying on moral testimony and relying on non-moral testimony: the first is almost always problematic while the second is not. The most common explanation of why there is a problem with relying on moral testimony is that being a good moral agent involves acting with moral understanding, and one cannot have such understanding through moral testimony. Crucially, proponents of this view think there is no analogous problem for (...) reliance on non-moral testimony. And so we arrive at the asymmetry. -/- We argue against this by showing that, (i) just as there are many cases where relying on moral testimony to navigate the world is problematic, there are many cases where relying on non-moral testimony to navigate the world is problematic and (ii) just as there are many cases where relying on non-moral testimony in navigating the world is unproblematic, there are many cases where relying on moral testimony to navigate the moral world is unproblematic. -/- What unites problematic instances of reliance on moral testimony, we argue, is not that they involve moral knowledge, but rather that they involve normal knowledge—knowledge that properly functioning agents are expected to have independently of testimony. (shrink)
The recently much discussed phenomenon of testimony as a social source of knowledge plays a crucial justificatory role in Richard Swinburne's philosophy of religion. Although Swinburne officially reduces his principle of testimony to the criterion of simplicity and, therefore, to a derivative epistemic source, we will show that simplicity does not play the crucial role in this epistemological context. We will argue that both Swinburne's philosophical ideas and his formulations allow for a fundamental epistemic principle of testimony, (...) by showing that Swinburne has already implicitly justified the use of testimony as an epistemic source via his fundamental a priori principle of credulity. (shrink)
In this paper I argue that Tyler Burge's non-reductive view of testiomonial knowledge cannot adeqautrely discriminate between fallacious ad vericumdium appeals to expet testimony and legitimate appeals to authority.
A consensus in a scientific community is often used as a resource for making informed public-policy decisions and deciding between rival expert testimonies in legal trials. This paper contains a social-epistemic analysis of the high-profile Bendectin drug controversy, which was decided in the courtroom inter alia by deference to an emerging scientific consensus about the safety of Bendectin. Drawing on Miller’s theory of knowledge based consensus, I argue that the consensus in this case was not knowledge based, hence courts’ deference (...) to it was not epistemically justified. I draw sceptical lessons from this analysis regarding the value of scientific consensus as a desirable and reliable means of resolving scientific controversies in public life.. (shrink)
http://dx.doi.org/10.5007/1808-1711.2012v16n2p297 Os teóricos da mente têm sustentado por longo tempo que o testemunho, como fonte de crença, desempenha um papel fundamentalmente importante na cognição humana. Não está claro, contudo, exatamente por que o testemunho recebeu tal importância cognitiva. Distinguimos três sugestões sobre essa questão: a asserção do número , que considera que a importância cognitiva do testemunho é função do número de crenças que ele geralmente produz relativamente a outras fontes de crença; a afirmação de confiabilidade , que liga a (...) importância do testemunho à sua condutibilidade à verdade; e a afirmação de escopo , segundo a qual a importância do testemunho é função de seu poder representacional relativo, concebido de maneira não numérica. Depois de apresentarmos essas três sugestões, argumentamos que há pouca esperança de fundamentarmos a importância cognitiva do testemunho ou na asserção do número ou na asserção da confiabilidade. Concluímos com uma exploração provisória da base e da plausibilidade da afirmação de escopo. (shrink)
Virtually everything we know depends in some way or other on the testimony of others—what we eat, how things work, where we go, even who we are. We do not, after all, perceive firsthand the preparation of the ingredients in many of our meals, or the construction of the devices we use to get around the world, or the layout of our planet, or our own births and familial histories. These are all things we are told. Indeed, subtracting from (...) our lives the information that we possess via testimony leaves them barely recognizable. Scientific discoveries, battles won and lost, geographical developments, customs and traditions of distant lands—all of these facts would be completely lost to us. It is, therefore, no surprise that the importance of testimony, both epistemological and practical, is nearly universally accepted. Less consensus, however, is found when questions about the nature and extent of our dependence on the word of others arise. Is our justified reliance on testimony fundamentally basic, for instance, or is it ultimately reducible to perception, memory, and reason? Is trust, or some related interpersonal feature of our social interaction with one another, essential to the acquisition of beliefs that are testimonially justified? Is testimonial knowledge necessarily acquired through transmission from speaker to hearer? Can testimony generate epistemic features in its own right? These are the questions that will be taken up in this paper and, as will become clear, their answers have far-reaching consequences for how we understand our place in the social world. (shrink)
Testimony is the mainstay of human communication and essential for the spread of knowledge. But testimony may also spread error. Under what conditions does it yield knowledge in the person addressed? Must the recipient trust the attester? And does the attester have to know what is affirmed? A related question is what is required for the recipient to be justified in believing testimony. Is testimony-based justification acquired in the same way as testimony-based knowledge? This paper (...) addresses these and other questions. It offers a theory of the role of testimony in producing knowledge and justification, a sketch of a conception of knowledge that supports this theory, a brief account of how trust of others can be squared with critical habits of mind, and an outline of some important standards for intellectual responsibility in giving and receiving testimony. (shrink)
Our trust in the word of others is often dismissed as unworthy, because the illusory ideal of "autonomous knowledge" has prevailed in the debate about the nature of knowledge. Yet we are profoundly dependent on others for a vast amount of what any of us claim to know. Coady explores the nature of testimony in order to show how it might be justified as a source of knowledge, and uses the insights that he has developed to challenge certain widespread (...) assumptions in the areas of history, law, mathematics, and psychology. (shrink)
Hume's argument concerning miracles is interpreted by making approximations to terms in Bayes's theorem. This formulation is then used to analyse the impact of multiple testimony. Individual testimonies which are ‘non-miraculous’ in Hume's sense can in principle be accumulated to yield a high probability both for the occurrence of a single miracle and for the occurrence of at least one of a set of miracles. Conditions are given under which testimony for miracles may provide support for the (...) existence of God. (shrink)
I discuss several views of the nature of testimony and show how each proposal has importantly different problems. I then offer a diagnosis of the widespread disagreement regarding this topic; specifically, I argue that our concept of testimony has two different aspects to it. Inadequate views of testimony, I claim, result either from collapsing these two aspects into a single account or from a failure to recognize one of them. Finally, I develop an alternative view of (...) class='Hi'>testimony that captures both aspects of the nature of testimony and thereby provides the basis for an illuminating theory of testimony's epistemological significance. (shrink)
The thesis that aesthetic testimony cannot provide aesthetic justification or knowledge is widely accepted--even by realists about aesthetic properties and values. This Kantian position is mistaken. Some testimony about beauty and artistic value can provide a degree of aesthetic justification and, perhaps, even knowledge. That is, there are cases in which one can be justified in making an aesthetic judgment purely on the basis of someone else's testimony. But widespread aesthetic unreliability creates a problem for much aesthetic (...)testimony. Hence, most testimony about art does not have much epistemic value. The situation is somewhat different with respect to aesthetic testimony about nature, proofs, and theories. (shrink)
In his work on the epistemology of testimony, Peter Lipton developed an account of testimonial inference that aimed at descriptive adequacy as well as justificatory sophistication. According to „testimonial inference to the best explanation‟ (TIBE), we accept what a speaker tells us because the truth of her claim figures in the best explanation of the fact that she made it. In the present paper, I argue for a modification of this picture. In particular, I argue that IBE plays a (...) dual role in the management and justification of testimony. On the one hand, the coherence and success of our testimony-based projects provides general abductive support for a default stance of testimonial acceptance; on the other hand, we are justified in rejecting specific testimonial claims whenever the best explanation of the instances of testimony we encounter entails, or makes probable, the falsity or unreliability of the testimony in question. (shrink)
Two models of assertion are described and their epistemological implications considered. The assurance model draws a parallel between the ethical norms surrounding promising and the epistemic norms which facilitate the transmission of testimonial knowledge. This model is rejected in favour of the view that assertion transmits knowledge by expressing belief. I go on to compare the epistemology of testimony with the epistemology of memory.
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. (shrink)
Testimony consists in imparting information without supplying evidence or argument to back one's claims. To what extent does testimony convey epistemic warrant? C. J. A. Coady argues, on Davidsonian grounds, that (1) most testimony is true, hence (2) most testimony supplies warrant sufficient for knowledge. I appeal to Grice's maxims to undermine Coady's argument and to show that the matter is more complicated and context-sensitive than is standardly recognized. Informative exchanges take place within networks of shared, (...) tacit assumptions that affect the scope and strength of our claims, and the level of warrant required for their responsible assertion. The maxims explain why different levels of warrant are transferred in different contexts. (shrink)
Testimony is a crucial source of knowledge: we are to a large extent reliant upon what others tell us. It has been the subject of much recent interest in epistemology, and this volume collects twelve original essays on the topic by some of the world's leading philosophers. It will be the starting point for future research in this fertile field. Contributors include Robert Audi, C. A. J. Coady, Elizabeth Fricker, Richard Fumerton, Sanford C. Goldberg, Peter Graham, Jennifer Lackey, Keith (...) Lehrer, Richard Moran, Frederick F. Schmitt, Ernest Sosa, and James Van Cleve. (shrink)
Responsible public policy making in a technological society must rely on complex scientific reasoning. Given that ordinary citizens cannot directly assess such reasoning, does this call the democratic legitimacy of technical public policies in question? It does not, provided citizens can make reliable second-order assessments of the consensus of trustworthy scientific experts. I develop criteria for lay assessment of scientific testimony and demonstrate, in the case of claims about anthropogenic global warming, that applying such criteria is easy for anyone (...) of ordinary education with access to the Web. However, surveys show a gap between the scientific consensus and public opinion on global warming in the U.S. I explore some causes of this gap and argue that democratic reforms of our culture of political discourse may be able to address it. (shrink)
Let us focus on what I take it is the paradigm case of testimony—the intentional transfer of a belief from one agent to another, whether in the usual way via a verbal assertion made by the one agent to the other, or by some other means, such as through a note.1 So, for example, John says to Mary that the house is on fire (or, if you like, ‘texts’ her this message on her phone), and Mary, upon hearing this, (...) forms the belief that the house is on fire and consequently exits the building at speed. Clearly, a great deal of our beliefs are gained via testimony, and if the epistemic status of our testimonybased beliefs were to be called into question en masse, then this would present us with quite a predicament. It is thus essential that we have some plausible account of the epistemology of testimony. Our primary focus will be on the justification for our testimony-based beliefs, though along the way we will say a little about other relevant epistemic notions like epistemic entitlement as well. (shrink)
A number of philosophers, from Thomas Reid1 through C. A. J. Coady2, have argued that one is justified in relying on the testimony of others, and furthermore, that this should be taken as a basic epistemic presumption. If such a general presumption were not ultimately dependent on evidence for the reliability of other people, the ground for this presumption would be a priori. Such a presumption would then have a status like that which Roderick Chisholm claims for the epistemic (...) principle that we are justified in believing what our senses tell us. (shrink)
Research in the psychology of deception detection implies that Fricker, in making her case for reductionism in the epistemology of testimony, overestimates both the epistemic demerits of the antireductionist policy of trusting speakers blindly and the epistemic merits of the reductionist policy of monitoring speakers for trustworthiness: folk psychological prejudices to the contrary notwithstanding, it turns out that monitoring is on a par (in terms both of the reliability of the process and of the sensitivity of the beliefs that (...) it produces) with blind trust. The consequence is that while (a version of) Fricker’s argument for the necessity of a reduction succeeds, her argument for the availability of reductions fails. This does not, however, condemn us to endorse standard pessimistic reductionism, according to which there is no testimonial knowledge, for recent research concerning the methods used by subjects to discover deception in non-laboratory settings suggests that only a more moderate form of pessimism is in order. (shrink)
Is the nature of testimonial warrant epistemically internalist or externalist? I will argue that the question should be answered ‘yes!’ The disjunction is not exclusive. Rather, a testimonial belief may possess epistemically internalist warrant – justification – as well as epistemically externalist warrant – entitlement. I use the label ‘pluralism’ to denote the view that there are both internalist and externalist species of genuinely epistemic warrant and argue for pluralism in the epistemology of testimony. In doing so, I begin (...) to develop an account of testimonial entitlement as well as one of testimonial justification. I conclude by illuminating a positive account by way of contrast with Paul Faulkner’s related approach. Thus, the paper is structured as follows: In Section 1, I articulate some terminology and some distinctions along with a word of motivation for the discussion. In Section 2, I develop a distinct positive case for upholding a social externalist conception of testimonial warrant. However, upholding such a view, I will argue, is compatible with embracing an epistemically internalist species of warrant for testimonial belief. In Section 3, I consider the fertility of the pluralist stance by exploring both testimonial entitlement and justification. In Section 4, I illuminate my account by contrasting it with Paul Faulkner’s “hybrid theory” of testimony. The criticism of Faulkner will serve to (i) bring out some nuances of my own proposal and (ii) provide a perspective on the nature of the internalism-externalism dispute. In section 5, I suggest that although the present exploration is incomplete and inconclusive, it is nevertheless promising. Indeed, I conclude with the bold conjecture that the pluralism in the epistemology of testimony may serve as a model for other areas of epistemology. (shrink)
In this paper I explore the following threefold question: first, is there a genuine problem of grounding aesthetic judgement in testimony? Second, if there is such a problem, what exactly is its nature? And lastly, can Kant help us get clearer on the problem? Following Kant, I argue that the problem with aesthetic testimony is explained by norms that govern what it takes to judge a beautiful object aesthetically, rather than theoretically or practically, not by norms that govern (...) what it takes to judge aesthetically with a sufficient epistemic basis rather than without it. I thus propose a normative and aesthetic approach to testimony. (shrink)
Is it legitimate to acquire one’s moral beliefs on the testimony of others? The pessimist about moral testimony says not. But what is the source of the difficulty? Here pessimists have a choice. On the Unavailability view, moral testimony never makes knowledge available to the recipient. On Unusability accounts, although moral testimony can make knowledge available, some further norm renders it illegitimate to make use of the knowledge thus offered. I suggest that Unusability accounts provide the (...) strongest form of pessimist view. I consider and reject five Unavailability accounts. I then argue that any such view will fail. But what is the norm rendering moral testimonial knowledge unusable? I suggest it lies in the requirement that we grasp for ourselves the moral reasons behind a moral view. This demand is one testimony cannot meet, and that claim holds whatever account we offer of the epistemology of testimony. However, while appeal to this requirement forms the most plausible pessimist view, it is another question whether pessimism is correct. (shrink)
Tyler Burge offers a theory of testimony that allows for the possibility of both testimonial a priori warrant and testimonial a priori knowledge. I uncover a tension in his account of the relationship between the two, and locate its source in the analogy that Burge draws between testimonial warrant and preservative memory. I contend that this analogy should be rejected, and offer a revision of Burge's theory that eliminates the tension. I conclude by assessing the impact of the revised (...) theory on the scope of a priori knowledge. (shrink)
David Hume advances a reductionist epistemology of testimony: testimonial beliefs are justified on the basis of beliefs formed from other sources. This reduction, however, has been misunderstood. Testimonial beliefs are not justified in a manner identical to ordinary empirical beliefs; it is true, they are justified by observation of the conjunction between testimony and its truth, it is the nature of the conjunctions that has been misunderstood. The observation of these conjunctions provides us with our knowledge of human (...) nature and it is this knowledge which justifies our testimonial beliefs. Hume gives a naturalistic rather than sceptical account of testimony. (shrink)
Chapter I: Testimony: The Problem word, pdf) Chapter I defines the framework for the discussion of the epistemology of testimony. Testimony is defined, strictly, as utterances that are meant to be believed on the teller’s say-so alone, not because of supporting arguments or any like considerations. A working analysis of this notion of testimony is given, based on Grice’s analysis of “non-natural meaning” in terms of the speaker’s intention to induce belief by means of the hearer’s (...) recognition of that intention (Grice 1957). This analysis of testimony permits us to frame the problem of the epistemology of testimony, how testimony can justify us in believing what we are told. (shrink)
Extensive literatures exist on the epistemology of testimony, memory, and perception, but for the most part these literatures do not systematically consider the extent of the analogies between the three epistemic sources. A number of the same problems reappear in all three literatures, however. Dealing simultaneously with all three sources and making a careful accounting of the analogies and disanalogies between them should therefore avoid unnecessary duplication of effort. Other than limits on the scope of which memorially- and testimonially-based (...) beliefs should be included in the Parity Thesis, I argue that most of the disanalogies that different philosophers have proffered between the sources do not mark distinctions among the universes of possible testimonially-, memorially-, and perceptually-based beliefs regarding the explanation of those beliefs' epistemic status. I first criticize the suggestion that perception is a generative epistemic source, while testimony and memory are not; I propose and defend counterexamples in which testimony and memory produce new beliefs. Next, I criticize a variety of distinctions that have been drawn between testimony and perception, taken chiefly from the reductionist-antireductionist literature on testimony. I criticize the suggestion that the conceptualization of content and the transparency of experience affect the epistemologies of testimony and perception in different ways. Regarding memory and testimony, I advocate modeling testimony on the legal relationship of a principal and an agent, arguing that law's apparatus used to analyze such situations suggests that using others' epistemic services in testimony will supply the same epistemic benefits and burdens as if we had performed those epistemic tasks personally and then relied only on memory. I apply this analysis to the transmission of defeaters in testimony. I argue that memory does feature the epistemic equivalent of a perceptual image and that both perceptually- and memorially-based beliefs can concern either the past or the present. Finally, I construct a set of six transformations that turn individual possible instances of perceptually-, memorially-, or testimonially-based beliefs into individual possible instances of the other two types of beliefs without changing the structure of those beliefs' epistemologies. (shrink)
This essay critically examines the Assurance View of testimony as put forth by Angus Ross (1986) and Richard Moran (1999). The Assurance View holds that someone who offers testimony gives the hearer a non-evidential justification for belief by assuming responsibility for the truth of her testimony. I agree that testimonial justification depends on the teller’s assumption of her responsibility for her testimony, but argue that it is nevertheless evidential justification. Testimonial justification is a sort of evidence (...) that is within the teller’s power to create or withhold at will, and that power is essential to the justification. (shrink)
The fact that much of our knowledge is gained through the testimony of others challenges a certain form of epistemic individualism. We are clearly not autonomous knowers. But the discussion surrounding testimony has maintained a commitment to what I have elsewhere called epistemic agent individualism. Both the reductionist and the anti-reductionist have focused their attention on the testimony of individuals. But groups, too, are sources of testimony - or so I shall argue. If groups can be (...) testifiers, a natural question to ask is whether our beliefs based on the testimony of groups are ever justified and whether such a justification is to be conferred inferentially or non-inferentially. I consider and dismiss the possibility of extending an anti-reductionist account of justification to our group testimonial beliefs. I also argue against a version of reductionism that would have our group testimonial beliefs justified only in so far as we were able to monitor the trustworthiness of members of the group. However, there are forms of reductionism that can be extended to make sense of the justification of our group testimonial beliefs. There are mechanisms for monitoring the trustworthiness and competency of a group (rather than its members) and, further, a variety of background beliefs allow us to assess the testimony of a group for reliability. (shrink)
The assumption that we largely lack reasons for accepting testimony has dominated its epistemology. Given the further assumption that whatever reasons we do have are insufficient to justify our testimonial beliefs, many conclude that any account of testimonial knowledge must allow credulity to be justified. In this paper I argue that both of these assumptions are false. Our responses to testimony are guided by our background beliefs as to the testimony as a type, the testimonial situation, the (...) testifier''s character and the truth of the proposition testified to. These beliefs provide reasons for our responses. Thus, we usually do have reasons, in the sense of propositions believed, for accepting testimony and these reasons can provide evidence for the testimonial beliefs we form. (shrink)
A person sometimes forms moral beliefs by relying on another person''s moral testimony. In this paper I advance a cognitivist normative account of this phenomenon. I argue that for a person''s actions to be morally good, they must be based on a recognition of the moral reasons bearing on action. Morality requires people to act from an understanding of moral claims, and consequently to have an understanding of moral claims relevant to action. A person sometimes fails to meet this (...) requirement when she relies on another person''s moral testimony, and so there are moral limits on such reliance. (shrink)
Reductionism about testimony holds that testimonial warrant or entitlement is just a species of inductive warrant. Anti-Reductionism holds that it is different from inductive but analogous to perceptual or memorial warrant. Perception receives much of its positive epistemic status from being reliably truthconducive in normal conditions. One reason to reject the epistemic analogy is that testimony involves agency – it goes through the will of the speaker – but perception does not. A speaker might always choose to lie (...) or otherwise deliberately mislead. It is argued that the force of this derives (in part) from Libertarianism about agency, and that Libertarianism, if it undermines the Anti-Reductionist explanation of why we are entitled to rely upon testimony, undermines the Reductionist explanation as.. (shrink)
Are we entitled or justified in taking the word of others at face value? An affirmative answer to this question is associated with the views of Thomas Reid. Recently, C. A. J. Coady has defended a Reidian view in his impressive and influential book, Testimony: A Philosophical Study. His central and most original argument for his positions involves reflection upon the practice of giving and accepting reports, of making assertions and relying on the word of others. His argument purports (...) to show that testimony is, by its very nature, a "reliable form of evidence about the way the world is." The argument moves from what we do to why we are justified in doing it. Although I am sympathetic with both the Reidian view and Coady's attempt to connect why we rely on others with why we are entitled to rely on others, I find Coady's argument ineffective. (shrink)
Various considerations are adduced toshow that we require that a testifier know hertestimony. Such a requirement apparentlyimproves testimony. It is argued that the aimof improving testimony explains why we have anduse our concept of knowledge. If we were tointroduce a term of praise for testimony, usingit at first to praise testimony that apparentlyhelped us in our practical projects, it wouldcome to be used as we now use the word``know''.
I ask whether, and how far, it is possible legitimately to acquire the belief that a given item is beautiful on the basis of someone's testimony that it is. This is an issue that concerned Kant. Kant held that testimony could never be a legitimate source of such judgements, and clearly took his account of aesthetic judgement to explain this fact. I argue that Kant's theory does not, in fact, provide the materials for a satisfactory explanation. Was Kant (...) at least right about the explanadum? While broadly sympathetic to his views on that, I also suggest ways in which they need qualifying. I consider alternative explanations of why testimony should, in general, not be a legitimate source of aesthetic judgement, especially those rooted in anti-realism about the aesthetic. I find these two no more obviously correct, at least in their current state of development. (shrink)
In “Group Testimony” (2007) I argued that the testimony of a group cannot be understood (or at least cannot always be understood) in a summative fashion; as the testimony of some or all of the group members. In some cases, it is the group itself that testifies. I also argued that one could extend standard reductionist accounts of the justification of testimonial belief to the case of testimonial belief formed on the basis of group testimony. In (...) this paper, I explore the issue of group testimony in greater detail by focusing on one putative source of testimony, that of Wikipedia. My aim is to the answer the following questions: Is Wikipedia a source of testimony? And if so, what is the nature of that source? Are we to understand Wikipedia entries as a collection of testimonial statements made by individuals, some subset of individuals, or is Wikipedia itself (the organization or the Wikipedia community) the entity that testifies? If Wikipedia itself is a source of testimony, what resources do we have for assessing the trustworthiness of such an unusual epistemic source? In answering these questions I hope to further elucidate the nature of collective epistemic agency (Tollefsen 2006), of which group testimony is a paradigm example. When a mans Discourse begineth…at some saying of another, of whose ability to know the truth, and of whose honesty in not deceiving, he doubteth not; and then the Discourse is not so much concerning the Thing, as the Person; and the Resolution is called Beleefe, and Faith: Faith in the man. (1651/1991, Ch. 7; p. 48). (shrink)
This paper considers a form of scepticism according to which sentences, along with other linguistic entities such as verbs and phonemes, etc., are never realized. If, whenever a conversational participant produces some noise or other, they and all other participants assume that a specific sentence has been realized (or, more colloquially, spoken), communication will be fluent whether or not the shared assumption is correct. That communication takes place is therefore, one might think, no ground for assuming that sentences are realized (...) during a typical conversation. I reject both this ‘folie-a-deux’ view and the arguments for it due to Georges Rey. I do so by drawing on Gilbert Harrnan’s no-false-lemmas principle. Since testimony is a form of knowledge and, according to the principle, knowledge cannot depend essentially on false assumptions, testimony is incompatible with the claim that sentence realization is but an illusion. Much of the paper is given over to defending this appeal to the no-false-lemmas principle. After all, a more attractive option might seem to be to infer instead that the principle is itself falsified by the folie-a-deux view. (shrink)
Local reductionism purports to defend a middle ground in the debate about the epistemic status of testimony-based beliefs. It does so by acknowledging the practical ineliminability of testimony as a source of knowledge, while insisting that such an acknowledgment need not entail a default-acceptance view, according to which there exists an irreducible warrant for accepting testimony. The present paper argues that local reductionism is unsuccessful in its attempt to steer a middle path between reductionism and anti-reductionism about (...) testimonial justification. In particular, it challenges local reductionism 'from within', without appealing to anti-reductionist intuitions. By offering novel arguments to the effect that local reductionism fails by its own standards, the present paper considerably strengthens the case against this version of reductionism. Local reductionism, it is argued, fails for three main reasons. First, it cannot account for the rationality of testimonial rejection in paradigmatic cases, even though the possibility of rational rejection is thought to be of central justificatory importance. Second, it does not provide a sufficiently distinct non-testimonial basis to which testimonial justification can be successfully reduced. Finally, local reductionism is shown to be an intrinsically unstable position, in danger of collapsing into full-fledged 'credulism' of the kind historically associated with Thomas Reid. (shrink)
What is the nature of children's trust in testimony? Is it based primarily on evidential correlations between statements and facts, as stated by Hume, or does it derive from an interest in the trustworthiness of particular speakers? In this essay, we explore these questions in an effort to understand the developmental course and cognitive bases of children's extensive reliance on testimony. Recent work shows that, from an early age, children monitor the reliability of particular informants, differentiate between those (...) who make true and false claims and keep that differential accuracy in mind when evaluating new information from these people. We argue that this selective trust is likely to involve the mentalistic appraisal of speakers rather than surface generalizations of their behavior. Finally, we review the significance of children's deference to adult authority on issues of naming and categorization. In addition to challenging a purely inductive account of trust, these and other findings reflect a potentially rich set of tools brought by children to the task of learning from people's testimony. (shrink)
I present an account of what it is to trust a speaker, and argue that the account can explain the common intuitions which structure the debate about the transmission view of testimony. According to the suggested account, to trust a speaker is to grant her epistemic authority on the asserted proposition, and hence to see her opinion as issuing a second order, preemptive reason for believing the proposition. The account explains the intuitive appeal of the basic principle associated with (...) the transmission view of testimony: the principle according to which, a listener can normally obtain testimonial knowledge that p by believing a speaker who testifies that p only if the speaker knows that p. It also explains a common response to counterexamples to this principle: that these counterexamples do not involve normal cases of testimonial knowledge. (shrink)
This paper examines several recent positions on the nature of testimony and argues that all are unsatisfactory. The first section argues against narrow, broad, and moderate views. The second section argues against Jennifer Lackey's recent analysis of testimony. Her position is supposed to avoid the problems of the prior accounts, but still suffers from two problems. After discussing those problems, this paper offers and defends an alternative analysis of testimony.
It is common to interpret Kant’s idea of public reason and the Enlightenment motto to ‘think for oneself’ as incompatible with the view that testimony and judgement of credibility is essential to rational public deliberation. Such interpretations have led to criticism of contemporary Kantian approaches to deliberative democracy for being intellectualistic, and for not considering our epistemic dependence on other people adequately. In this article, I argue that such criticism is insufficiently substantiated, and that Kant’s idea of public reason (...) is neither at odds with deference to a certain kind of authority, nor with making judgements of character in rational deliberation. This view is corroborated by recent work on Kant’s epistemology of testimony. (shrink)
How sensitive should you be to the testimony of others? You saw the car that caused an accident going through trafﬁc lights on the red; or so you thought. Should you revise your belief on discovering that the majority of bystanders, equally well-equipped, equally well-positioned and equally impartial, reported that it went through on the green? Or take another case. You believe that intelligent design is the best explanation for the order of the living universe. Should you revise that (...) belief on ﬁnding that most other people, or at least most who by your own lights are as intelligent, informed and impartial as yourself, believe that evolutionary theory offers the better account? Should you do this, in particular, if your own personal sense of where the evidence points – like your own vivid memory of the car going through on the red – remains ﬁrmly on the side of intelligent design? Assume, to take a third case, that there is a matter of fact about whether abortion is right or wrong. You believe that it is wrong, having a ﬁrm picture of it as an act on a par with murder. Should you revise that belief on discovering that among those whom you regard as equally intelligent, informed and impartial, most believe that abortion is not wrong, or at least not wrong in the way that murder is wrong? Should you do this, in particular, if your own personal sense of abortion remains unchanged; it still seems to you to be a grievous wrong? Should you put aside your own sense of things as mistaken, in the way you might put aside your imagined memory of the car going through on the red, and decide to go along with the majority view? (shrink)
In Conspiracies and Lyes I aim to provide an epistemological account of testimony as one of our faculties of knowledge. I compare testimony to perception and memory. Its similarity to both these faculties is recognised. A fundamental difference is stressed: it can be rational to not accept testimony even if testimony is fulfilling its proper epistemic function because it can be rational for a speaker to not express a belief; or, as I say, it can be (...) rational for a speaker to lye. This difference in epistemic function provides the basis for a sceptical argument against testimony. Scepticism is presented as a method rather than a problem: considering how to refute the sceptical argument is taken to be a means of evaluating theories as to how testimonial beliefs are warranted. I consider two strategies for refuting scepticism and, correlatively, two accounts of how testimonial beliefs are warranted. I show these accounts to be neutral across all theories of justification that entertain the project of investigating our faculties of knowledge. A reductionist account explains the warrant supporting our testimonial beliefs in terms of our inductive ground for accepting testimony. An anti-reductionist account explains the warrant supporting our testimonial beliefs in terms of our possessing an entitlement to accept testimony. I show how both positions can be intuitively motivated. In presenting reductionism I appeal to probability theory, empirical psychology and invoke David Hume. In presenting anti-reductionism I invoke John McDowell and Tyler Burge. A refutation of scepticism is provided by a hybrid of reductionism and anti-reductionism. The hybrid is conceived as part social externalism and part individual internalism. In developing this account I provide a means of conceptualising the dynamic that exists between individual knowers and communities of knowledge. (shrink)
Orthodoxy in epistemology maintains that some sources of belief, e.g. perception and introspection, generate knowledge, while others, e.g. testimony and memory, preserve knowledge. An example from Jennifer Lackey B the Schoolteacher case B purports to show that testimony can generate knowledge. It is argued that Lackey's case fails to subvert the orthodox view, for the case does not involve the generation of knowledge by testimony. A modified version of the case does. Lackey's example illustrates the orthodox view; (...) the revised case refutes it. The theoretical explanation of knowledge from testimony as information transmission explains how testimony transfers knowledge and why it can generate knowledge. It also reveals the real difference between so-called generative"" and so-called ""preservative"" sources. The former extract information. (shrink)
I argue, first, that testimony is likely a natural kind (where natural kinds are accurately described by the homoeostatic property cluster theory) and that if it is indeed a natural kind, it is likely necessarily reliable. I argue, second, that the view of testimony as a natural kind and as necessarily reliable grounds a novel, naturalist global reductionism about testimonial justification and that this new reductionism is immune to a powerful objection to orthodox Humean global reductionism, the objection (...) from the too-narrow induction base. (shrink)
In Relying on others [Goldberg, S. 2010a. Relying on others: An essay in epistemology. Oxford: Oxford University Press], I argued that, from the perspective of an interest in epistemic assessment, the testimonial belief-forming process should be regarded as interpersonally extended. At the same time, I explicitly rejected the extendedness model for beliefs formed through reliance on a mere mechanism, such as a clock. In this paper, I try to bolster my defense of this asymmetric treatment. I argue that a crucial (...) assumption lying behind the argument I used to establish interpersonal extendedness in testimony cases does not apply to beliefs formed through reliance on instruments. In this respect, at least, there appears to be something epistemically distinctive about relying on another epistemic agent. (shrink)
Abstract: William James argued that we ordinarily think of the objects that we can observe—things that belong to 'the world of sense'—as having an unquestioned reality. However, young children also assert the existence of entities that they cannot ordinarily observe. For example, they assert the existence of germs and souls. The belief in the existence of such unobservable entities is likely to be based on children's broader trust in other people's testimony about objects and situations that they cannot directly (...) observe for themselves. (shrink)
One of the central problems afflicting reductionism in the epistemology of testimony is the apparent fact that infants and small children are not cognitively capable of having the inductively based positive reasons required by this view. Since non-reductionism does not impose a requirement of this sort, it is thought to avoid this problem and is therefore taken to have a significant advantage over reductionism. In this paper, however, I argue that if this objection undermines reductionism, then a variant of (...) it similarly undermines non-reductionism. Thus, considerations about the cognitive capacities of infants and small children do not effectively discriminate between these two competing theories of testimonial justification. (shrink)
An adequate account of testimonial knowledge in general explains how religious knowledge can be grounded in testimony, and even in the context of conflicting testimonial traditions. Three emerging trends in epistemology help to make that case. The first is to make a distinction between two projects of epistemology: “the project of explanation” and “the project of vindication.” The second is to emphasize a distinction between knowledge and understanding. The third is to ask what role the concept of knowledge plays (...) in our conceptual-linguistic economy. Each of these trends, it is argued, helps us to make progress in the epistemology of testimony, and by application in the epistemology of religious belief. (shrink)
Hume’s celebrated argument concerning miracles, and an 18th century criticism of it put forward by Richard Price, is here interpreted in terms of the modern controversy over the base-rate fallacy. When considering to what degree we should trust a witness, should we or should we not take into account the prior probability of the event reported? The reliability of the witness (’Pr’(says e/e)) is distinguished from the credibility of the testimony (’Pr’(e/says e)), and it is argued that Hume, as (...) a good proto-Bayesian, argued that the credibility of the testimony should be calculated in terms of both the reliability of the witness and the prior probability of the event reported. (shrink)
Frank is a writer with a strange habit. Every morning, at precisely 7:30 a.m., he wakes up and dumps out whatever is left of the pint of milk he purchased the day before, but places the empty carton back in the fridge until noon. Then, throughout the interval from 7:30 to noon, he always remains in the kitchen, as that is where he writes every morning like clockwork. Finally, at exactly noon, he takes the now-empty milk carton out of the (...) fridge and throws it away – an act which to him symbolizes the end of his day’s writing. Now Mary is unaware of Frank’s milk- dumping practice. One morning, having spent the prior evening at Frank’s house with Frank and her son Sonny, she awakens at 7:40 and goes to the kitchen with Sonny. Upon entering (Frank is already there) she imme- diately goes to the fridge for a glass of OJ, and as she reaches for the OJ she casually observes a small carton of milk. She goes on to tell Sonny (who always has cereal with milk for breakfast) that there is milk in the fridge. As luck would have it, there is indeed milk in the carton on this day (Frank failed to remember that he had bought milk yesterday). When Frank observes Mary’s testimony, he realizes that he forgot to dump the milk; when Sonny observes her testimony, he forms the belief that there is milk in the fridge. (shrink)
Before we address the question that forms the title of this paper – a question that Tyler Burge articulated, and famously and controversially answered in the affirmative[i] – let’s begin by clarifying it. Doing this will take considerable work, since we have to clarify what is meant by “entitlement”, what is meant by speaking of an entitlement’s being “a priori”, what is meant by speaking of this a priori entitlement being “preserved”, and finally, what is meant by speaking of its (...) being so preserved “by testimony”. In the course of clarifying these terms, we will locate the resources necessary for Burge to defend his view from a prominent recent criticism, a criticism that focuses on the fact that Burge regards the entitlements preserved by testimony as typically a priori. But we will also find that Burge’s argument for his view can seem plausible to us only to the extent that we confuse entitlement with justification, and this is a confusion against which Burge himself warns. (shrink)
In his recent work in social epistemology, Alvin Goldman argues that truth is the fundamental epistemic end of education, and that critical thinking is of merely instrumental value with respect to that fundamental end. He also argues that there is a central place for testimony and trust in the classroom, and an educational danger in over-emphasizing the fostering of students’ critical thinking. In this paper I take issue with these claims, and argue that (1) critical thinking is a fundamental (...) end of education, independently of its instrumental tie to truth, and (2) it is critical thinking, rather than testimony and trust,that is educationally basic. (shrink)
Currently, testimony is studied extensively in Anglo-American philosophy. However, most of this work is done from a justificationist perspective in which philosophers try to justify our reliance on testimony in some way. I agree with Popper that justificationism is radically mistaken. Thus, I construct an account of how we respond to testimony that in no way attempts to justify our reliance on it. This account is not a straightforward exegesis of Popper, as he never tackled testimony (...) systematically. It makes use, however, of several of Popper's key insights and incorporates them into a viable theory of testimony. Key Words: testimony anti-justificationism social epistemology situational analysis defeasibility. (shrink)
One of the central points of contention in the epistemology of testimony concerns the uniqueness (or not) of the justification of beliefs formed through testimony-whether such justification can be accounted for in terms of, or 'reduced to,' other familiar sort of justification, e.g. without relying on any epistemic principles unique to testimony. One influential argument for the reductionist position, found in the work of Elizabeth Fricker, argues by appeal to the need for the hearer to monitor the (...)testimony for credibility. Fricker (1994) argues, first, that some monitoring for trustworthiness is required if the hearer is to avoid being gullible, and second, that reductionism but not anti-reductionism is compatible with ascribing an important role to the process of monitoring in the course of justifiably accepting observed testimony. In this paper we argue that such an argument fails. (shrink)
The standard interpretation of Hume on testimony takes him to be a reductionist; justification of beliefs from testimony ultimately depends on one's own first-person experience. Yet Hume's main discussions of testimony in the Treatise and first Enquiry suggest a social account. Hume appeals to shared experience and develops norms of belief from testimony that are not reductionist. It is argued that the reductionist interpretation rests on an overly narrow view of Hume's theory of ideas. By attending (...) to such mechanisms of the imagination as abstraction and fictions, it is shown that Hume's theory of ideas does not forestall a non-reductionist social epistemology. (shrink)
As part of his wider critique of the credibility of miraculous testimony, Hume also offers a rather curious argument as to the mutual detriment of conflicting testimony for the miracles of contrary religious worldviews. Scholarship on this aspect of Humeâ€™s reasoning has debated whether or not the considerations are to be understood as essentially probabilistic, and as to whether or not a probabilistic interpretation of the argument is logically valid. The consensus would appear to offer a positive answer (...) to the first question and a negative answer to the second. In this paper I expose a deeper fallacy in Humeâ€™s reasoning that undermines both probabilistic and non-probabilistic readings. My critique is closely based upon analogous considerations in the philosophy of science, and the equally intriguing issue as to the epistemological relevance of conflicting scientific theories throughout the history of science. (shrink)
Almost everything we know depends in some way on testimony. Without the ability to learn from others, it would be virtually impossible for any individual person to know much beyond what has come within the scope of her immediate perceptual environment. The fruits of science, history, geography – all of these would be beyond our grasp, as would much of what we know about ourselves. We do not, after all, perceive that we belong to one family rather than to (...) another – this is something we are told. Despite the overwhelming importance of testimony, it has been neglected to a large extent in the philosophical tradition. Arguably, this has resulted from a general sense that our other cognitive faculties, such as perception, are more basic and therefore ought to be the primary focus of our investigations. In recent years, however, the idea that testimony is of secondary importance has been forcefully challenged, and new ways of thinking of testimony have been fruitfully explored by a number of philosophers. The present issue of Episteme aims to build on this body of work and to broaden it by incorporating insights from three different groups of people: philosophers who have already done considerable work in social epistemology, philosophers who are for the first time applying their work in other areas of epistemology to testimony, and psychologists who study the development of our ability to learn from others. The papers in this issue, with one exception, were delivered at the fourth annual Episteme conference, held at Rutgers University in June, 2007. (shrink)
Dualism in the Epistemology of Testimony and the Ability Intuition Content Type Journal Article DOI 10.1007/s11406-010-9291-4 Authors Spyridon Orestis Palermos, Department of Philosophy, School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences (PPLS), The University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK Journal Philosophia Online ISSN 1574-9274 Print ISSN 0048-3893.
This paper develops a descriptive and normative account of how people respond to testimony. It postulates a default pathway in which people more or less automatically respond to a claim by accepting it, as long as the claim made is consistent with their beliefs and the source is credible. Otherwise, people enter a reflective pathway in which they evaluate the claim based on its explanatory coherence with everything else they believe. Computer simulations show how explanatory coherence can be maximized (...) in real-life cases, taking into account all the relevant evidence including the credibility of whoever is making a claim. The explanatory-coherence account is more plausible both descriptively and normatively than a Bayesian account. (shrink)
I defend the acceptance principle for testimony (APT), that hearers are justified in accepting testimony unless they have positive evidence against its reliability, against Elizabeth Fricker's local reductionist view. Local reductionism, the doctrine that hearers need evidence that a particular piece of testimony is reliable if they are to be justified in believing it, must on pain of scepticism be complemented by a principle that grants default justification to some testimony; I argue that (APT) is the (...) principle required. I consider two alternative weaker principles as complements to local reductionism; one yields counter-intuitive results unless we accept (APT) as well, while the other is too weak to enable local reductionism to avoid scepticism. (shrink)
Pettit (2006) argues that deferring to majority testimony is not generally rational: it may lead to inconsistent beliefs. He suggests that “another ... approach will do better”: deferring to supermajority testimony. But this approach may also lead to inconsistencies. Here I identify the conditions under which deference to supermajority testimony ensures consistency, and those under which it does not. I also introduce the new concept of ‘consistency of degree k’, which is weaker than full consistency by ruling (...) out only ‘blatant’ inconsistencies in an agent’s beliefs while permitting less blatant ones, and show that, while supermajoritarian deference often fails to ensure full consistency, it is a route to consistency in this weaker sense. (shrink)
A CONSIDERATION OF J C MACKIE’S CLAIM THAT IT IS NEVER REASONABLE TO ACCEPT TESTIMONY TO THE OCCURRENCE OF A MIRACLE. I ARGUE THAT THIS CLAIM FAILS; BUT, BY EXAMINING THE CONCEPT OF MIRACLE AS A SAVING DISCLOSURE OF GOD, I SHOW WHY THE RATIONALITY OF ACCEPTING MIRACLES ON TESTIMONY IS UNLIKELY TO BE NEUTRALLY ESTABLISHABLE.
It has been argued that Hume's account of testimony is seriously inadequate: an autonomous knower of the sort Hume defends cannot, through simple inductive methods, justify accepting another's testimony as true. This conclusion is no doubt correct. But Hume does not defend the idea of an autonomous knower, nor does he defend relying upon simple inductive methods. An examination of Hume's critique of Descartes’ method of doubt shows him as a defender of what might be called the responsible (...) knower, and reveals the sophistication of the inductive methods he wishes to defend. It is shown that Hume can and does use these methods to justify accepting the testimony of others. (shrink)
Abstract At stake in the dispute between Campbell and Hume is the basis for our acceptance of testimony. Campbell argues that, contrary to Hume, our acceptance of testimony is prior to experience, while Hume continues to maintain that the appropriation through testimony of the experience of others depends ultimately on one's own experience. I argue that Hume's remarks about testimony provide a non-circular account of the process by which the experience of others may become one's own; (...) and I suggest that the view of Campbell and Hume as proponents of two radically opposed positions on the epistemology of testimony represents a considerable over-simplification. (shrink)
Some recent accounts of testimonial warrant base it on trust, and claim that doing so helps explain asymmetries between the intended recipient of testimony and other non-intended hearers, e.g. differences in their entitlement to challenge the speaker or to rebuke the speaker for lying. In this explanation ‘dependence-responsiveness’ is invoked as an essential feature of trust: the trustor believes the trustee to be motivationally responsive to the fact that the trustor is relying on the trustee. I argue that dependence-responsiveness (...) is not essential to trust and that the asymmetries, where genuine, can be better explained without reference to trust. (shrink)
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. (shrink)
Hume is usually taken to have an evidentialist account of testimonial belief: one is justified in believing what someone says if one has empirical evidence that they have been reliable in the past. This account is impartialist: such evidence is required no matter who the person is, or what relations she may have to you. I, however, argue that Hume has another account of testimony, one grounded in sympathy. This account is partialist, in that empirical evidence is not required (...) in order for one to be justified in believing some of the assertions of one's friends. (shrink)
Recent work in artificial intelligence has increasingly turned to argumentation as a rich, interdisciplinary area of research that can provide new methods related to evidence and reasoning in the area of law. Douglas Walton provides an introduction to basic concepts, tools and methods in argumentation theory and artificial intelligence as applied to the analysis and evaluation of witness testimony. He shows how witness testimony is by its nature inherently fallible and sometimes subject to disastrous failures. At the same (...) time such testimony can provide evidence that is not only necessary but inherently reasonable for logically guiding legal experts to accept or reject a claim. Walton shows how to overcome the traditional disdain for witness testimony as a type of evidence shown by logical positivists, and the views of trial sceptics who doubt that trial rules deal with witness testimony in a way that yields a rational decision-making process. (shrink)
This article proposes that a general theory of assessment of historical testimony should do justice to the long tradition of adjudication in accordance with maxims of reliability and competence. I argue that an explanatory genealogical theory (along lines first adumbrated by Charles Seignobos) satisfies this condition, and that it has further notable virtues: respect for the strengths of rival theories, regard for the links between adjudication of testimony and other basic procedures of historical inquiry, and the promise of (...) profitable lines of investigation. (shrink)
In Warranted Christian Beliet Alvin Plantinga claims that “The Enlightenment looked askance at testimony and tradition; Locke saw them as a preeminent source of error.” Locke, Plantinga suggests, is the “fountainhead” of this stance. This is importantly wrong about Locke and Locke”s views, and an examination of the views of Locke’s much admired friend and slightly older contemporary, Robert Boyle, reveals that the claim is mistaken about him as well, reinforcing the view that Plantinga is in general mistaken about (...) the intellectual milieu in which Locke wrote. In this paper I consider the views of Locke and Boyle on demonstration, observation, experiment, and testimony with a view to showing what, in the case of science and religion, their views actually were. For Locke I draw mainly on the Essay, while for Boyle I draw heavily on the MSS in the Royal Society Library, as well as on the printed works. (shrink)
"It is a general maxim...’ That no testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such a kind that its falsehood would be more miraculous, than the fact which it endeavors to establish; and even in that case there is a mutual destruction of arguments, and the superior only gives us an assurance suitable to that degree of force, which remains, after deducting the inferior.’" A Bayesian interpretation of the first half is proved as (...) a theorem. A stronger conditional principle, and a biconditional theorem based on it, are substantiated. And a truth that the second part can express is explained. (shrink)
By lopsided majorities, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a series of cases, persistently commanded the lower courts to condition the admission of proffered expert testimony on the demonstrated validity of the proponents’ claims of expertise. In at least one broad area – the so-called forensic sciences – the courts below have largely evaded the Supreme Court's holdings. This paper aims to try to explain this massive defiance by the lower courts in terms of social epistemology.
We examined the dilemmas posed by the involvement of expert witnesses in court cases and the institutional constraints on the ethics of expert testimony. The causes for the incorporation of bad science into legal decisions, potential solutions to this dilemma, and the limitations of these solutions are considered. We concluded that law, science, and experts must respond to the problems posed by expert witnessing.
Recent studies of Nyäya’s account of testimony have illustrated its anticipation of contemporary testimonial antireductionism, the position that testimony cannot be reduced to a more fundamental means of knowledge like inference or perception. This paper discusses another relevant but less discussed anticipation of current debate, involving the status of speaker belief in testimonial exchange. Is a speaker’s veridical apprehension of the content of his utterance a necessary condition on testimonial exchange? This was a source of much disputation among (...) Indian epistemologists, particularly Naiyäyikas (adherents of the Nyäya, or “Logic” school) and Mimamsakas(adherents of the Mimamsa, or “Exegete” school). (shrink)
Burge proposes the Acceptance Principle"", which states that it is apriori that a hearer may properly accept what she is told in the absence of defeaters, since any giver of testimony is a rational agent, and as such one can presume she is a ""source of truth"". It is claimed that Burge's Principle is not intuitively compelling, so that a suasive, not merely an explanatory justification for it is needed.
An influential idea in the epistemology of testimony is that people often acquire justified beliefs through testimony, in contexts too informationally poor for the justification to be evidential. This has been described as the Scarcity of Information Objection (SIO). It is an objection to the reductive thesis that the acceptance of testimony is justified by evidence of general kinds not unique to testimony. SIO hinges on examples intended to show clearly that testimonial justification arises in low-information (...) contexts; I argue that the common examples show no such thing. There is a great deal of information available in testimonial contexts, including in the examples alleged to show otherwise – enough information to render SIO implausible. Purported SIO examples tend to give a wrong impression about the informational richness of testimonial contexts, I argue, due to the lack of detail in which they are presented. (shrink)
Testimony is an important source of knowledge in many contexts, including that of education, but the notion of the teacher as testifier is not often discussed. Since much that is believed by individuals has come to them not from direct experience but by accepting the accounts of others, the trustworthiness of their interlocutors' testimonies, whether these be spoken, textual or electronic in form, is an important factor in determining whether or not they acquire true, justified beliefs. Testimonial trustworthiness is (...) a combination of competence and sincerity, both of which tend to be high when a teacher testifies in her area of expertise. But in the world beyond the classroom there are situations in which the competence or sincerity of the testifier is low, so it is important that the learner acquires an epistemically-virtuous, well-attuned disposition towards testimony. (shrink)
The notion of ‘bipolar’ or ‘second-personal’ normativity is often illustrated by such situations as that of one person addressing a complaint to another, or asserting some right, or claiming some authority. This paper argues that the presence of speech acts of various kinds in the development of the idea of the ‘second-personal’ is not accidental. Through development of a notion of ‘illocutionary authority’ I seek to show a role for the ‘second-personal’ in ordinary testimony, despite Darwall's argument that the (...) notion of the ‘second-personal’ marks a divide between practical and theoretical reason. (shrink)
In an earlier paper, I objected to certain elements of L. Jonathan Cohen's account of corroborating testimony (Olsson ). In their response to my article, Bovens, Fitelson, Hartmann and Snyder () suggest some significant improvements of the probabilistic model which I used in assessing Cohen's theses and answer some additional questions which my study raised. More problematically, they also seek to defend Cohen against my criticism. I argue, in this reply, that their attempts in this direction are unsuccessful.
Following a brief examination of some remarks by Paul Ricoeur on the notion of testimony. I provide the outline or an analysis of revelation based upon certain key concepts of process philosophy. This is followed by a more specific interpretation within the context of Whitehead’s philosophy of process.