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« Things I Think I've Learned -- Thing#3: Read Widely | Main | Best Philosophical Works of 2013? »

12/11/2013

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JPJG

Question to your question - do I now know that prema means love in Sanskrit (which reminds me of that Penny Arcade comic about what to do during long load times, including make a sandwich and learn Sanskrit, because women love Sanskrit), because I've read this? You're not setting out to teach me that, and I have no idea if it is true beforehand - but you seem reliable, have no reason to lie to me, and I don't have any knowledge that indicates against it...

Elisa Freschi

Good question, JPJG. It depends on your criteria for accepting testimony. I have argued in my first post of this series (http://philosopherscocoon.typepad.com/blog/2013/11/non-reductionism-in-testimonial-knowledge.html) that they are usually too strict. According to them, you should at least look for some additional information about me and my reliability concerning Sanskrit. Personally, I would rather say that you know it unless and until contrary evidence is available. Such contrary evidence may regard me personally (i.e., you read that I do not teach Sanskrit, but Chinese) or even the medium in general in case I posted anonymously on an unreliable medium (e.g., IMHO, yahoo answers).

By the way, do you (or any other reader) doubt that written testimony is also testimony?

Dan Cavedon-Taylor

It has been a while since I've read anything on this topic, but is the interpersonal view really that strong? That is, does it say that one has zero justification for believing that p on the basis of overhearing a speaker assert that p? If so, it seems ridiculously implausible, for just the reasons you say. The view also just seems rather stipulative.

My feelings are that a more plausible, but maybe still implausible, version of the interpersonal view would hold that you have a greater degree of justification for believing that p if you are an addressee than if you are an eavesdropper (i.e. whatever degree of justification an eavesdropper has, they would have had more, had they been an addressee). This is compatible with eavesdroppers having justification, which they surely do.

It also might help to distinguish the question of how to define testimony from the issue of when one can be justified in accepting testimony. Do you think interpersonal accounts are trying to do both? They might just be trying for the latter.

Elisa Freschi

Dan, I went back to Richard Morris' 2006 article (Getting told and being believed).
He claims that "The overhearer of testimony is not in the same normative relation to the speaker as the addressee is, but his gaining any reason to believe is dependent on such a conferral having been given to someone". In other words, even if the eavesdropper might still have some reasons for believing that p, still these reasons depend on the fact that someone asserted that p, although not to her.
Thus, the interpersonal view, as you suggested, seems to aim primarily at the justification of testimony. Morris' words however also implies that overhearing is parasitical on "real" testimony as for its testimonial status. This seems to be difficult to construe in the case of written testimonies when they are accessed by people other than they targeted readership.

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