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Lackey, Jennifer. Knowing from Testimony
2006, Philosophy Compass 1(5): 432-448.
Added by: Ben McGorrigan, Contributed by: Wayne Riggs

Abstract: Testimony is a vital and ubiquitous source of knowledge. Were we to refrain from accepting the testimony of others, our lives would be impoverished in startling and debilitating ways. Despite the vital role that testimony occupies in our epistemic lives, traditional epistemological theories have focused primarily on other sources, such as sense perception, memory, and reason, with relatively little attention devoted specifically to testimony. In recent years, however, the epistemic significance of testimony has been more fully appreciated. I shall here focus on two questions that have received the most attention in recent work in the epistemology of testimony. First, is testimonial knowledge acquired only by being transmitted from speaker to hearer? Second, must a hearer have positive reasons to justifiedly accept a speaker’s testimony?

Comment: This text will serve as a good introduction to the epistemology of testimony. Aside from its relevance in teaching Epistemology, it will also be of use in teaching Aesthetics where Aesthetic Testimony has become a key topic of debate. Lackey provides various thought experiments which can aid the reader in understanding when knowledge seems to be acquired via testimony, and how this seems to work.

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