Knowing From Words

P. F. Strawson

in Philosophical Writings

Published in print April 2011 | ISBN: 9780199587292
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191728747 | DOI:
Knowing From Words

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A great part of our systems of belief rests upon testimony. The question is whether we are to regard testimony, so understood, as a direct and immediate source of belief based upon it or whether we are to regard belief so based as being, in the last resort, essentially the product of other, more fundamental sources of knowledge, or, in brief again, is testimony, as a source of knowledge (or belief), reducible to these other sources? This chapter argues that in any community of language-users, perception, memory, and testimony are not only equally essential to the construction of the belief-or-knowledge-systems of its members. It is also true that all three are on an equal footing in that there is no possibility of a general reductive analysis of any one of the three in terms of the others, supplemented by inference. The interdependence of all does not entail the reducibility of any. If we (often) know, directly and immediately, what our eyes tell us, then we (often) know, no less directly and immediately, what other people tell us.

Keywords: belief; testimony; knowledge; perception; memory

Chapter.  2003 words. 

Subjects: Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art

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