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Well, Lackey (and others) make an odd move and say that I wouldn't come to know that that means "philosophy" by *testimony*, but I could come to know it through other means by your doing what you did.

For example, she talks about cases like this: I'm walking down the hall and I say to Alice that "There's pizza in the lunch room." You overhear this, and come to know that there's pizza in the lunch room. However, since I didn't say this *to you,* it isn't a case of testimonial knowledge for you. You do come to know it...but...I don't know. It's very odd.

I think that she'd take a similar line to your case.

I take a virtue approach to these cases. Are you, in the relevant contexts, a reliable source of information for me about sanskrit words and their english meanings? Let's assume you are (*wink*). It's thus possible for you to be reliable and yet make this lucky error--in a sense it's a Gettier case--and that can still be irrelevant to whether I *know* the relevant proposition. At least...that's my view. Reliable agents make mistakes even when exercising the relevant skills, and these mistakes can still end up with success.

Elisa Freschi

Rachel, thanks for the comment. I may be wrong, but I cannot recall this further requirement in Lackey's work. It seems to me that ---if Alice's testimony is truth-conducive, if I have no defeaters, and am a reliable recipient of testimony, and if the environment is favourable, etc.--- then the example you mention *is* a case of knowledge by testimony. Lackey's requirement is that the listener should not know already what is testified to her, not that the information is delievered to her.

However, you are right in stressing that saying that a certain case does not amount to testimonial knowledge does not mean that it is not knowledge at all. Suppose I had forgotten the Sanskrit word for "one who knows through inference" (namely "anumātṛ") and someone who is not an expert in Sanskrit told me that "anuman" means in Sanskrit "inferrer". Through this incorrect communication I would recall my notions of Sanskrit and may infer that to the verbal theme anumā- the suffix -tṛ should be united to get to "anumātṛ"/"inferrer". The final result would be knowledge, although not testimonial knowledge, and in this sense some of our everyday way of acquiring knowledge could be rescued.

Yet, Lackey focusses on Testimonial knowledge and has higher requirements for it. I guess that someone else, working on inference might do the same, and so on for each source of knowledge. The result risks to be, I am afraid, a perfect desert, with very sound but very few instances of knowledge.

To your last point: Am I right that you would say that cognition acquired from a valid source but through a lucky error (in a different article, Lackey mentions the case of a math student who works for days on a certain problem and her ignorant friend who, by playing with the math student's computer, deletes two minuses, so that the final result is luckily still right) amounts to knowledge?


I think the move comes really early in her book. Both her and at least Goldberg make this a requirement of testimony. Simple overhearings aren't cases of "testimony." I disagree, though: learning from others' words is knowledge from testimony.

Elisa Freschi

I agree, overhearing is also testimony. The only counter-argument I can think of is that overhearing could be excluded from testimony in case the requisites one thinks to be essential are not satisfied because it is overhearing (i.e., because I overhear something said by X to Y, and X is reliable when she speaks with me, but is now lying to Y, her child).

Ben A

I myself am inclined to emphasize an importance epistemic difference between testimony directed toward oneself vs. things one overhears. But it's not at all clear that *Lackey* puts much stock in this difference. I urge folks to reread that early chapter from Learning from Words, where Lackey reviews several stronger and weaker accounts of testimony before articulating and defending her own. Lackey clearly accepts a diary as testimony, for example.

Elisa Freschi

I could finally re-read Lackey 2008 and it seems to me that she maintains the opposite view regarding overhearing. In fact, she explicitly refutes the interpersonal view of testimony and this entails the fact that interpersonal factors (such as the fact of having been told) do not play a role in testimony.
Cfr the following statement:

"What these considerations show is that interpersonal features are not capable of adding epistemic value to testimonial beliefs. This is made clear in EAVESDROPPER: there does not seem to be anything epistemically significant about the fact that, though Kate and Earl both learned about the boss’s affair from Ben’s testimony, only the former was *told* this."
(Lackey 2008, pp.237--8)

(Ben A, I apologize for answering just now.)

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