A Critical Introduction to Testimony by Axel Gelfert

By Axel Gelfert

The epistemology of testimony is a quickly constructing zone in modern analytic philosophy. during this first thorough survey of the hot debate at the topic, Axel Gelfert presents an in-depth advent to what has turn into one of many liveliest debates in modern epistemology.

Covering present literature and significant debates, A serious creation to Testimony discusses the epistemic prestige of testimony-based ideals, relates adjustments to appropriate advancements in different parts and gives a serious standpoint on present and destiny examine traits. Devoting area to either the purposes of social epistemology and the bigger conceptual problems with wisdom, Gelfert not just introduces the epistemology of testimony; he bargains an up to date advent to epistemology. built with a mixture of learn questions, examples, and recommendations for extra analyzing, scholars of up to date epistemology will locate this a competent consultant to learning testimony as a resource of knowledge.

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Chapter 2, remains a good starting point for any qualitative characterization of the various kinds of testimony we encounter in different (formal and informal) contexts. In addition to the definitional issues discussed in this chapter, a parallel debate has arisen concerning the status of testimony and knowledge as natural or social kinds. Kusch (2002a) sketches a communitarian theory that views testimony primarily as a vehicle for assigning to others the social status of ‘being a knower’; by contrast, Michaelian (2008) argues that testimony is likely a natural kind and that, for this very reason, it is likely necessarily reliable.

One need not follow Welbourne’s communitarian conception of knowledge to agree with his analysis that, when we rely on other people’s testimony, we typically do so on the assumption that they ‘speak from knowledge’ – however one wishes to define ‘knowledge’ in this context.  – nor would we expect to find entrenched social practices of asking and telling. Yet, as things stand, the mutual giving and receiving of knowledge is an important ingredient in our epistemic lives – so much so that we often regard others as reliable sources of knowledge, through whom we can come to know things, as if by proxy.

The general question arising from our epistemic predicament – which balance to strike between belief expansion and error avoidance – in the case of testimony becomes the challenge of striking the right balance between testimonial acceptance and rejection. Knowing when, and whom, to trust for knowledge thus are questions that lie at the heart of the epistemology of testimony. In the case of testimony, belief expansion typically occurs via trusted acceptance of what a source tells us, whereas avoidance of error is achieved through the rejection of a particular claim.

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