The Assurance View of Testimony

Frederick F. Schmitt

in Social Epistemology

Published in print November 2010 | ISBN: 9780199577477
Published online January 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191595189 | DOI:
The Assurance View of Testimony

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According to the assurance view of testimony, we are often testimonially justified in believing a proposition p in virtue of the testifier's assurance that p or the recipient's acceptance of that assurance. This chapter focuses here on the logically weakest assurance view, suggested by the work of Richard Moran, that such assurance or acceptance gives the recipient an epistemic reason to believe p, though whether this reason is a good one depends on further “background conditions.” On this view, testimonial reason-giving turns on an actual or potential personal relation between the testifier and the recipient and on their free choices to offer or accept an agreement. The chapter objects to this view, on three grounds. First, though assurance may give the recipient a practical reason to trust the testifier as to whether p, neither assurance nor accepting assurance is sufficient to give the recipient an epistemic reason to believe p, as opposed to a practical reason in light of the cognitive goal of believing the truth. Second, assurance isn't necessary for testimony to give the recipient an epistemic reason to believe the proposition. Third, the assurance view cannot account for the conferring of epistemic reasons by testimony in the most important class of cases for a nonreductive view of testimonial justification—the primitive cases in which the recipient lacks nontestimonial reason. The chapter finally considers what these objections suggest for an alternative nonreductive view of testimony, the agreement view.

Keywords: assurance view; epistemic reasons; justified belief; Moran; nonreductive view; testimonial justification

Chapter.  15159 words. 

Subjects: Metaphysics

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