Testimonial justification: the parity argument

On an individualist view of testimonial justification, a subject’s belief based on testimony is justified ultimately on the basis of nontestimonial beliefs alone. The prevailing version of individualism has been inductive individualism, according to which the nontestimonial basis for a testimonial belief is an inductively based belief in the reliability of the testifier. Here I consider an alternative to inductive individualism, which I call the parity account. This is the view, endorsed in various forms by Allan Gibbard, Richard Foley and Keith Lehrer, that my testimonial beliefs have epistemic standing because there is a cognitive parity between me and others. I may trust the beliefs of others because I may trust my own beliefs. I focus on an argument central to Lehrer’s account: I am worthy of my trust in what I believe; others are as worthy of my trust in what they believe as I am in what I believe; so others are worthy of my trust in what they believe. I examine whether this argument can justify my testimonial beliefs. If the parity account is to succeed, the premises of the argument need support. I criticize diverse ways of supporting the premises suggested by Lehrer and by remarks of Foley. I conclude that the parity argument cannot account for the justification of all my testimonial beliefs. It is at best an adjunct argument that depends for its force on prior justified testimonial beliefs.Author Keywords: Testimony; Justification; Parity; Trust; Individualism; Skepticism.
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DOI 10.1016/S0039-3681(02)00011-0
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