Wang Chong's epistemology of testimony

Asia Major Third Series 29 (2):115-147 (2016)


In this paper we analyses the work of the first century Chinese philosopher Wang Chong as in part grappling with epistemology of testimony. Often portrayed as a curmudgeonly skeptic, Wang Chong actually best seen as a demanding piecemeal non-reductionist, which is to say he believed that testimony was a basic source of evidence unless subject to a defeater (non-reductionism), but also that we should evaluate testimony on a claim-by-claim basis (piecemeal) rather than accepting a whole source on the strength of its reputation or authority, and finally he thought one has a strong duty to search for defeaters (demanding). We defend each of these claims as well as the fruitfulness of applying such anachronistic terminology to an ancient thinker. We end with a discussion of how Wang Chong's epistemology relates to his rhetorical method and then consider some problems he faces because of his epistemic commitments.

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Esther Sunkyung Klein
Australian National University

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