Philosophy Epistemology of Testimony
by
Duncan Pritchard
  • LAST REVIEWED: 08 October 2015
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 February 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396577-0119

Introduction

In the field of philosophy, testimony is defined as the intentional transfer of a belief from one person to another. The transfer can be verbal, written, or signaled in some way. Issues concerning the epistemology of testimony have become increasingly discussed in contemporary philosophy, with the debate widening out from epistemology to other fields such as philosophy of mind, action theory, and philosophy of language.

General Overviews

Adler 2012 and Green 2008 both offer excellent and in-depth introductions to the topic, with the added advantage that both of these articles are freely available online. For more involved overviews of the topic, in both cases written by a leading figure in the literature, see Fricker 2004 and Lackey 2010. The latter includes an extensive bibliography. See Lackey 2006b for a sophisticated critical discussion of the recent literature on the epistemology of testimony that specifically focuses on two key issues: (1) whether testimonial knowledge can be acquired only by being transmitted from speaker to hearer, and (2) whether a hearer must have positive reasons to justifiably accept a speaker’s testimony. Finally, for a more concise overview of the field, see Lackey 2006a.

  • Adler, Jonathan. “Epistemological Problems of Testimony.” In The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Edited by Edward N. Zalta, 2012.

    E-mail Citation »

    An excellent overview of the literature on the epistemology of testimony.

  • Fricker, Elizabeth. “Testimony: Knowing through Being Told.” In Handbook of Epistemology. Edited by Ilkka Niiniluoto, Matti Sintonen, and Jan Wolensi, 109–130. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Kluwer, 2004.

    DOI: 10.1007/978-1-4020-1986-9_3E-mail Citation »

    An in-depth survey of the literature on the epistemology of testimony, written by (and from the perspective of) one of the leading figures in this area.

  • Green, Christopher R. “The Epistemology of Testimony.” In Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Edited by James Fieser and Bradley Dowden, 2008.

    E-mail Citation »

    An excellent overview of the literature on the epistemology of testimony.

  • Lackey, Jennifer. “Introduction.” In The Epistemology of Testimony. Edited by Jennifer Lackey and Ernest Sosa, 1–21. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006a.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199276011.003.0001E-mail Citation »

    A neat and concise introduction to the field, written by one of the leading figures working in this area.

  • Lackey, Jennifer. “Knowing from Testimony.” Philosophy Compass 1 (2006b): 1–17.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1747-9991.2006.00035.xE-mail Citation »

    A sophisticated critical discussion of the recent literature on the epistemology of testimony. Two key issues are addressed: (1) whether testimonial knowledge can be acquired only by being transmitted from speaker to hearer, and (2) whether a hearer must have positive reasons to justifiably accept a speaker’s testimony.

  • Lackey, Jennifer. “Testimonial Knowledge.” In The Routledge Companion to Epistemology. Edited by Sven Bernecker and Duncan Pritchard. New York: Routledge, 2010.

    E-mail Citation »

    An in-depth survey of the literature on the epistemology of testimony, written by (and from the perspective of) one of the leading figures in this area. Includes an extensive bibliography.

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