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MONOGRAPHIC: Testimony and Trust in Contemporary Epistemology

UPV/EHU - University of the Basque Country
Publication Date
  • Introduction
  • Communication
  • Philosophy


Introduction Fernando BRONCANO and Jesús VEGA ENCABO BIBLID [0495-4548 (2008) 23: 61; pp. 5-9] Along our life, we acquire most of our beliefs through testimony. Certainly, the only way of having access to many facts is through other people’s words. Testimonial be- liefs are widespread. Moreover, we feel extremely confident in some of these beliefs, and some of them amount to knowledge or, at least, we take them to be highly justi- fied for us. We could not view ourselves as deprived of this very wide net of beliefs acquired through the testimony of other persons. Hence testimonies can’t be consid- ered as dispensable. But this uncontroversial fact does not address the epistemological question about whether the beliefs so acquired are justified (or amount to knowledge) by testimony, that is, by the very fact that the testifier makes available to the hearer a true proposition in an appropriate way. Since the very beginning of modern epistemology, testimony has been much ques- tioned as a valuable source of knowledge. Its epistemic import seemed to derive mere- ly from the acceptance of authorities. And how could we be justified in our beliefs when they are grounded exclusively on the authority of other’s words? The last years have seen a revival in the interest for testimony within the epistemological literature. But now testimony does not just raise classical questions about the justification of our beliefs or the subject’s rational grounds for accepting the deliverances of our basic sources of belief; it also suggests new issues about the role of the individual knower in communicative and social settings or the special responsibility the knowers seem to exhibit in a testimonial situation. This monograph aims to broaden the range of topics recently discussed regarding the role and value of testimony in the acquisition of knowledge. Understandably, we do not intend to be exhaustive. The main interest of the participants in this volume is centered on how testimon

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