Epistemology of Testimony
Green (Christopher R.)
Source: The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, October 2008
Paper - Abstract

Paper StatisticsBooks / Papers Citing this PaperColour-ConventionsDisclaimer

Author’s Abstract

  1. We get a great number of our beliefs from what others tell us. The epistemology of testimony concerns how we should evaluate these beliefs. Here are the main questions. When are the beliefs justified, and why? When do they amount to knowledge, and why?
  2. When someone tells us p, where p is some statement, and we accept it, then we are forming a testimonially-based belief that p. Testimony in this sense need not be formal testimony in a courtroom; it happens whenever one person tells something to someone else. What conditions should be placed on the recipient of testimonially-based beliefs? Must the recipient of testimony have beliefs about the reliability of the testifier, or inductive support for such a belief? Or, on the other hand, is it enough if the testifier is in fact reliable, and a recipient may satisfy his epistemic duties without having a belief about that reliability? What external environmental conditions should be placed on the testifier? For the recipient to know something, must the testifier know it, too?
  3. For our basic case of testimonially-based belief, let us say that person T, our testifier, says p to person S, our epistemic subject, and S believes that p. This article will first survey arguments related to S-side issues, then those related to T-side issues.

  1. Some Terminology, Abbreviations, and Caveats
  2. Recipient (S)-Side Questions
    … a. Characterizing the Debate
    … b. Arguments in Favor of Demands on Testimonially-Based Beliefs
    … … bi. T’s Ability to Deceive
    … … bii. Individual Counterexamples and Intuitions about Irresponsibility and Gullibility
    … … biii. S’s Ability Not to Trust T
    … … biv. Operational Dependence on Other Sources
    … … bv. Defeasibility of Testimonially-Based Beliefs by Other Sources
    … … bvi. From a No-Defeater Condition to Positive-Reason-to-Believe Condition
    … … bvii. S’s Higher-Order Beliefs About T
    … c. Arguments Against Demands on Testimonially-Based Beliefs
    … … ci. Insufficient Inductive Base
    … … cii. Analogies to Perception
    … … ciii. Analogies to Memory
    … … cvi. Skepticism about Over-Intellectualization and Young Children
    … … cv. The Assurance View as a Basis for Lessened Demands on S
    … d. A Priori Reasons in Support of Testimonially-Based Beliefs
    … … di. Coady’s Davidsonian Argument from the Comprehensibility of Testimony
    … … dii. Burge’s Argument from Intelligible Presentation
    … … diii. Graham’s A Priori Necessary Conceptual Intuitions
  3. Testifier (T)-Side Questions: Testimony and the Preservation of Knowledge
    … a. Background
    … b. The Cases
    … … bi. Untransmitted Defeaters
    … … bii. Zombie Testifiers
    … … biii. High-Stakes T, Low-Stakes S
    … … bvi. False Testimony
    … … bv. Reconceptualization from T to S
    … … bvi. Unreliable Testimony
  4. Some Brief Notes on Other Issues
    … a. Connections between S-side and T-side issues
    … b. The Nature of Testimony
  5. References and Further Reading


Recommended by "Hazlett (Allan) - Should you believe what you hear?". For the full text, see Link.

Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)

  1. Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2019
  2. Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)

© Theo Todman, June 2007 - Feb 2019. Please address any comments on this page to theo@theotodman.com. File output:
Website Maintenance Dashboard
Return to Top of this Page Return to Theo Todman's Philosophy Page Return to Theo Todman's Home Page