It is commonly claimed that reliance upon moral testimony is problematic in a way not common to reliance upon non-moral testimony. This chapter provides a new explanation of what the problem consists in—one that enjoys advantages over the most widely accepted explanation in the extant literature. The main theses of the chapter are as follows: that many forms of normative deference beyond the moral are problematic, that there is a common explanation of the problem with all of these (...) forms of deference—an explanation that is based on the connection between the relevant judgments and desire-like attitudes, and that this explanation is compatible with moral realism. (shrink)
If knowledge requires safety, then one might think that when the epistemic source of knowledge is testimony, that testimony must itself be safe. Otherwise, will not the lack of safety transfer from testimony to hearer, such that hearer will lack knowledge? Resisting this natural line of reasoning, Goldberg (2005; 2007) argues that testimonial knowledge through unsafe testimony is possible on the basis of two cases. Lackey (2008) and Pelling (2013) criticize Goldberg’s examples. But Pelling goes on (...) to provide his own example that attempts to show that Goldberg’s thesis is true: one can gain safe testimonial belief from unsafe testimony. If any of these counterexamples were correct, they would undermine the main reason to think that knowledge based on unsafe testimony is impossible. My aim in this paper is to critically assess these arguments, and to consider the possibility of knowledge through unsafe testimony. Drawing a general moral from the analysis of these cases, I shall contend that it is impossible to acquire safe belief solely on the basis of unsafe testimony. If so, then testimonial knowledge based solely on unsafe testimony is impossible. (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.
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)
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)
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)
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)
Are the circumstances in which moral testimony serves as evidence that our judgement-forming processes are unreliable the same circumstances in which mundane testimony serves as evidence that our mundane judgement-forming processes are unreliable? In answering this question, we distinguish two possible roles for testimony: (i) providing a legitimate basis for a judgement, (ii) providing (‘higher-order’) evidence that a judgement-forming process is unreliable. We explore the possibilities for a view according to which moral testimony does not, in (...) contrast to mundane testimony play role (i), but can play role (ii). We argue that standard motivations for rejecting this hybrid position are unpersuasive but suggest that a more compelling reason might be found in considering the social nature of morality. (shrink)
While possessing moral understanding is agreed to be a core epistemic and moral value, it remains a matter of dispute whether it can be acquired via testimony and whether it involves an ability to engage in moral reasoning. This paper addresses both issues with the aim of contributing to the current debates on moral understanding in moral epistemology and virtue ethics. It is argued that moral epistemologists should stop appealing to the argument from the transmissibility of moral understanding to (...) make a case for their favorite view of moral understanding. It is also argued that proponents of exemplarist moral theories cannot remain neutral on whether the ability to engage in moral reasoning is a necessary component of moral understanding. (shrink)
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.
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)
Assurance theories of testimony attempt to explain what is distinctive about testimony as a form of epistemic warrant or justification. The most characteristic assurance theories hold that a distinctive subclass of assertion (acts of “telling”) involves a real commitment given by the speaker to the listener, somewhat like a promise to the effect that what is asserted is true. This chapter sympathetically explains what is attractive about such theories: instead of treating testimony as essentially similar to any (...) other kind of evidence, they instead make testimonial warrant depend on essential features of the speech act of testimony as a social practice. One such feature is “buck-passing,” the phenomenon that when I am challenged to defend a belief I acquired through testimony, I may respond by referring to the source of my testimony (and thereby “passing the buck”) rather than providing direct evidence for the truth of the content of the belief. The chapter concludes by posing a serious challenge to assurance theories, namely that the social practice of assurance insufficiently ensures the truth of beliefs formed on the basis of testimony, and thereby fails a crucial epistemological test as a legitimate source of beliefs. (shrink)
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)
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.
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)
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.
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.
In this paper I argue that in Western contemporary societies testimony is structured by norms of reciprocation and thus is best understood as involving the exchange of gifts rather than, as philosophers and game theorists have tended to presume, market transactions. My argument is based on an initial analysis of the reactive attitudes that are exhibited in testimonial exchanges. I highlight the central role played by the reciprocating attitudes of gratitude and gratification respectively in the recipient and the donor (...) of testimony. This analysis leads to an account of the speech act of telling that is the primary vehicle of testimony. Telling, I argue, is a commissive but it is not, as it is usually presumed, akin to promising. Instead, its nature is that of an offer of a gift. Finally, I develop an account of the norms of trust and trustfulness as reciprocating social norms. I show that adopting these norms provides a particularly effective solution of the problem of cooperation. The solution is particularly effective because it incentivises both the sharing of epistemic goods and the acquisition of further such goods so that one is able to share them. (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.
Unlike other sources of evidence like perception and memory, testimony is intimately related to natural language. That intimacy cannot be overlooked. In this chapter, I show how cross-linguistic considerations are relevant to the epistemology of testimony. I make my case with declaratives containing grammaticalized evidentials. My discussion has a negative and a positive part. For the negative part, it is argued that some definitions of testimony are mistaken because they do not apply to testimony offered by (...) a declarative containing an evidential. The positive component discusses a new puzzle noted by McCready (2015) that evidentials raise about the justificatory status of testimony-based beliefs. (shrink)
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)
It is sometimes claimed that faith is a virtue. To what extent faith is a virtue depends on what faith is. One construal of faith, which has been popular in both recent and historical work on faith, is that faith is a matter of taking oneself to have been spoken to by God and of trusting this purported divine testimony. In this paper, I argue that when faith is understood in this way, for faith to be virtuous then it (...) must be accompanied by intellectual humility. I defend this view by showing how someone ought to respond to purported divine testimony if her faith is to be intellectually humble, and how, if it fails in this respect, it will instead be accompanied by the vices of either servility or arrogance. (shrink)
Standard philosophical explanations of the concept of knowledge invoke a personal goal of having true beliefs, and explain the other requirements for knowledge as indicating the best way to achieve that goal. In this highly original book, Steven L. Reynolds argues instead that the concept of knowledge functions to express a naturally developing kind of social control, a complex social norm, and that the main purpose of our practice of saying and thinking that people 'know' is to improve our system (...) for exchanging information, which is testimony. He makes illuminating comparisons of the knowledge norm of testimony with other complex social norms - such as those requiring proper clothing, respectful conversation, and the complementary virtues of tact and frankness - and shows how this account fits with our concept of knowledge as studied in recent analytic epistemology. His book will interest a range of readers in epistemology, psychology, and sociology. (shrink)
I present a puzzle – the “puzzle of aesthetic testimony” – along with a solution to it that appeals to the impossibility of testimonial understanding. I'll criticize this solution by defending the possibility of testimonial understanding, including testimonial aesthetic understanding.
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)
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)
It is has been argued that there is a problem with moral testimony: testimony is deferential, and basing judgments and actions on deferentially acquired knowledge prevents them from having moral worth. What morality perhaps requires of us, then, is that we understand why a proposition is true, but this is something that cannot be acquired through testimony. I argue here that testimony can be both deferential as well as cooperative, and that one can acquire moral understanding (...) through cooperative testimony. The problem of moral testimony is thus not a problem with testimony generally, but a problem of deferential testimony specifically. (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.
Jennifer Lackey ('Testimonial Knowledge and Transmission' The Philosophical Quarterly 1999) and Peter Graham ('Conveying Information, Synthese 2000, 'Transferring Knowledge' Nous 2000) offered counterexamples to show that a hearer can acquire knowledge that P from a speaker who asserts that P, but the speaker does not know that P. These examples suggest testimony can generate knowledge. The showpiece of Lackey's examples is the Schoolteacher case. This paper shows that Lackey's case does not undermine the orthodox view that testimony cannot (...) generate knowledge. This paper explains why Lackey's arguments to the contrary are ineffective for they misunderstand the intuitive rationale for the view that testimony cannot generate knowledge. This paper then elaborates on a version of the case from Graham's paper 'Conveying Information' (the Fossil case) that effectively shows that testimony can generate knowledge. This paper then provides a deeper informative explanation for how it is that testimony transfers knowledge, and why there should be cases where testimony generates knowledge. (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)
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)
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)
Testimony about the future dangerousness of a person has become a central staple of many judicial processes. In settings such as bail, sentencing, and parole decisions, in rulings about the civil confinement of the mentally ill, and in custody decisions in a context of domestic violence, the assessment of a person’s propensity towards physical or sexual violence is regarded as a deciding factor. These assessments can be based on two forms of expert testimony: actuarial or clinical. The purpose (...) of this paper is to examine the scientific and epistemological basis of both methods of prediction or risk assessment. My analysis will reveal that this kind of expert testimony is scientifically baseless. The problems I will discuss will generate a dilemma for factfinders: on the one hand, given the weak predictive abilities of the branches of science involved, they should not admit expert clinical or actuarial testimony as evidence; on the other hand, there is a very strong tradition and a vast jurisprudence that supports the continued use of this kind of expert testimony. It is a clear case of the not so uncommon conflict between science and legal tradition. (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)
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)
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)
We’ll sketch the debate on testimony in social epistemology by reference to the contemporary debate on reductionism/anti-reductionism, communitarian epistemology and inferentialism. Testimony is a fundamental source of knowledge we share and it is worthy to be considered in the ambit of a dialogical perspective, which requires a description of a formal structure which entails deontic statuses and deontic attitudes. In particular, we’ll argue for a social reformulation of the “space of reasons”, which establishes a fruitful relationship with the (...) epistemological view of Wilfrid Sellars. (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)
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)
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)
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 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)
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)
Is there anything peculiarly bad about accepting moral testimony? According to pessimists, trusting moral testimony is an inadequate substitute for working out your moral views on your own. Enlightenment requires thinking for oneself, at least where morality is concerned. Optimists, by contrast, aim to show that trusting moral testimony isn’t bad largely by arguing that it’s no worse than trusting testimony generally. Essentially, they play defense. However, this chapter goes on the offensive. It explores two reasons (...) for thinking that trusting another person’s moral testimony is especially good. The first is an extended application of some of the lessons from recent discussions about epistemic injustice. The second, borrowing some cryptic epistemological thoughts from the young Marx, is that trusting another’s moral testimony is necessary for perfecting ourselves. It concludes that it can be better to accept moral testimony than to arrive at the same moral view on your own. (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)
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)