Fricker, Elizabeth, and . Against Gullibility

1994, Matilals, Bimal K. & Chakrabarti, A. (eds.), Knowing from Words: Western and Indian philosophical analysis of understanding and testimony. Kluwer. 125-161

Summary: This paper refutes the PR thesis according to which the hearer has such a special presumptive right to trust the speaker’s assertion. The refutation consists of 1) arguing against that it is not possible for a hearer to obtain independent confirmation that a given speaker is trustworthy – that what she says will be true; 2) a full rejection to various positive arguments for a PR which may be made.

Comment: This paper defends anti-reductionism by refuting arguments for reductionism. It is useful paper for teachings on testimony in a upper-level undergraduate course on epistemology.

Fricker, Elizabeth, and . Critical notice: Telling and trusting: Reductionism and anti-reductionism in the epistemology of testimony

1995, Mind 104 (414): 393-411.

Abstract: In this review I focus on the arguments advanced by Coady in the main task to which he addresses himself in Testimony: arguing the case against the reductive position, and in favour of a non-reductive conception of testimonial knowledge. I introduce some distinctions which I believe enable the subject to taken further.

Comment: This review critically discusses the first book on testimony in contemporary philosophy and advances the dabates. It is a very good background reading for courses on epistemology or social epistemology. It saves students from reading Coady's original book.

Lackey, Jennfer, and . Testimonial knowledge and transmission

1999, Philosophical Quarterly 50 (197): 471-490.

Abstract: We often talk about knowledge being transmitted via testimony. This suggests a picture of testimony with striking similarities to memory. For instance, it is often assumed that neither is a generative source of knowledge: while the former transmits knowledge from one speaker to another, the latter preserves beliefs from one time to another. These considerations give rise to a stronger and a weaker thesis regarding the transmission of testimonial knowledge. The stronger thesis is that each speaker in a chain of testimonial transmission must know that p in order to pass this knowledge to a hearer. The weaker thesis is that at least the first speaker must know that p in order for any hearer in the chain to come to know that p via testimony. I argue that both theses are false, and hence testimony, unlike memory, can be a generative source of knowledge.

Comment: This is a very good introductory paper on testimonial knowledge and debates between reductivists and non-reductivists. Note that it requires preliminary knowledge on JTB theory.

Lackey, Jennfer, and . Testimony: Acquiring Knowledge from Others

2010, Goldman, Alvin and Whitcomb, Dennis (eds.), Social Epistemology: Essential Readings. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 71-91

Introduction: Virtually everything we know depends in some way or other on the testimony of others – what we eat, how things work, where we go, even who we are. We do not, after all, perceive firsthand the preparation of the ingredients in many of our meals, or the construction of the devices we use to get around the world, or the layout of our planet, or our own births and familial histories. These are all things we are told. Indeed, subtracting from our lives the information that we possess via testimony leaves them barely recognizable. Scientific discoveries, battles won and lost, geographical developments, customs and traditions of distant lands – all of these facts would be completely lost to us. It is, therefore, no surprise that the importance of testimony, both epistemological and practical, is nearly universally accepted. Less consensus, however, is found when questions about the nature and extent of our dependence on the word of others arise. Is our justified reliance on testimony fundamentally basic, for instance, or is it ultimately reducible to perception, memory, and reason? Is trust, or some related interpersonal feature of our social interaction with one another, essential to the acquisition of beliefs that are testimonially justified? Is testimonial knowledge necessarily acquired through transmission from speaker to hearer? Can testimony generate epistemic features in its own right? These are the questions that will be taken up in this paper and, as will become clear, their answers have far-reaching consequences for how we understand our place in the social world.

Comment: In this excellent introductory paper, Lackey briefly overviews the essential issues about testimony. It is very useful as a general introduction on testimonal knowledge, hence good for junior undergraduate courses on epistemology or social epistemology.

Lackey, Jennfer, and . Testimony and the Infant/Child Objection

2005, Philosophical Studies 126(2): 163-190.

Abstract: One of the central problems afflicting reductionism in the epistemology of testimony is the apparent fact that infants and small children are not cognitively capable of having the inductively based positive reasons required by this view. Since non-reductionism does not impose a requirement of this sort, it is thought to avoid this problem and is therefore taken to have a significant advantage over reductionism. In this paper, however, I argue that if this objection undermines reductionism, then a variant of it similarly undermines non-reductionism. Thus, considerations about the cognitive capacities of infants and small children do not effectively discriminate between these two competing theories of testimonial justification.

Comment: It is a good paper in terms of elucidating the debates between reductionism and non-reductionism. In particular, it critically examines a central problem for reductionism. Suitable as a further reading for teachings on testimony in a course on epistemology.

Lackey, Jennifer, and . Knowing from Testimony

2006, Philosophy Compass 1(5): 432-448

Abstract: Testimony is a vital and ubiquitous source of knowledge. Were we to refrain from accepting the testimony of others, our lives would be impoverished in startling and debilitating ways. Despite the vital role that testimony occupies in our epistemic lives, traditional epistemological theories have focused primarily on other sources, such as sense perception, memory, and reason, with relatively little attention devoted specifically to testimony. In recent years, however, the epistemic significance of testimony has been more fully appreciated. I shall here focus on two questions that have received the most attention in recent work in the epistemology of testimony. First, is testimonial knowledge acquired only by being transmitted from speaker to hearer? Second, must a hearer have positive reasons to justifiedly accept a speaker’s testimony?

Comment: This text will serve as a good introduction to the epistemology of testimony. Aside from its relevance in teaching Epistemology, it will also be of use in teaching Aesthetics where Aesthetic Testimony has become a key topic of debate. Lackey provides various thought experiments which can aid the reader in understanding when knowledge seems to be acquired via testimony, and how this seems to work.

Sliwa, Paulina, and . In defense of moral testimony

2012, Philosophical Studies 158 (2): 175-195.

Introduction: Moral testimony has been getting a bad name in the recent literature. It has been argued that while testimony is a perfectly fine source for nonmoral belief, there’s something wrong with basing one’s moral beliefs on it. This paper argues that the bad name is undeserved: Moral testimony isn’t any more problematic than nonmoral testimony.

Comment: This is a very good, easy to understand article on moral epistemology. The examples used are clear and well-presented, and it would be suitable even for students with no previous experience with moral epistemology. As the issue addressed, moral testimony, is a central one, this article would be recommended for an introductory course in moral epistemology.