Testimony, Transmission, and Safety

Abstracta 4 (1):27-43 (2008)

Authors
Joachim Horvath
Ruhr-Universität Bochum
Abstract
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.
Keywords epistemology  testimony  knowledge  safety
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