Testimony, testimonial belief, and safety

Philosophical Studies 164 (1):205-217 (2013)
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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



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Charlie Pelling
University of Reading (PhD)

Citations of this work

Epistemological problems of testimony.Jonathan E. Adler - 2006 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
In Defence of Transmission.Stephen Wright - 2015 - Episteme 12 (1):13-28.
Circular testimony.Stephen Wright - 2016 - Philosophical Studies 173 (8):2029-2048.

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Knowledge and its limits.Timothy Williamson - 2000 - New York: Oxford University Press.
Philosophical explanations.Robert Nozick - 1981 - Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
Epistemic Luck.Duncan Pritchard - 2005 - Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press UK.
Knowledge and Its Limits.Timothy Williamson - 2000 - Philosophy 76 (297):460-464.
Knowledge and its Limits.Timothy Williamson - 2000 - Tijdschrift Voor Filosofie 64 (1):200-201.

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