Testimony

Edited by Peter Graham (University of California, Riverside)
About this topic
Summary

Beliefs are often based on assertions by others: that is, on testimony.  This phenomenon raises many questions.  How wide is the range of testimony-based beliefs? Do all assertions play the same epistemic role, or do some assertive speech acts play special roles?  Can mathematical, moral, religious, or aesthetic knowledge be transferred?  A major issue in the epistemology of testimony concerns the rational role of testimony.  How does comprehending an assertion rationally support a belief? According to reductionism, it provides no support; comprehension is rationally inert. The recipient must have independent rational grounds to believe the assertion. Anti-reductionism disagrees: comprehension provides prima facie, defeasible rational support. Reductionism is accused of being too demanding, anti-reductionism of being too permissive.  Another issue concerns the transmission of knowledge.   Is knowledge transferred from sender to receiver? Is knowledge in the chain of sources essential for the uptake of knowledge, or can assertive communication sometimes generate knowledge?

Key works Coady 1992 is a classic book-length treatment of nearly all the major issues. Burge 1993 is a rewarding and influential anti-reductionist account. Graham 2010 is an empirically informed, proper functioning anti-reductionist account. Fricker 1994 levels the charge of excessive permissiveness against anti-reductionism. Goldberg & Henderson 2006 articulates the standard, anti-reductionist response. Moran 2005 emphasizes the interpersonal role of telling in favor of anti-reductionism. Lackey 1999 and Graham 2006 argue that testimony sometimes generates knowledge. In recent books, Lackey 2008 and Faulkner 2011 both argue, in very different ways, for a middle path between reductionism and anti-reductionism.
Introductions Adler 2006 is Jonathan Adler's revised and comprehensive Stanford Encyclopedia entry. Lackey 2010 is a concise and informative survey.
Related categories
Subcategories:History/traditions: Testimony

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  1. Hot-Cold Empathy Gaps and the Grounds of Authenticity.Grace Helton & Christopher Register - forthcoming - Synthese.
    Hot-cold empathy gaps are a pervasive phenomena wherein one’s predictions about others tend to skew ‘in the direction’ of one’s own current visceral states. For instance, when one predicts how hungry someone else is, one’s prediction will tend to reflect one’s own current hunger state. These gaps also obtain intrapersonally, when one attempts to predict what one oneself would do at a different time. In this paper, we do three things: We draw on empirical evidence to argue that so-called hot-cold (...)
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  2. Public artifacts and the epistemology of collective material testimony.Quill R. Kukla - 2022 - Philosophical Issues 32 (1):233-252.
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  3. Introduction to 'Scientific Testimony: Its roles in science and society'.Mikkel Gerken - 2022 - Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
    This is the Introduction and Chapter 1.1 of the book ‘Scientific Testimony. Its roles in science and society’ (OUP 2022). The introduction contains a brief survey of the book’s chapters and main conclusions, which I hope will be useful to the curious ones.
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  4. Literary Mediation, Responsibility, and Ethical Understanding of the Afflicted Other: A Philosophy of Testimonial Narrative.Natan Elgabsi - 2021 - Internationales Jahrbuch für Hermeneutik 20:143–169.
    Many of our hermeneutic, literary critic, and poststructuralist ideas on mediation imply that the medium determines how a textual or narrative account must be taken. In contrast to these, Émmanuel Lévinas suggests that responsibility for the other person is not determined by the medium. Responsibility is already established in proximity to the other person; a relationship that we as moral subjects need to ethically understand. In relation to Primo Levi’s memoir of survival in Auschwitz, If this is a Man, this (...)
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  5. Faith, Wisdom, and the Transmission of Knowledge through Testimony.Eleonore Stump - 2014 - In Timothy O'Connor & Laura Frances Callahan (eds.), Religious Faith and Intellectual Virtue. Oxford, UK: pp. 204-230.
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  6. Judging Expert Testimony: From Verbal Formalism to Practical Advice.Susan Haack - 2020 - Quaestio Facti 1.
    Appraising the worth of others’ testimony is always complex; appraising the worth of expert testimony is even harder; appraising the worth of expert testimony in a legal context is harder yet. Legal efforts to assess the reliability of expert testimony—I’ll focus on evolving U.S. law governing the admissibility of such testimony—seem far from adequate, offering little effective practical guidance. My purpose in this paper is to think through what might be done to offer courts more real, operational help. The first (...)
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  7. Loose Canons: The Epistemic Problems of Scriptural Testimony.Asha Lancaster-Thomas - 2022 - Essays in Philosophy.
    In Abrahamic theism scripture is essential to belief-forming, yet scripture as an epistemic evidence source is plagued with difficulties. In the following article, I argue for a specific reductionist model of scriptural proposition justification utilising an account of scripture as testimony. I contend that for an individual to be justified in a belief sourced from a scriptural proposition, she must appeal to external evidence to “prop up her epistemic bar.” Accordingly, I consider some potential “epistemic bar-proppers.”.
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  8. Philosophical producers, philosophical consumers, and the metaphilosophical value of original texts.Ethan Landes - 2023 - Philosophical Studies 180 (1):207-225.
    In recent years, two competing methodological frameworks have developed in the study of the epistemology of philosophy. The traditional camp, led by experimental philosophy and its allies, has made inferences about the epistemology of philosophy based on the reactions, or intuitions, people have to works of philosophy. In contrast, multiple authors have followed the lead of Deutsch and Cappelen by setting aside experimental data in favor of inferences based on careful examination of the text of notable works of philosophy. In (...)
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  9. Testimony and the First-, Second-, and Third-Person Perspective.Eva-Maria Engelen - 2021 - In Anne Siegetsleitner, Andreas Oberprantacher, Marie-Luisa Frick & Ulrich Metschl (eds.), Crisis and Critique: Philosophical Analysis and Current Events: Proceedings of the 42nd International Wittgenstein Symposium. De Gruyter. pp. 251-268.
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  10. A priori testimony revisited.Anna-Sara Malmgren - 2013 - In Albert Casullo & Joshua C. Thurow (eds.), The a Priori in Philosophy. Oxford University Press UK.
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  11. The testimony of reason and the historical reality : Ibn òHazm's refutation of Christianity.Martin-Samuel Behloul - 2013 - In Camilla Adang, Maribel Fierro & Sabine Schmidtke (eds.), Ibn Ḥazm of Cordoba: the life and works of a controversial thinker. Brill.
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  12. “Do Your Own Research”.Nathan Ballantyne, Jared B. Celniker & David Dunning - forthcoming - Social Epistemology.
    This article evaluates an emerging element in popular debate and inquiry: DYOR. (Haven’t heard of the acronym? Then Do Your Own Research.) The slogan is flexible and versatile. It is used frequently on social media platforms about topics from medical science to financial investing to conspiracy theories. Using conceptual and empirical resources drawn from philosophy and psychology, we examine key questions about the slogan’s operation in human cognition and epistemic culture.
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  13. Practical knowledge and testimony.Johannes Roessler - 2022 - In Roger Teichmann (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Elizabeth Anscombe.
    Statements purporting to convey practical knowledge in Anscombe's sense are subject to two distinctive kinds of error: errors in performance and errors of practical judgement. I argue that reflection on these kinds of errors sheds light both on the nature of practical knowledge and on the status of Anscombe's account of it. Briefly: practical knowledge is knowledge we ordinarily find intelligible in the light of the agent's non-defective exercise of practical judgement. And Anscombe's account is not primarily designed to make (...)
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  14. Wrong on the Internet: Why some common prescriptions for addressing the spread of misinformation online don’t work.Isaac Record & Boaz Miller - 2022 - Communique 105:22-27.
    Leading prescriptions for addressing the spread of fake news, misinformation, and other forms of epistemically toxic content online target either the platform or platform users as a single site for intervention. Neither approach attends to the intense feedback between people, posts, and platforms. Leading prescriptions boil down to the suggestion that we make social media more like traditional media, whether by making platforms take active roles as gatekeepers, or by exhorting individuals to behave more like media professionals. Both approaches are (...)
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  15. Testimony by Presupposition.Paula Keller - forthcoming - Erkenntnis:1-19.
    Testimony is a source of knowledge. A speaker asserts what a hearer may therefore come to know. Assertion has widely been treated as the exclusive or at least the paradigmatic vehicle for testimony. I argue that we testify not only by asserting something, but also by taking something for granted within some other utterance. In philosophy of language, this is called semantic presupposition. The very reasons leading theorists of testimony have for thinking that assertion can be testimony are equally reasons (...)
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  16. Testimony and trauma: engaging common ground.Cristina Santos, Adriana Spahr & Tracy Crowe Morey (eds.) - 2019 - Boston: Brill Rodopi.
    This book offers a collection of reflective essays on current testimonial production by researchers and practitioners working in multifaceted fields such as art and film performance, public memorialization, scriptotherapy, and fictional and non-fictional testimony. 0The inter-disciplinary approach to the question of testimony offers a current account of testimony's diversity in the twenty-first century as well as its relevance within the fields of art, storytelling, trauma, and activism. The range of topics engage with questions of genre and modes of representation, ethical (...)
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  17. Aesthetic testimony and experimental philosophy.James Andow - 2018 - In Florian Cova & Sébastien Réhault (eds.), Advances in Experimental Philosophy of Aesthetics. Bloomsbury Academic.
  18. The voice of misery: a continental philosophy of testimony. van der Heiden & Gerrit Jan - 2019 - Albany: SUNY Press, State University of New York.
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  19. When testimony isn't enough: implicit bias research as epistemic exclusion.Lacey J. Davidson - 2019 - In Benjamin R. Sherman & Stacey Goguen (eds.), Overcoming Epistemic Injustice: Social and Psychological Perspectives. Rowman & Littlefield International.
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  20. Effective Filtering: Language Comprehension and Testimonial Entitlement.J. P. Grodniewicz - forthcoming - Philosophical Quarterly.
    It is often suggested that we are equipped with a set of cognitive tools that help us to filter out unreliable testimony. But are these tools effective? I answer this question in two steps. Firstly, I argue that they are not real-time effective. The process of filtering, which takes place simultaneously with or right after language comprehension, does not prevent a particular hearer on a particular occasion from forming beliefs based on false testimony. Secondly, I argue that they are long-term (...)
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  21. Testimony.Paul W. Kahn - 2021 - Eugene, Oregon: Cascade Books.
    On her seventy-fifth birthday, the author’s mother confessed to an affair more than three decades past. His father’s response was unforgiving. Her need to confess met his limitless rage. She acted out of love; he sought revenge. Their battle consumed everything and everyone around them. In the middle of this struggle, she was diagnosed with cancer. Two years later, she died. Testimony is a son’s memoir of this struggle. Paul Kahn finds here a story of the twentieth century, beginning with (...)
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  22. Testimony from the Top : Three CEO's Perspectives on Morality and Business.Regina Wentzel Wolfe - 2021 - In Daniel K. Finn (ed.), Business ethics and Catholic social thought. Georgetown University Press.
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  23. Testimony in stone: architecture of war from kluge to Herscher and Weizman.Marija Ratkovic - 2022 - Filozofija I Društvo 33 (3):535-550.
    The article contributes to creating an outline of the significant postwar theoretical approaches that examine the role, purpose, and significance of architecture in war and war crimes. Starting from the Clausewitz thesis that?war is not autonomous?, this paper attempts to reveal?the blood that has dried in the codes?, politics hidden behind the four walls of architecture. From the concepts of Brutality in Stone, Warchitecture or Forensic Architecture, through the lenses of architecture, the article exposes war, politics, and ideologies that shape (...)
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  24. Williamson on conditionals and testimony.Karolina Krzyżanowska & Igor Douven - 2023 - Philosophical Studies 180 (1):121-131.
    In _Suppose and Tell_, Williamson makes a new case for the material conditional account. He tries to explain away apparently countervailing data by arguing that these have been misinterpreted because researchers have overlooked the role of heuristics in the processing of conditionals. Cases involving the receipt of apparently conflicting conditionals play an important dialectical role in Williamson’s book: they are supposed to provide evidence for the material conditional account as well as for the defeasibility of a key procedure underlying our (...)
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  25. Toward a Paradigm Shift in the Philosophy of Testimony.Theodore George - 2022 - Research in Phenomenology 52 (3):457-471.
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  26. Witnessing and Testimony in Hermeneutic Phenomenology.Gert-Jan van der Heiden - 2022 - Research in Phenomenology 52 (3):311-332.
    Departing from two diverging lines of inquiry of testimony that characterize philosophy today, this article aims to show what a hermeneutic phenomenology of witnessing and testimony is and how this approach to testimony offers a new framework to understand witnessing and testimony, which also repositions the present-day main lines of inquiry of testimony. The first section offers a critical assessment of the state of the art in the philosophy of testimony today and the second section reinterprets the two main diverging (...)
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  27. 'Theorizing "Linguistic" Hermeneutical Injustice as a Distinctive Kind of "Intercultural" Epistemic Injustice'.Alicia García Álvarez - 2022 - In Noelia Bueno Gómez & Salvador Beato Bergua (eds.), Intercultural Approaches to Space and Identity. Nova Science.
    Literature on epistemic injustice has grown tremendously as an increasingly rich and diverse body of work in recent years. From the point of view of intercultural and anticolonial discussions, contemporary contributions have also helped to illuminate how epistemic injustice and other forms of cultural domination might be related to essential processes within the structures of colonial and racial supremacy. -/- This proposal aims to contribute to such relevant and illuminating discussions by focusing on the role that language and culture might (...)
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  28. Linguistic evidentials and the law of hearsay.Lawrence M. Solan - 2021 - In Christian Dahlman, Alex Stein & Giovanni Tuzet (eds.), Philosophical Foundations of Evidence Law. Oxford University Press.
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  29. The naturalized epistemology approach to evidence.Gabriel Broughton & Brian Leiter - 2021 - In Christian Dahlman, Alex Stein & Giovanni Tuzet (eds.), Philosophical Foundations of Evidence Law. Oxford University Press.
    Studying evidence law as part of naturalized epistemology means using the tools and results of the sciences to evaluate evidence rules based on the accuracy of the verdicts they are likely to produce. In this chapter, we introduce the approach and address skeptical concerns about the value of systematic empirical research for evidence scholarship, focusing, in particular, on worries about the external validity of jury simulation studies. Finally, turning to applications, we consider possible reforms regarding eyewitness identifications and character evidence.
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  30. Scientific Testimony. Its roles in science and society.Mikkel Gerken - 2022 - Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
    Scientific Testimony concerns the roles of scientific testimony in science and society. The book develops a positive alternative to a tradition famously expressed by the slogan of the Royal Society Nullius in verba ("Take nobody's word for it"). This book argues that intra-scientific testimony—i.e., testimony between collaborating scientists—is not in conflict with the spirit of science or an add-on to scientific practice. On the contrary, intra-scientific testimony is a vital part of science. This is illustrated by articulating epistemic norms of (...)
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  31. Taking Augustine at his Word: Re-evaluating the Testimony of De gestis Pelagii.Andrew Chronister - 2022 - Augustinian Studies 53 (2):153-184.
    The following article examines Augustine’s efforts in De gestis Pelagii, the bishop of Hippo’s commentary on the acts of the Synod of Diospolis at which Pelagius was acquitted of heresy in December 415 CE. Gest. Pel. is far from an attempt to offer an impartial account of the synod’s events. Rather, it forms a key part of Augustine’s efforts in the aftermath of Diospolis to re-interpret what appeared to be a disaster for the anti-Pelagian cause. In this sense, gest. Pel. (...)
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  32. When to Psychologize.A. K. Flowerree - 2023 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy.
    The central focus of this paper is to motivate and explore the question, when is it permissible to endorse a psychologizing explanation of a sincere interlocutor? I am interested in the moral question of when (if ever) we may permissibly dismiss the sincere reasons given to us by others, and instead endorse an alternative explanation of their beliefs and actions. I argue that there is a significant risk of wronging the other person, and so we should only psychologize when we (...)
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  33. Does anti-reductionism in the epistemology of testimony imply interest relativism about knowledge attributions?John Greco - 2021 - Veritas – Revista de Filosofia da Pucrs 66 (1):e41472.
    Anti-reductionism in the epistemology of testimony is the thesis that testimonial knowledge is not reducible to knowledge of some other familiar kind, such as inductive knowledge. Interest relativism about knowledge attributions is the thesis that the standards for knowledge attributions are relative to practical contexts. This paper argues that anti-reductionism implies interest relativism. The notion of “implies” here is a fairly strong one: anti-reductionism, together with plausible assumptions, entails interest relativism. A second thesis of the paper is that anti-reductionism in (...)
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  34. Eroding the Past: A Study of the Approaches of Courts towards Oral and Expert Testimony in the Salem Commonage Land Claim.Jako Bezuidenhout - 2022 - Kronos 48 (1):1-22.
    Since the Restitution of Land Rights Act 22 of 1994 came into operation, courts have come to attach considerable significance to historian expert testimony when ruling on land claims that made it to court. Therefore, a universal approach had to be adopted. Over the years the Supreme Court of Appeal and Constitutional Court have developed tried and tested methodologies to aid the courts in determining the weight and admissibility of a witness' testimony. In the Salem Commonage case, both the Land (...)
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  35. Trust to Testimony: Reductionism and Non-Reductionism.M. G. Khort - 2022 - Дискурс 8 (3):18-28.
    Introduction. The article is devoted to the epistemology of communicative knowledge. It is argued that the central problem in the analysis of such knowledge is the question of the status of testimony. The author discusses reductionism and non-reductionism as two traditional approaches to the problem of trust to testimony. The aim of the article is to describe the arguments of both approaches and to carry out their critique. Methodology and sources. The author uses the method of conceptual analysis to address (...)
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  36. Eyewitness testimony and epistemic agency.Jennifer Lackey - 2022 - Noûs 56 (3):696-715.
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  37. Relationally Responsive Expert Trustworthiness.Ben Almassi - 2022 - Social Epistemology 36 (5):576-585.
    Social epistemologists often operationalize the task of indirectly assessing experts’ trustworthiness to identifying whose beliefs are more reliably true on matters in an area of expertise. Not only does this neglect the philosophically rich space between belief formation and testimonial utterances, it also reduces trustworthiness to reliability. In ethics of trust, by contrast, explicitly relational views of trust include things like good will and responsiveness. One might think that relational aspects can be safely set aside for social epistemology of trust (...)
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  38. A normative framework for sharing information online.Emily Sullivan & Mark Alfano - 2021 - In Carissa Veliz (ed.), Oxford Handbook of Digital Ethics. Oxford University Press.
    People have always shared information through chains and networks of testimony. It’s arguably part of what makes us human and enables us to live in cooperative communities with populations greater than the Dunbar number. The invention of the Internet and the rise of social media have turbo-charged our ability to share information. In this chapter, we develop a normative framework for sharing information online. This framework takes into account both ethical and epistemic considerations that are intertwined in typical cases of (...)
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  39. Supererogatory Duties and Caregiver Heroic Testimony.Chris Weigel - forthcoming - Feminist Philosophy Quarterly.
    Nurses in hard hit cities during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic and family caregivers for people with late-stage Alzheimer’s disease present two puzzles. First, traditional accounts of supererogation cannot allow for the possibility of making enormous sacrifices that make one’s actions supererogatory simply to do what morality requires. These caregivers, however, are doing their moral duty, yet their actions also seem to be paradigmatic cases of supererogation. I argue that Dale Dorsey’s new account of supererogation can solve this (...)
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  40. Witnessing the Uninhabitable Place: On the Experience and Testimony of Refugees.Gert-Jan van der Heiden - 2022 - Research in Phenomenology 52 (2):223-241.
    Symptomatic of the crisis of the current global political order are the millions of displaced that have fled their homes but are not allowed to enter the country in which they seek refuge. Instead, they are placed in camps. To understand the site of the camp and the bare life it produces, testimonies of refugees are indispensable. This essay aims to examine and listen to these testimonies by, first, introducing the notion of testimony and some of the characteristics of the (...)
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  41. From knowledge to violence: the epistemic dimension of sexual violence testimony.Aurora Georgina Bustos Arellano - 2022 - Estudios de Filosofía 66:289-310.
    The aim of this article is to highlight the epistemic dimension present in the testimony of victims of sexual violence, which takes place through various mechanisms of epistemic injustice, whether testimonial or hermeneutic. In order to show the effects of the relation between epistemic wrongs and sexual violence, I focus on some cases of sexual injustice in Mexican society which support the contention that the systematic recurrence of sexual violence and epistemic injustices lead to a particular form of epistemic dehumanization.
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  42. Epistemic Trepassing and Expert Witness Testimony.Mark Satta - 2022 - Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy 22 (2).
    Epistemic trespassers have competence in one field but pass judgment on matters in other fields where they lack competence. I examine philosophical questions related to epistemic trespassing by expert witnesses in courtroom trials and argue for the following positions. Expert witnesses are required to avoid epistemic trespassing. When testifying as an expert witness, merely qualifying one’s statements to indicate that one is not speaking as an expert is insufficient to avoid epistemic trespassing. Judges, litigators, and jurors can often recognize epistemic (...)
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  43. The virgin birth debate and testimony.Terence Rajivan Edward - manuscript
    Various tribes deny that pregnancy is caused by sexual relations. Is this irrational? I present a puzzle involving testimony which some tribes might once have faced.
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  44. Beyond the Information Given: Teaching, Testimony, and the Advancement of Understanding.Catherine Z. Elgin - 2021 - Philosophical Topics 49 (2):17-34.
    Teaching is not testimony. Although both convey information, they have different uptake requirements. Testimony aims to impart information and typically succeeds if the recipient believes that informationon account of having been told by a reliable informant. Teaching aims to equip learners to go beyond the information given—to leverage that information to broaden, deepen, and critique their current understanding of a topic. Teaching fails if the recipients believe the information only because it is what they have been told.
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  45. Brown on infallibilism’s problem with testimony.Sanford C. Goldberg - 2022 - Philosophical Studies 179 (8):2655-2663.
    In this review I focus on one of Brown’s arguments against infallibilism. While Brown argues that the infallibilist cannot vindicate testimonial knowledge, I argue that her case makes assumptions that the infallibilist should reject. The upshot is two-fold: this criticism of infallibilism does not succeed, and certain assumptions about testimonial knowledge should be rejected by the fallibilist and the infallibilist alike.
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  46. What does victim testimony about injustices tell us about justice?Ane Engelstad - 2022 - Dissertation, University of Sussex
    EMBARGOED - expected end date 20.05.2024.
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  47. Assertion remains strong.Peter van Elswyk & Matthew A. Benton - 2023 - Philosophical Studies 180 (1):27-50.
    Assertion is widely regarded as an act associated with an epistemic position. To assert is to represent oneself as occupying this position and/or to be required to occupy this position. Within this approach, the most common view is that assertion is strong: the associated position is knowledge or certainty. But recent challenges to this common view present new data that are argued to be better explained by assertion being weak. Old data widely taken to support assertion being strong has also (...)
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  48. Politics and Testimony. Political Implications of Jan Patočka’s and Edith Stein’s Testimony.Mátyás Szalay - 2022 - Pensamiento. Revista de Investigación E Información Filosófica 78 (297):29-49.
    I investigate the complex relationship between politics and philosophy by focusing on the notion of testimony. I argue that there is a necessary and fruitful tension between sapiential and political life. Testimony is characterized here as a free value-response in an intersubjective relation that requires empathy on both sides of the communication. This act of affirming a truth or value goes beyond the limits of prudent self-realization and self-preservation: authentic testimony requires some kind of self-sacrifice. I contrast this general image (...)
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  49. Updating on Biased Probabilistic Testimony.Leander Vignero - forthcoming - Erkenntnis:1-24.
    In this paper, I use a framework from computational linguistics, the Rational Speech Act framework, to model deceptive probabilistic communication. This account allows agents to discount for the biases they perceive their interlocutors to have. This way, agents can update their credences with the perceived interests of others in mind.
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  50. Moral Testimony and Re-Conceived Understanding: A Reply to Callahan.Emily Slome - 2022 - Philosophical Quarterly 72 (3):763-770.
    In the article ‘Moral Testimony: A Re-Conceived Understanding Explanation’, Callahan argues that her re-conceived view of understanding can explain the issue with deference to moral testimony better than the more traditional understanding-based accounts. In this paper, I argue that Callahan fails to give a more successful explanation of the problem with moral testimony for two reasons. First, I argue that Callahan fails to adequately prove her claim that deference to testimony disincentivizes her re-conceived understanding. Second, I take issue with Callahan's (...)
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