Social Epistemology 21 (3):299 – 311 (2007)

Deborah Tollefsen
University of Memphis
The fact that much of our knowledge is gained through the testimony of others challenges a certain form of epistemic individualism. We are clearly not autonomous knowers. But the discussion surrounding testimony has maintained a commitment to what I have elsewhere called epistemic agent individualism. Both the reductionist and the anti-reductionist have focused their attention on the testimony of individuals. But groups, too, are sources of testimony - or so I shall argue. If groups can be testifiers, a natural question to ask is whether our beliefs based on the testimony of groups are ever justified and whether such a justification is to be conferred inferentially or non-inferentially. I consider and dismiss the possibility of extending an anti-reductionist account of justification to our group testimonial beliefs. I also argue against a version of reductionism that would have our group testimonial beliefs justified only in so far as we were able to monitor the trustworthiness of members of the group. However, there are forms of reductionism that can be extended to make sense of the justification of our group testimonial beliefs. There are mechanisms for monitoring the trustworthiness and competency of a group (rather than its members) and, further, a variety of background beliefs allow us to assess the testimony of a group for reliability.
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1080/02691720701674163
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 69,979
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

Testimony: A Philosophical Study.C. A. J. Coady - 1992 - Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.
Content Preservation.Tyler Burge - 1993 - Philosophical Review 102 (4):457-488.
The Epistemology of Testimony.Elizabeth Fricker & David E. Cooper - 1987 - Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 61 (1):57 - 106.
Epistemological Problems of Testimony.Jonathan E. Adler - 2006 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

View all 11 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

What Is Justified Group Belief.Jennifer Lackey - 2016 - Philosophical Review Recent Issues 125 (3):341-396.
What Is Epistemic Public Trust in Science?Gürol Irzik & Faik Kurtulmus - 2019 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 70 (4):1145-1166.
Epistemological Problems of Testimony.Jonathan E. Adler - 2006 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Socially Extended Knowledge.Jennifer Lackey - 2014 - Philosophical Issues 24 (1):282-298.

View all 24 citations / Add more citations

Similar books and articles


Added to PP index

Total views
229 ( #48,843 of 2,504,875 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
7 ( #103,250 of 2,504,875 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes