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Testimony

Edited by Peter Graham (University of California, Riverside)
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Summary

Beliefs are often based on assertions by others: that is, on testimony.  This phenomenon raises many questions.  How wide is the range of testimony-based beliefs? Do all assertions play the same epistemic role, or do some assertive speech acts play special roles?  Can mathematical, moral, religious, or aesthetic knowledge be transferred?  A major issue in the epistemology of testimony concerns the rational role of testimony.  How does comprehending an assertion rationally support a belief? According to reductionism, it provides no support; comprehension is rationally inert. The recipient must have independent rational grounds to believe the assertion. Anti-reductionism disagrees: comprehension provides prima facie, defeasible rational support. Reductionism is accused of being too demanding, anti-reductionism of being too permissive.  Another issue concerns the transmission of knowledge.   Is knowledge transferred from sender to receiver? Is knowledge in the chain of sources essential for the uptake of knowledge, or can assertive communication sometimes generate knowledge?

Key works Coady 1992 is a classic book-length treatment of nearly all the major issues. Burge 1993 is a rewarding and influential anti-reductionist account. Graham 2010 is an empirically informed, proper functioning anti-reductionist account. Fricker 1994 levels the charge of excessive permissiveness against anti-reductionism. Goldberg & Henderson 2006 articulates the standard, anti-reductionist response. Moran 2005 emphasizes the interpersonal role of telling in favor of anti-reductionism. Lackey 1999 and Graham 2006 argue that testimony sometimes generates knowledge. In recent books, Lackey 2008 and Faulkner 2011 both argue, in very different ways, for a middle path between reductionism and anti-reductionism.
Introductions Adler 2008 is Jonathan Adler's revised and comprehensive Stanford Encyclopedia entry. Lackey 2010 is a concise and informative survey.
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Subcategories:History/traditions: Testimony
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  1. Peter Admirand (2015). Antony Rowland and Jane Kilby, Eds., The Future of Testimony: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Witnessing. Reviewed By. Philosophy in Review 35 (6):307-309.
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  2. Ben Almassi (2009). Trust in Expert Testimony: Eddington's 1919 Eclipse Expedition and the British Response to General Relativity. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 40 (1):57-67.
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  3. David W. Barnes (2005). Imwinkelried's Argument for Normative Ethical Testimony. Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics 33 (2):234-241.
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  4. Françoise Baylis (2000). Expert Testimony by Persons Trained in Ethical Reasoning: The Case of Andrew Sawatzky. Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics 28 (3):224-231.
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  5. Françoise Baylis (2000). Rebuttal: Expert Ethics Testimony. Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics 28 (3):240-242.
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  6. Sven Bernecker (2006). Reading Epistemology: Selected Texts with Interactive Commentary. Wiley-Blackwell.
    Designed for readers who have had little or no exposure to contemporary theory of knowledge, _Reading Epistemology_ brings together twelve important and influential writings on the subject. Presents twelve influential pieces of writing representing two contrasting views on each of six core topics in epistemology. Each chapter contains an introduction to the topic, introductions to the authors, extensive commentaries on the texts, questions for debate and an annotated bibliography. Includes writings from Robert Nozick, Ernest Sosa, Laurence BonJour, Alvin Goldman, Tyler (...)
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  7. Daniel Brigham (2016). Assertion: On the Philosophical Significance of Assertoric SpeechBy Sanford G. Goldberg. Analysis 76 (3):389-391.
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  8. Peter Brock (1969). Chapter 7. The Peace Testimony of the Early American Moravians: An Ambiguous Witness. In Pacifism in the United States: From the Colonial Era to the First World War. Princeton University Press. pp. 285-330.
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  9. Peter Brock (1969). Chapter 8. The Quaker Peace Testimony, 1783-1861. In Pacifism in the United States: From the Colonial Era to the First World War. Princeton University Press. pp. 333-388.
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  10. Peter Brock (1969). Chapter 21. The Quaker Peace Testimony, 1865-1914. In Pacifism in the United States: From the Colonial Era to the First World War. Princeton University Press. pp. 869-888.
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  11. Joel Buenting (2006). Re-Thinking the Duplication of Speaker/Hearer Belief in the Epistemology of Testimony. Episteme 2 (2):129-134.
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  12. Michael D. Burroughs & Deborah Tollefsen (2016). Learning to Listen: Epistemic Injustice and the Child. Episteme 13 (3):359-377.
    In Epistemic Injustice Miranda Fricker argues that there is a distinctively epistemic type of injustice in which someone is wronged specifically in his or her capacity as a knower. Fricker's examples of identity-prejudicial credibility deficit primarily involve gender, race, and class, in which individuals are given less credibility due to prejudicial stereotypes. We argue that children, as a class, are also subject to testimonial injustice and receive less epistemic credibility than they deserve. To illustrate the prevalence of testimonial injustice against (...)
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  13. Albert Casullo (2007). Testimony and A Priori Knowledge. Episteme: A Journal of Social Epistemology 4 (3):322-334.
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  14. Helena B. Catalão (2013). Testemunho, Doação E Tempo Do Projeto. Considerações Sobre Diamante de Sangue de Edward Zwick. Revista Portuguesa de Filosofia 69 (3-4):735-754.
    Resumo O filme Diamante de Sangue [Blood Diamond] de Edward Zwick oferece a possibilidade de uma reflexão à volta de três aspetos da noção de testemunho no âmbito da Filosofia da Religião: 1) a ideia de que o testemunho , enquanto matriz das culturas humanas, sustenta a atividade jornalística e a sociedade da informação possibilitando não apenas a sua desconstrução como também a atualização de uma dimensão testemunhal do jornalismo; 2) as condições de possibilidade da conversão da consciência, isto é, (...)
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  15. David Coady (2016). A Critical Introduction to Testimony, by Axel Gelfert. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 94 (4):837-838.
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  16. L. Jonathan Cohen (1982). What is Necessary for Testimonial Corroboration? British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 33 (2):161-164.
  17. Caitlin A. Cole, Paul L. Harris & Melissa A. Koenig (2012). Entitled to Trust? Philosophical Frameworks and Evidence From Children. Analyse & Kritik 34 (2):195-216.
    How do children acquire beliefs from testimony? In this chapter, we discuss children’s trust in testimony, their sensitivity to and use of defeaters, and their appeals to positive reasons for trusting what other people tell them. Empirical evidence shows that, from an early age, children have a tendency to trust testimony. However, this tendency to trust is accompanied by sensitivity to cues that suggest unreliability, including inaccuracy of the message and characteristics of the speaker. Not only are children sensitive to (...)
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  18. Annalisa Coliva (2016). How to Perceive Reasons. Episteme 13 (1):77-88.
    This paper deals with the question whether, and to what extent, perceptions can provide a justification for our empirical beliefs. In particular, it addresses the issue of whether they need to be conceptualized by a subject in order to play a justificatory role. It is argued that the conditions under which a subject can have perceptual representational contents and those under which those representational contents can play a justificatory role differ. The upshot is that perception can provide justification only for (...)
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  19. Roger Crisp (2014). II—Roger Crisp: Moral Testimony Pessimism: A Defence. Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 88 (1):129-143.
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  20. Veena Das (2007). Commentary: Trauma and Testimony: Between Law and Discipline. Ethos 35 (3):330-335.
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  21. Jim Davies & David Matheson (2012). The Cognitive Importance of Testimony. Principia: An International Journal of Epistemology 16 (2).
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  22. Boudewijn de Bruin (2013). The Epistemology of Religious Testimony. Philo 16 (1):95-111.
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  23. J. Edwards (2000). Burge on Testimony and Memory. Analysis 60 (1):124-131.
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  24. Jeremy Fantl (2015). Human Knowledge/Human Knowers: Comments on Michael Williams' “What's so Special About Human Knowledge?”. Episteme 12 (2):269-273.
    In Michael Williams' “What's So Special About Human knowledge?” he argues that the kind of knowledge characteristic of adult humans is distinctive in that it involves epistemic responsibility. In particular, when an adult human has knowledge, they have a certain kind of epistemic authority, and that to attribute knowledge to them is to grant them a certain kind of authority over the subject matter. I argue that, while it is true that when we attribute knowledge to adult humans, we typically (...)
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  25. Elizabeth Fricker (2015). How to Make Invidious Distinctions Amongst Reliable Testifiers. Episteme 12 (2):173-202.
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  26. Richard Fumerton (2015). Epistemic Authority, by Linda Zagzebski. Mind 124 (495):999-1003.
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  27. Richard Fumerton (2015). What the Internalist Should Say to the Tortoise. Episteme 12 (2):209-217.
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  28. Sanford Goldberg (2010). Assertion, Testimony, and the Epistemic Significance of Speech. Logos and Episteme 1 (1):59-65.
    Whether or not all assertion counts as testimony, it is argued that not all testimony involves assertion. Since many views in theepistemology of testimony assume that testimony requires assertion, such views are insufficiently general. This result also points to what we might call the epistemic significance of assertion as such.
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  29. John Greco (2007). Discrimination and Testimonial Knowledge. Episteme: A Journal of Social Epistemology 4 (3):335-351.
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  30. Elizabeth Harman (2015). Transformative Experiences and Reliance on Moral Testimony. Res Philosophica 92 (2):323-339.
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  31. Allan Hazlett (2015). Towards Social Accounts of Testimonial Asymmetries. Noûs 50 (3):n/a-n/a.
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  32. T. Patrick Hill (2001). Argument Against Ethicists'Testimony Logically Flawed. Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics 28 (s4):4-5.
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  33. Jeannette Hofmeijer (2014). Evidence-Based Medical Knowledge: The Neglected Role of Expert Opinion. Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice 20 (6):803-808.
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  34. Eugen Huzum (2013). David Christensen and Jennifer Lackey, Eds., The Epistemology of Disagreement: New Essays. [REVIEW] Logos and Episteme 4 (4):467-468.
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  35. Edward J. Imwinkelried (2005). Expert Testimony by Ethicists: What Should Be the Norm? Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics 33 (2):198-221.
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  36. Melissa A. Koenig & Paul L. Harris (2007). The Basis of Epistemic Trust: Reliable Testimony or Reliable Sources? Episteme: A Journal of Social Epistemology 4 (3):264-284.
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  37. Hilary Kornblith (2015). The Role of Reasons in Epistemology. Episteme 12 (2):225-239.
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  38. Sybille Krämer & Sigrid Weigel (eds.) (2017). Testimony/Bearing Witness: Epistemology, Ethics, History and Culture. Rowman & Littlefield International.
    Testimony/Bearing Witness establishes a dialogue between the different approaches to testimony in epistemology, historiography, law, art, media studies and psychiatry.
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  39. Martin Kusch (2004). Knowledge by Agreement. Oxford University Press UK.
    Knowledge by Agreement defends the ideas that knowledge is a social status, and that knowledge is primarily the possession of groups rather than individuals. Part I develops a new theory of testimony. It breaks with the traditional view according to which testimony is not, except accidentally, a generative source of knowledge. One important consequence of the new theory is a rejection of attempts to globally justify trust in the words of others. Part II proposes a communitarian theory of empirical knowledge. (...)
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  40. Jennifer Lackey (2015). Reliability and Knowledge in the Epistemology of Testimony. Episteme 12 (2):203-208.
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  41. Jennifer Lackey (2007). Introduction: Perspectives on Testimony. Episteme: A Journal of Social Epistemology 4 (3):233-237.
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  42. Jennifer Lackey (2006). 1. Reductionism. In Jennifer Lackey & Ernest Sosa (eds.), The Epistemology of Testimony. Oxford University Press. pp. 160.
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  43. Stephen R. Latham (2005). Expert Bioethics Testimony. Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics 33 (2):242-247.
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  44. Lauren J. Leydon-Hardy (2010). Getting Gettier‘D on Testimony. Logos and Episteme 1 (2):361-369.
    There are noncontroversial ways in which our words are context dependent. Gradable adjectives like 'flat‘ or 'bald‘, for example. A more controversial proposition is that nouns can be context dependent in a reasonably similar way. If this is true, then it looks like we can develop a positive account of semantic content as sensitive to context. This might be worrying for the epistemology of testimony. That is, how can we garner knowledge from testimony if it‘s the case that, though our (...)
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  45. Hallvard Lillehammer (2014). I—Hallvard Lillehammer: Moral Testimony, Moral Virtue, and the Value of Autonomy. Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 88 (1):111-127.
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  46. Federico Luzzi (2016). Is Testimonial Knowledge Second-Hand Knowledge? Erkenntnis 81 (4):899-918.
    Fricker has proposed that a hearer’s knowledge that p acquired through trusting a speaker requires the speaker to know that p, and that therefore testimonial knowledge through trust is necessarily second-hand knowledge. In this paper, I argue that Fricker’s view is problematic for four reasons: firstly, Fricker’s dismissal of a central challenge to the second-handedness of testimonial knowledge is based on a significant misrepresentation of this challenge; secondly, on closer scrutiny an important distinction Fricker wants to draw is compromised by (...)
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  47. Michael P. Lynch & Nathan Sheff (2016). The Knowers in Charge. International Journal for the Study of Skepticism 6 (1):53-63.
    _ Source: _Page Count 11 Epistemic Authority: A Theory of Trust, Authority, and Autonomy in Belief. By Linda Trinkaus Zagzebski. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012. Pp. xiii +279. isbn 978–0–19–993647–2.
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  48. Francesco Martini (forthcoming). Hearsay Viewed Through the Lens of Trust, Reputation and Coherence. Synthese:1-17.
    Hearsay or indirect testimony receives little discussion even today in epistemology, and yet it represents one of the cardinal modes for the transmission of knowledge and for human cognitive development. It suffices to think of school education whereby a student listens to teachers reporting knowledge acquired, often indirectly, from the most varied sources such as text books, newspapers, personal memory, television, etc… Or let us consider the importance of oral tradition in the social and cultural development of civilisations. Or even (...)
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  49. David Matheson (2016). Testimonial Reasons. Erkenntnis 81 (4):757-774.
    In this paper I consider whether the reasons on which our testimonial beliefs are directly based—“testimonial reasons”—are basic reasons for belief. After laying out a Dretske-inspired psychologistic conception of reasons for belief in general and a corresponding conception of basic reasons for belief, I present a prima facie case against the basicality of testimonial reasons. I then respond to a challenge from Audi to this case. To the extent that my response is successful, the viability of an important kind of (...)
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  50. Alan Millar (2016). Perceptual Knowledge and Well-Founded Belief. Episteme 13 (1):43-59.
    Should a philosophical account of perceptual knowledge accord a justificatory role to sensory experiences? This discussion raises problems for an affirmative answer and sets out an alternative account on which justified belief is conceived as well-founded belief and well-foundedness is taken to depend on knowledge. A key part of the discussion draws on a conception of perceptual-recognitional abilities to account for how perception gives rise both to perceptual knowledge and to well-founded belief.
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