Learning from Words: Testimony as a Source of Knowledge

Paperback | April 18, 2010

byJennifer Lackey

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Testimony is an invaluable source of knowledge. We rely on the reports of those around us for everything from the ingredients in our food and medicine to the identity of our family members. Recent years have seen an explosion of interest in the epistemology of testimony. Despite the multitudeof views offered, a single thesis is nearly universally accepted: testimonial knowledge is acquired through the process of transmission from speaker to hearer. In this book, Jennifer Lackey shows that this thesis is false and, hence, that the literature on testimony has been shaped at its core by a view that is fundamentally misguided. She then defends a detailed alternative to this conception of testimony: whereas the views currently dominant focus on theepistemic status of what speakers believe, Lackey advances a theory that instead centers on what speakers say. The upshot is that, strictly speaking, we do not learn from one another's beliefs - we learn from one another's words. Once this shift in focus is in place, Lackey goes on to argue that,though positive reasons are necessary for testimonial knowledge, testimony itself is an irreducible epistemic source. This leads to the development of a theory that gives proper credence to testimony's epistemologically dual nature: both the speaker and the hearer must make a positive epistemiccontribution to testimonial knowledge. The resulting view not only reveals that testimony has the capacity to generate knowledge, but it also gives appropriate weight to our nature as both socially indebted and individually rational creatures. The approach found in this book will, then, represent a radical departure from the viewscurrently dominating the epistemology of testimony, and thus is intended to reshape our understanding of the deep and ubiquitous reliance we have on the testimony of those around us.

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From the Publisher

Testimony is an invaluable source of knowledge. We rely on the reports of those around us for everything from the ingredients in our food and medicine to the identity of our family members. Recent years have seen an explosion of interest in the epistemology of testimony. Despite the multitudeof views offered, a single thesis is nearly ...

Jennifer Lackey is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Northwestern University.

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:320 pages, 9.21 × 6.14 × 0.75 inPublished:April 18, 2010Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199575614

ISBN - 13:9780199575619

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Table of Contents

Introduction1. The Nature of Testimony2. Rejecting Transmission3. A Defense of Learning from Words4. Norms of Assertion and Testimonial Knowledge5. A Critique of Reductionism and Non-Reductionism6. Dualism in the Epistemology of Testimony7. Positive Reasons, Defeaters, and the Infant/Child Objection8. Trust and Assurance: The Interpersonal View of TestimonyAppendix. Memory as a Generative Epistemic Source

Editorial Reviews

Review from previous edition: "Lackey writes in an exceedingly lucid fashion throughout . . . Surely, analytic philosophers working on testimony have a professional obligation to read Lackey's work, if not to assess her provocative claim that they are all headed in the wrong direction, then toassimilate her valuable reflections on the issues with which they are concerned. But the book should also hold some interest for epistemologists thinking about related matters." --Aaron Z. Zimmerman, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews