While we can judge and believe things by merely accepting testimony, we cannot make inferences by merely accepting testimony. A good theory of inference should explain this. The theories that are best suited to explain this fact seem to be theories that accept a so-called intuitional construal of Boghossian’s Taking Condition.
Is testimony a legitimate source of aesthetic belief? Can I, for instance, learn that a film is excellent on your say-so? Optimists say yes, pessimists no. But pessimism comes in two forms. One claims that testimony is not a legitimate source of aesthetic belief because it cannot yield aesthetic knowledge. The other accepts that testimony can be a source of aesthetic knowledge, yet insists that some further norm prohibits us from exploiting that resource. I argue that this (...) second form of pessimism has certain advantages over the first. I offer two candidates for the non-epistemic norm that, on this view, stands in the way of our taking aesthetic testimony. And I argue that this form of pessimism meets a challenge to pessimism in general – that of explaining why, if testimony cannot be a legitimate source of aesthetic belief, we can nonetheless rightly rely on the aesthetic recommendations of others. (shrink)
It is often said that ‘what it is like’-knowledge cannot be acquired by consulting testimony or reading books [Lewis 1998; Paul 2014; 2015a]. However, people also routinely consult books like What It Is Like to Go to War [Marlantes 2014], and countless ‘what it is like’ articles and youtube videos, in the apparent hope of gaining knowledge about what it is like to have experiences they have not had themselves. This article examines this puzzle and tries to solve it (...) by appealing to recent work on knowing-wh ascriptions. In closing I indicate the wider significance of these ideas by showing how they can help us to evaluate prominent arguments by Paul [2014; 2015a] concerning transformative experiences. (shrink)
In defense of moral testimony Content Type Journal Article Pages 1-21 DOI 10.1007/s11098-012-9887-6 Authors Paulina Sliwa, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, USA Journal Philosophical Studies Online ISSN 1573-0883 Print ISSN 0031-8116.
A natural view of testimony holds that a source's statements provide one with evidence about what the source believes, which in turn provides one with evidence about what is true. But some theorists have gone further and developed a broadly analogous view of memory. According to this view, which this essay calls the “diary model,” one's memory ordinarily serves as a means for one's present self to gain evidence about one's past judgments, and in turn about the truth. This (...) essay rejects the diary model's analogy between memory and testimony from one's former self, arguing first that memory and a diary differ with respect to their psychological roles, and second that this psychological difference underwrites important downstream epistemic differences. The resulting view stands opposed to prominent discussions of memory and testimony, which either, like the diary model, treat memory by analogy to what we naively wish to say about testimony, or which instead attempt to extend to testimony the epistemically preservative role of memory. (shrink)
Is the nature of testimonial warrant epistemically internalist or externalist? I will argue that the question should be answered ‘yes!’ The disjunction is not exclusive. Rather, a testimonial belief may possess epistemically internalist warrant—justification—as well as epistemically externalist warrant—entitlement. I use the label ‘pluralism’ to denote the view that there are both internalist and externalist species of genuinely epistemic warrant and argue for pluralism in the epistemology of testimony.
In this paper we address the question of how it can be possible for a non-expert to acquire justified true belief from expert testimony. We discuss reductionism and epistemic trust as theoretical approaches to answer this question and present a novel solution that avoids major problems of both theoretical options: Performative Expert Testimony (PET). PET draws on a functional account of expertise insofar as it takes the expert’s visibility as a good informant capable to satisfy informational needs as (...) equally important as her specific skills and knowledge. We explain how PET generates justification for testimonial belief, which is at once assessable for non-experts and maintains the division of epistemic labor between them and the experts. Thereafter we defend PET against two objections. First, we point out that the non-expert’s interest in acquiring widely assertable true beliefs and the expert’s interest in maintaining her status as a good informant counterbalances the relativist account of justification at work in PET. Second, we show that with regard to the interests at work in testimonial exchanges between experts and non-experts, PET yields a better explanation of knowledge-acquisition from expert testimony than externalist accounts of justification such as reliabilism. As our arguments ground in a conception of knowledge, which conceives of belief-justification as a declarative speech act, throughout the rearmost sections of this paper we also indicate to how such a conception is operationalized in PET. (shrink)
In this paper I defend the claim that testimony can serve as a basic source of knowledge of other people’s mental lives against the objection that testimonial knowledge presupposes knowledge of other people’s mental lives and therefore can’t be used to explain it.
Many contributors of the debate about knowledge by testimony concentrate on the problem of justification. In my paper I will stress a different point – the concept of testimony itself. As a starting point I will use the definitional proposal of Jennifer Lackey. She holds that the concept of testimony should be regarded as entailing two aspects – one corresponding to the speaker, the other one to the hearer. I will adopt the assumption that we need to (...) deal with both aspects. Nevertheless, I will show that her concept – which suggests regarding testimony as an act of communication conveying information – is too broad and, therefore, I will end up with a different twofold definition. (shrink)
Much of what we learn from talking and listening does not qualify as testimonial knowledge: we can learn a great deal from other people without simply accepting what they say as being true. In this article, I examine the ways in which we acquire skills or knowledge how from our interactions with other people, and I discuss whether there is a useful notion of testimonial knowledge how.Keywords: Knowledge how; Practical knowledge; Tacit knowledge; Testimony; Skills; Assertion.
What, if anything, is wrong with acquiring moral beliefs on the basis of testimony? Most philosophers think that there is something wrong with it, and most point to a special problem that moral testimony is supposed to create for moral agency. Being a good moral agent involves more than bringing about the right outcomes. It also involves acting with "moral understanding" and one cannot have moral understanding of what one is doing via moral testimony. And so, adherents (...) to this view claim, relying on moral testimony is problematic. Importantly, the problem that afflicts moral testimony, according to this view, is not a problem for testimonial knowledge in general. Indeed, critics of moral testimony acknowledge that a vast amount of our knowledge comes, completely unproblematically, from testimony. Call this the Asymmetry Thesis. We argue that while the diagnosis of what is wrong with moral testimony (when there is something wrong with it) in terms of moral understanding is correct, the lesson many of its adherents draw from it, namely that there is a principled difference between moral an non-moral testimony which renders the first, but not the second, problematic, is not. In other words, we argue that the Asymmetry Thesis is false. (shrink)
In this paper I argue that there can be cases of testimonial knowledge acquired through the acceptance of testimony which itself is unsafe. This has implications both for the epistemology of testimony and for the social nature of knowledge more generally.
Research in the psychology of deception detection implies that Fricker, in making her case for reductionism in the epistemology of testimony, overestimates both the epistemic demerits of the antireductionist policy of trusting speakers blindly and the epistemic merits of the reductionist policy of monitoring speakers for trustworthiness: folk psychological prejudices to the contrary notwithstanding, it turns out that monitoring is on a par (in terms both of the reliability of the process and of the sensitivity of the beliefs that (...) it produces) with blind trust. The consequence is that while (a version of) Fricker’s argument for the necessity of a reduction succeeds, her argument for the availability of reductions fails. This does not, however, condemn us to endorse standard pessimistic reductionism, according to which there is no testimonial knowledge, for recent research concerning the methods used by subjects to discover deception in non-laboratory settings suggests that only a more moderate form of pessimism is in order. (shrink)
Call the view that it is possible to acquire aesthetic knowledge via testimony, optimism, and its denial, pessimism. In this paper, I offer a novel argument for pessimism. It works by turning attention away from the basis of the relevant belief, namely, testimony, and toward what that belief in turn provides a basis for, namely, other attitudes. In short, I argue that an aesthetic belief acquired via testimony cannot provide a rational basis for further attitudes, such as (...) admiration, and that the best explanation for this is that the relevant belief is not itself rational. If a belief is not rational, it is not knowledge. So, optimism is false. After addressing a number of objections to the argument, I consider briefly its bearing on the debate concerning thick evaluative concepts. While the aim is to argue that pessimism holds, not to explain why it holds, I provide an indication in closing of what that explanation might be. (shrink)
A person sometimes forms moral beliefs by relying on another person''s moral testimony. In this paper I advance a cognitivist normative account of this phenomenon. I argue that for a person''s actions to be morally good, they must be based on a recognition of the moral reasons bearing on action. Morality requires people to act from an understanding of moral claims, and consequently to have an understanding of moral claims relevant to action. A person sometimes fails to meet this (...) requirement when she relies on another person''s moral testimony, and so there are moral limits on such reliance. (shrink)
I argue that reliance on political testimony conflicts with two democratic values: the value of mutual justifiability and the value of equality of opportunity for political influence. Reliance on political testimony is characterized by a reliance on the assertions of others directly on a political question the citizen is asked to answer as part of a formal democratic decision procedure. Reliance on expert testimony generally, even in the context of political decision-making, does not similarly conflict with democratic (...) values. As a consequence of the argument, citizens have a pro tanto reason to rely on their own political judgment when determining their vote, and democratic societies have a reason to only ask citizens questions they are able to answer without reliance on political testimony. (shrink)
There is something peculiar about aesthetic testimony. It seems more difficult to gain knowledge of aesthetic properties based solely upon testimony than it is in the case of other types of property. In this paper, I argue that we can provide an adequate explanation at the level of the semantics of aesthetic language, without defending any substantive thesis in epistemology or about aesthetic value/judgement. If aesthetic predicates are given a non-invariantist semantics, we can explain the supposed peculiar difficulty (...) with aesthetic testimony. (shrink)
Knowledge-how often appears to be more difficult to transmit by testimony than knowledge-that and knowledge-wh. Some philosophers have argued that this difference provides us with an important objection to intellectualism—the view that knowledge-how is a species of knowledge-that. This article defends intellectualism against these testimony-based objections.
Drawing on both empirical evidence and evolutionary considerations, Sperber et al. argue that humans have a suite of evolved mechanisms for . On their view, vigilance plays a crucial role in ensuring the reliability and hence the evolutionary stability of communication. This article responds to their argument for vigilance, drawing on additional empirical evidence (from deception detection research) and evolutionary considerations (from animal signalling research) to defend a more optimistic, quasi-Reidian view of communication. On this alternative view, the lion's share (...) of the responsibility for explaining the reliability of testimony falls not to the vigilance of receivers but rather to the honesty of communicators, implying that vigilance does not play a major role in explaining the evolutionary stability of communication. (shrink)
A proof is offered that aims to show that there can be no knowledge of God, excluding knowledge based on natural theology, without divine self-testimony. Both special and general revelation, if they occur, would be forms of divine self-testimony. It is argued that this indicates that the best way to model such knowledge of God is on the basis of an analogy with knowledge gained through testimony, rather than perceptual models of knowledge, such as the prominent model (...) defended by Plantinga. Appropriate causal chains and reliable cognitive processes only seem at best to ensure that a belief proposed for acceptance is the belief the testifier wants accepted; they do not ensure that it is rational to accept the belief. This particularly applies where there is much at stake, where it seems rational to seek some form of evidence, if available. Some brief comments are made on Trinitarian self-testimony. Another model of the ‘inner witness’ is briefly sketched out, based on the analogy with conscience. This model may capture some of the features of Plantinga’s approach, but leaves room for a free rejection of divine self-testimony, in a way that the perceptual analogy does not. A point connected to Plantinga’s aims is then made about the link between evidence, value and divine self-testimony, in relation to religious experience. Finally, it is suggested that the earlier proof may apply in a particular sense to all knowledge of God, including that based on natural theology. (shrink)
In general, epistemic internalists hold that an individual’s justification for a belief is exhausted by her reflectively accessible reasons for thinking that the contents of her beliefs are true. Applying this to the epistemology of testimony, a hearer’s justification for beliefs acquired through testimony is exhausted by her reflectively accessible reasons to think that the contents of the speaker’s testimony is true. A consequence of internalism is that subjects that are alike with respect to their reflectively accessible (...) reasons are alike with respect to what they have justification to believe. Testimony should be thought no different: hearers that are alike with respect to reflectively accessible reasons to think that a speaker’s testimony is true are alike with respect to their justification for beliefs based upon that testimony. But it has been recently argued that this view faces powerful counterexamples. So the central question is this: assuming that a hearer can acquire justification to believe a proposition through the testimony of a speaker, can epistemic internalism provide the resources to explain how such justification is possible? My aim in this paper is to address these counterexamples, and in so doing, defend epistemic internalist accounts of testimony. (shrink)
According to “sensitive invariantism,” the word “know” expresses the same relation in every context of use, but what it takes to stand in this relation to a proposition can vary with the subject’s circumstances. Sensitive invariantism looks like an attractive reconciliation of invariantism and contextualism. However, it is incompatible with a widely-held view about the way knowledge is transmitted through testimony. If both views were true, someone whose evidence for p fell short of what was required for knowledge in (...) her circumstances could come to know that p simply by feeding her evidence to someone in less demanding circumstances and then accepting his testimony. (shrink)
Why is there a felt asymmetry between cases in which agents defer to testifiers for certain moral beliefs, and cases in which agents defer on many other matters? One explanation influential in the literature is that having understanding of a proposition is both in tension with acquiring belief in the proposition by deferring to another's testimony and distinctively important when it comes to moral propositions, as compared with what we might think of as many ‘garden variety’ facts. My project (...) in this paper is to offer a new and more defensible version of this explanation. This will involve re-conceiving understanding as a richer state than it is commonly thought to be, requiring affective and motivational engagement with reasons as well as cognitive facility. I also offer a new explanation of the tension between understanding and deference to testimony. (shrink)
I present an account of what it is to trust a speaker, and argue that the account can explain the common intuitions which structure the debate about the transmission view of testimony. According to the suggested account, to trust a speaker is to grant her epistemic authority on the asserted proposition, and hence to see her opinion as issuing a second order, preemptive reason for believing the proposition. The account explains the intuitive appeal of the basic principle associated with (...) the transmission view of testimony: the principle according to which, a listener can normally obtain testimonial knowledge that p by believing a speaker who testifies that p only if the speaker knows that p. It also explains a common response to counterexamples to this principle: that these counterexamples do not involve normal cases of testimonial knowledge. (shrink)
Pettit (2006) argues that deferring to majority testimony is not generally rational: it may lead to inconsistent beliefs. He suggests that “another ... approach will do better”: deferring to supermajority testimony. But this approach may also lead to inconsistencies. In this paper, I describe conditions under which deference to supermajority testimony ensures consistency, and conditions under which it does not. I also introduce the concept of “consistency of degree k”, which is weaker than full consistency by ruling (...) out only “blatant” inconsistencies in an agent’s beliefs while permitting less blatant ones, and show that, while super-majoritarian deference often fails to ensure full consistency, it is a route to consistency in this weaker sense. (shrink)
Immanuel Kant is often regarded as an exponent of the ‘individualist’ tradition in epistemology, according to which testimony is not a fundamental source of knowledge. The present paper argues that this view is far from accurate. Kant devotes ample space to discussions of testimony and, in his lectures on logic, arrives at a distinct and stable philosophical position regarding testimony. Important elements of this position consist in (a) acknowledging the ineliminability of testimony; (b) realizing that (...) class='Hi'>testimony can establish empirical knowledge with certainty; (c) establishing a presumptive principle regarding the acceptance of testimony; (d) arguing for a symmetry between knowledge based on experience and knowledge based on testimony. Rejecting testimony as a fundamental source of knowledge merely on the basis that no theoretically necessary ground for its truth can be given, would, as Kant puts it, indicate ‘a lack of moral interest’. Such ‘incredulity’ would be a form of ‘logical egoism’: it demonstrates an unwillingness or inability to think oneself in the place of others, yet this we must do if we are to trust our own judgements. While Kant strongly endorses testimony as a source of empirical knowledge, he does, however, make one important restriction: ‘Propositions of reason’ (Vernunftwahrheiten), such as universal moral principles, may not be adopted on the basis of testimony. I argue that this distinction, between testimonial knowledge of empirical matters of fact and individual knowledge of propositions of reason, is an important element of Kant’s epistemology of testimony, as it explains how his strong endorsement of testimony as a source of knowledge can be squared with his equally strong demand for intellectual autonomy. Finally, I comment on the overall implications of this account for Kant’s discussion, elsewhere in his work, of the public nature of communication. (shrink)
The current debate over aesthetic testimony typically focuses on cases of doxastic repetition — where, when an agent, on receiving aesthetic testimony that p, acquires the belief that p without qualification. I suggest that we broaden the set of cases under consideration. I consider a number of cases of action from testimony, including reconsidering a disliked album based on testimony, and choosing an artistic educational institution from testimony. But this cannot simply be explained by supposing (...) that testimony is usable for action, but unusable for doxastic repetition. I consider a new asymmetry in the usability aesthetic testimony. Consider the following cases: we seem unwilling to accept somebody hanging a painting in their bedroom based merely on testimony, but entirely willing to accept hanging a painting in a museum based merely on testimony. The switch in intuitive acceptability seems to track, in some complicated way, the line between public life and private life. These new cases weigh against a number of standing theories of aesthetic testimony. I suggest that we look further afield, and that something like a sensibility theory, in the style of John McDowell and David Wiggins, will prove to be the best fit for our intuitions for the usability of aesthetic testimony. I propose the following explanation for the new asymmetry: we are willing to accept testimony about whether a work merits being found beautiful; but we are unwilling to accept testimony about whether something actually is beautiful. (shrink)
I argue, first, that testimony is likely a natural kind (where natural kinds are accurately described by the homoeostatic property cluster theory) and that if it is indeed a natural kind, it is likely necessarily reliable. I argue, second, that the view of testimony as a natural kind and as necessarily reliable grounds a novel, naturalist global reductionism about testimonial justification and that this new reductionism is immune to a powerful objection to orthodox Humean global reductionism, the objection (...) from the too-narrow induction base. (shrink)
What is the epistemic position that a scientist must be in vis-à-vis a proposition, p, to be in a good enough epistemic position to assert that p to a fellow scientist within the scientific process? My aim is to provide an answer to this question and, more generally, to connect the epistemological debates about the epistemic norms of assertion to the debates about the nature of the scientific process. The question is important because science is a collaborative enterprise based on (...) a division of labor. It has even been suggested that such collaboration is a part of the scientific method. However, scientific collaboration depends upon communication between scientists—that is, intra-scientific testimony. After distinguishing some different kinds of intra-scientific testimony, I provide a specific proposal for an epistemic norm of assertion that generally governs such testimony. I argue that the proposal aligns with the requirements of three scientific virtues—replicability, revisability, and accountability. The discussion of replicability considers a prominent debate in the social and cognitive sciences. In conclusion, I consider some of the wider questions raised by characterizing scientific collaboration, division of labor, and more generally, scientific method via intra-scientific testimony. (shrink)
This article brings together two sets of data that are rarely discussed in concert; namely, disagreement and testimony data. I will argue that relativism yields a much more elegant account of these data than its major rival, contextualism. The basic idea will be that contextualists can account for disagreement data only by adopting principles that preclude a simple account of testimony data. I will conclude that, other things being equal, we should prefer relativism to contextualism. In making this (...) comparative point, I will also defend self-standing relativist accounts of disagreement and testimony data. (shrink)
It has recently been argued that public linguistic norms are implicated in the epistemology of testimony by way of underwriting the reliability of language comprehension. This paper argues that linguistic normativity, as such, makes no explanatory contribution to the epistemology of testimony, but instead emerges naturally out of a collective effort to maintain language as a reliable medium for the dissemination of knowledge. Consequently, the epistemologies of testimony and language comprehension are deeply intertwined from the start, and (...) there is no room for grounding the one in terms of the other. (shrink)
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. (shrink)
In the epistemology of testimony it is often assumed that audiences are able to reliably recover asserted contents. In the philosophy of language this claim is contentious. This paper outlines one problem concerning the recovery of asserted contents, and argues that it prevents audiences from gaining testimonial knowledge in a range of cases. The recovery problem, in essence, is simply that due to the collective epistemic limitations of the speaker and audience speakers will, in certain cases, be insensitive to (...) the ways in which they may be misinterpreted. As a result audiences’ beliefs will often fail the safety and sensitivity conditions on knowledge. Once the problem has been outlined and distinguished from several related problems in the philosophy of language and the epistemology of testimony, a series of responses are considered. The first response holds that audiences possess defeaters in recovery problem cases, and thus wouldn’t form beliefs. The second response holds that the beliefs audiences form are very coarse grained, meaning they are not very vulnerable to failures of safety and sensitivity. The final response holds that the objects of speaker meaning are not propositional. All three responses are found to be unsatisfactory. (shrink)
According to the evidential view of testimony (EVT), the epistemic value of testimony is its value as evidence. Richard Moran has argued that because testimony is deliberately produced with the intention of making audiences form a belief, its value as evidence for the attested proposition is diminished; as a result, EVT cannot explain why we regard testimony as such a significant source of knowledge. I argue that this argument against EVT fails, because there is no reason (...) to think that the deliberate nature of testimony diminishes its value as evidence. (shrink)
An ad hominem fallacy is committed when an individual employs an irrelevant personal attack against an opponent instead of addressing that opponent’s argument. Many discussions of such fallacies discuss judgments of relevance about such personal attacks, and consider how we might distinguish those that are relevant from those that are not. This paper will argue that the literature on bias and testimony can helpfully contribute to that analysis. This will highlight ways in which biases, particularly unconscious biases, can make (...) ad hominem fallacies seem effective, even when the irrelevance is recognized. (shrink)
According to moral testimony pessimists, the testimony of moral experts does not provide non-experts with normative reasons for belief. Moral testimony optimists hold that it does. We first aim to show that moral testimony optimism is, to the extent such things may be shown, the more natural view about moral testimony. Speaking roughly, the supposed discontinuity between the norms of moral beliefs and the norms of non-moral beliefs, on careful reflection, lacks the intuitive advantage that (...) it is sometimes supposed to have. Our second aim is to highlight the difference in the nature of the pragmatic reasons for belief that support moral testimony optimism and moral testimony pessimism, setting out more clearly the nature and magnitude of the challenge for the pessimist. (shrink)
According to the Interpersonal View of Testimony, testimonial justification is non-evidential in nature. I begin by arguing that the IVT has the following problem: If the IVT is true, then young children and people with autism cannot participate in testimonial exchanges; but young children and people with autism can participate in testimonial exchanges; thus, the IVT should be rejected on the grounds that it has over-cognized what it takes to give and receive testimony. Afterwards, I consider what I (...) take to be the two best motivations for the IVT and argue that they both fail. The overarching lesson, then, is that the IVT is unmotivated and false; we should think of testimonial justification as being evidential in nature. (shrink)
Can one know aesthetic facts on the basis of testimony? Optimists say that we can. Pessimists say that we cannot. Daniel Whiting has recently put forth a new argument for pessimism about the epistemic power of aesthetic testimony. He seeks to establish pessimism by arguing that testimonial beliefs cannot justify the downstream reactions that would otherwise be justified if one had aesthetic knowledge. In this paper, I will show that there is a plausible alternative explanation of the data (...) that Whiting appeals to. The views that provide this explanation are not only compatible with optimism, but they also provide a nice explanation of why it is plausible that we often know aesthetic facts on the basis of testimony. (shrink)
This paper considers a special case of belief updating—when an agent learns testimonial data, or in other words, the beliefs of others on some issue. The interest in this case is twofold: (1) the linear averaging method for updating on testimony is somewhat popular in epistemology circles, and it is important to assess its normative acceptability, and (2) this facilitates a more general investigation of what it means/requires for an updating method to have a suitable Bayesian representation (taken here (...) as the normative standard). The paper initially defends linear averaging against Bayesian-compatibility concerns raised by Bradley (Soc Choice Welf 29:609-632, 2007), as well as problems associated with multiple testimony updates. The resolution of these issues, however, requires an extremely nuanced interpretation of the parameters of the linear averaging model—the so-called weights of respect. We go on to propose a role that the parameters of any 'shortcut' updating function should play, by way of minimal interpretation of these parameters. The class of updating functions that is consistent with this role, however, excludes linear averaging, at least in its standard form. (shrink)
Among contemporary epistemologists of testimony, David Hume is standardly regarded as a "global reductionist", where global reductionism requires the hearer to have sufficient first-hand knowledge of the facts in order to individually ascertain the reliability of the testimony in question. In the present paper, I argue that, by construing Hume's reductionism in too individualistic a fashion, the received view of Hume on testimony is inaccurate at best, and misleading at worst. Hume's overall position is more amenable to (...) testimonial acceptance than has traditionally been thought. In particular, Hume believes that indirect evidence of human nature and of the social world around us, can take the place of first-hand evidence of the track record of individual speakers or specific classes of testimony. In developing this interpretation of Hume's views on testimony, the present paper draws on discussions found in the Treatise, the Enquiry, and in Hume's writings on historical knowledge. (shrink)
In this paper I focus on John Locke as a representative figure of English Enlightenment theorizing about the legitimacy of cognitive authority and examine the way in which a greater attention to the cultural milieu in which Locke worked can lead to a profound reexamination of his writings on cognitive authority. In particular, I suggest that an inattention to the rise of a culture of reading and the growing availability of books in Early Modern England has led historians of philosophy (...) largely to misrepresent Locke's theory of testimonial justification. At the core of my paper are two interrelated claims. First, with respect to the history of ideas, I argue that the Locke's interest in testimony as a source of justification was in fact greater than that of his Scholastic forebears, and that this fact has a simple, if as yet unacknowledged, cultural cause -- viz., the rise of the book as a mass commodity in the late 17th century. Second, with respect to the history of philosophy more particularly, I argue that this failure to acknowledge the cultural movements that led to a consideration of testimony as a topic of interest to epistemologists in the Modern era has led to a misreading of Locke's work on the subject. Indeed, Locke, though usually read as having attempted to denigrate testimony as a legitimate source of justification, in fact sought to devise an epistemology that would do justice to the centrality of testimony in the intellectual lives of growing numbers of his contemporaries in 17th and 18th century England and Scotland. (shrink)
This paper studies some classic cases of the fallacy of begging the question based on appeals to testimony containing circular reasoning. For example, suppose agents a, b and c vouch for d’s credentials, and agents b, d, and e vouch for a’s credentials. Such a sequence of reasoning is circular because a is offering testimony for d but d is offering testimony for a. The paper formulates and evaluates restrictions on the use of testimonial evidence that might (...) be used to deal with such problematic arguments. One is called the Non-repeater Rule: in an extended sequence of argumentation based on testimony, once a source x has been appealed to at any given point in the sequence, that same source x must never be appealed to again at any next point in the same sequence. (shrink)
Most explanations of the rational authority of testimony provide little guidance when evaluating individual pieces of testimony. In practice, however, we are remarkably sensitive to the varying epistemic credentials of testimony: extending trust when it is deserved, and withholding it when it is not. A complete account of the epistemology of testimony should, then, have something to say about when it is that testimony is trustworthy. In the typical case, to judge someone trustworthy requires judging (...) them to be competent and sincere. In this essay we develop an exchange-based account of testimony that shows how those who receive testimony are in a position to evaluate the sincerity of speakers. (shrink)
Are we entitled or justified in taking the word of others at face value? An affirmative answer to this question is associated with the views of Thomas Reid. Recently, C. A. J. Coady has defended a Reidian view in his impressive and influential book. Testimony: A Philosophical Study. His central and most Oliginal argument for his positions involves reflection upon the practice of giving and accepting reports, of making assertions and relying on the word of others. His argument purports (...) to show that testimony is, by its very nature, a “reliable form of evidence about the way the world is.” The argument moves from what we do to why we are justified in doing it. Although I am sympathetic with both the Reidian view and Coady’s attempt to connect why we rely on others with why we are entitled to rely on others, I find Coady’s argument ineffective. (shrink)
While courts depend on expert opinions in reaching sound judgments, the role of the expert witness in legal proceedings is associated with a litany of problems. Perhaps most prevalent is the question of under what circumstances should testimony be admitted as expert opinion. We review the changing policies adopted by American courts in an attempt to ensure the reliability and usefulness of the scientific and technical information admitted as evidence. We argue that these admissibility criteria are best seen in (...) a dialectical context as a set of critical questions of the kind commonly used in models of argumentation. (shrink)
This paper investigates whether practical interests affect knowledge attributions in cases of testimony. It is argued that stakes impact testimonial knowledge attributions by increasing or decreasing the requirements for hearers to trust speakers and thereby gain the epistemic right to acquire knowledge via testimony. Standard, i.e. invariantist, reductionism and non-reductionism fail to provide a plausible account of testimony that is stakes sensitive, while non- invariantist versions of both traditional accounts can remedy this deficiency. Support for this conceptual (...) analysis of stakes is found through a review of the experimental philosophy literature on stakes effects on knowledge attribution. Finally, a diagnosis is offered for what is needed to provide a more robust defense of the paper’s primary claims in terms of future experimental study. (shrink)
Peter Graham has recently given a dilemma purportedly showing the compatibility of libertarianism about free will and the anti-skeptical epistemology of testimony. In the first part of this paper I criticize his dilemma: the first horn either involves a false premise or makes the dilemma invalid. The second horn relies without argument on an implausible assumption about testimonial knowledge, and even if granted, nothing on this horn shows libertarianism does not entail skepticism about testimonial justification. I then argue for (...) the incompatibility of (i) a view entailed by Open Theism, viz., that there are no true counterfactuals of freedom, (ii) a popular form of process reliabilism about justification and knowledge, and (iii) a weak anti-skepticism about testimonial justification and knowledge. I conclude that there is a costly tension between certain views about testimony and about free will. (shrink)
According to telling based views of testimony (TBVs), B has reason to believe that p when A tells B that p because A thereby takes public responsibility for B's subsequent belief that p. Andrew Peet presents a new argument against TBVs. He argues that insofar as A uses context-sensitive expressions to express p, A doesn't take public responsibility for B's belief that p. Since context-sensitivity is widespread, the kind of reason TBVs say we have to believe what we're told, (...) is not widespread. Peet doesn't identify any problem with his own argument though he does attempt to limit its sceptical potential by identifying special contexts in which TBVs stand a chance of success. A more general defence of TBVs can be provided by showing Peet's argument to be unsound. I argue that Peet's argument is unsound because it requires us to wrongly suppose that speakers do far less labour than their audiences in context-sensitive linguistic communication. I aim to show why—in the context of the epistemology of testimony and the philosophy of language—it's important to recognize the labour that speakers can do, and so can can be held responsible for not doing, in episodes of context-sensitive linguistic communication. (shrink)
The first book since Coady's 1992 'Testimony: A Philosophical Study' to offer a thorough survey and a philosophical introduction to testimony and its epistemological problems, while at the same time advancing a novel view that proposes independent justificatory pathways for the acceptance and rejection of testimony, respectively. // Table of Contents: // Introduction / 1. What is Testimony? / 2. The Testimonial Conundrum / 3. Testimony, Perception, Memory, and Inference / 4. Testimony and Evidence (...) / 5. Reductionism and Anti-Reductionism / 6. Hybrid Theories of Testimony / 7. Testimonial Knowledge: Transmission and Generation / 8. Trust and Assurance / 9. Expert Testimony / 10. Pathologies of Testimony / 11. Testimony and the Value of Knowledge / Glossary / Bibliography / Index. (shrink)