What’s the matter with epistemic circularity?

Philosophical Studies 171 (2):177-205 (2014)
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Abstract

If the reliability of a source of testimony is open to question, it seems epistemically illegitimate to verify the source’s reliability by appealing to that source’s own testimony. Is this because it is illegitimate to trust a questionable source’s testimony on any matter whatsoever? Or is there a distinctive problem with appealing to the source’s testimony on the matter of that source’s own reliability? After distinguishing between two kinds of epistemically illegitimate circularity—bootstrapping and self-verification—I argue for a qualified version of the claim that there is nothing especially illegitimate about using a questionable source to evaluate its own reliability. Instead, it is illegitimate to appeal to a questionable source’s testimony on any matter whatsoever, with the matter of the source’s own reliability serving only as a special case.

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Author's Profile

David James Barnett
University of Toronto, St. George Campus

Citations of this work

Normative Externalism.Brian Weatherson - 2019 - Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
Is Memory Merely Testimony from One's Former Self?David James Barnett - 2015 - Philosophical Review 124 (3):353-392.
The Evil Demon Inside.Nicholas Silins - 2020 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 100 (2):325-343.

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References found in this work

Philosophical Explanations.Robert Nozick - 1981 - Harvard University Press.
The Structure of Empirical Knowledge.Laurence BonJour - 1985 - Cambridge, MA, USA: Harvard University Press.
The skeptic and the dogmatist.James Pryor - 2000 - Noûs 34 (4):517–549.
Epistemic operators.Fred Dretske - 1970 - Journal of Philosophy 67 (24):1007-1023.

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