Problems for testimonial acquaintance

Noûs 42 (4):727-745 (2008)
We think about and refer to things that we’ve never perceived or experienced. This paper bears on how this could be. Someone is testimonially acquainted with something just in case the explanation of one’s ability to think de re thoughts about it essentially appeals to communication with others who already have that ability. The main motivation for the claim that testimonial acquaintance is possible is that it best explains how we can think de re about and refer to things we’ve never perceived or experienced: we gain these abilities in part by communicating with those who already have them. The main point of this paper is negative: to argue that testimonial acquaintance, as we currently understand it, is impossible. Although one might take this to show that we cannot be acquainted with things we haven’t perceived or experienced, I prefer to think of it as motivation for rethinking the nature of acquaintance.
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DOI 10.1111/j.1468-0068.2008.00698.x
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