Chapter

Knowing from Being Told

Alan Millar

in Social Epistemology

Published in print November 2010 | ISBN: 9780199577477
Published online January 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191595189 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199577477.003.0009
Knowing from Being Told

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This chapter's discussion focuses on the transmission of knowledge through testimony in straightforward cases. These are cases in which subjects gain knowledge from the say so of a speaker without in any obvious way engaging in reasoning over the trustworthiness of the speaker. The account here accords a central role to the practice of informing through telling, but while practice-theoretic considerations explain how it is that people who rely on testimony will so often acquire true beliefs, they do not explain how testimony can yield knowledge. For that we need to show that testimony that something is so can settle that it is so. The suggested account treats knowledge from testimony as a special case of knowledge through recognition of the significance of an indicator, for instance, a reading on a fuel gauge, or the presence of tracks on a path. To account for such knowledge we need to bring into play the notion of an ability to recognize the significance of an indicator—an ability that is honed by experience. These considerations are applied to the case of recognizing a person to be trustworthy in respect of an act of telling.

Keywords: knowledge from indicators; practices; recognitional abilities; telling; testimony; trustworthiness

Chapter.  10462 words. 

Subjects: Metaphysics

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