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Alcoff, Linda Martin, , . On Judging Epistemic Credibility: Is Social Identity Relevant?
2000, In Naomi Zack (ed.), Women of Color and Philosophy: A Critical Reader. Wiley-Blackwell. pp. 235-262.
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Added by: Clotilde Torregrossa, Contributed by:

Abstract: In assessing the likely credibility of a claim or judgment, is it ever relevant to take into account the social identity of the person who has made the claim? There are strong reasons, political and otherwise, to argue against the epistemic relevance of social identity. However, there are instances where social identity might be deemed relevant, such as in determinations of criminal culpability where a relatively small amount of evidence is the only basis for the decision and where social prejudices can play a role in inductive reasoning. This paper explores these issues.

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Dotson, Kristie, , . Tracking Epistemic Violence, Tracking Practices of Silencing
2011, Hypatia 26 (2):236-257.
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Added by: Simon Fokt, Contributed by: Naomi Beecroft, Emily Dyson

Abstract: Too often, identifying practices of silencing is a seemingly impossible exercise. Here I claim that attempting to give a conceptual reading of the epistemic violence present when silencing occurs can help distinguish the different ways members of oppressed groups are silenced with respect to testimony. I offer an account of epistemic violence as the failure, owing to pernicious ignorance, of hearers to meet the vulnerabilities of speakers in linguistic exchanges. Ultimately, I illustrate that by focusing on the ways in which hearers fail to meet speaker dependency in a linguistic exchange, efforts can be made to demarcate the different types of silencing people face when attempting to testify from oppressed positions in society.

Comment: This text provides an alternative framework to epistemic injustice and focuses on the positionality of black women. It encourages thought about (certain kinds of) ignorance as specific harms to others. This would suit an undergraduate class who were looking at race, gender, and/or applied epistemologies.

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Elgin, Z. Catherine, , . Take it from me – the epistemological status of testimony
2002, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, LXV (2002), 291-308.
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Added by: Giada Fratantonio, Contributed by:

Summary: In this paper, the author addresses the problem of to what provides epistemic justification for taking someone’s testimony as true. That is, to what extent testimony provides conveys warrant? More precisely, the author argues, contra C. J. A. Coady, that testimony does not easily provide warrant in most of the cases, yet the whether a testimony conveys warrant is context-sensitive: different levels of warrant are transmitted in different contexts.

Comment: This could work as secondary reading for a postgraduate course in epistemology, focusin on the epistemology of testimony.

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Fricker, Elizabeth, , . Against Gullibility
1994, In: Matilals, Bimal K. & Chakrabarti, A. (eds.), Knowing from Words: Western and Indian philosophical analysis of understanding and testimony. Kluwer. 125-161
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Added by: Jie Gao, Contributed by:

Summary: This paper refutes the PR thesis according to which the hearer has such a special presumptive right to trust the speaker’s assertion. The refutation consists of 1) arguing against that it is not possible for a hearer to obtain independent confirmation that a given speaker is trustworthy – that what she says will be true; 2) a full rejection to various positive arguments for a PR which may be made.

Comment: This paper defends anti-reductionism by refuting arguments for reductionism. It is useful paper for teachings on testimony in a upper-level undergraduate course on epistemology.

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Fricker, Elizabeth, , . Critical notice: Telling and trusting: Reductionism and anti-reductionism in the epistemology of testimony
1995, Mind 104 (414): 393-411.
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Added by: Jie Gao, Contributed by:

Abstract: In this review I focus on the arguments advanced by Coady in the main task to which he addresses himself in Testimony: arguing the case against the reductive position, and in favour of a non-reductive conception of testimonial knowledge. I introduce some distinctions which I believe enable the subject to taken further.

Comment: This review critically discusses the first book on testimony in contemporary philosophy and advances the dabates. It is a very good background reading for courses on epistemology or social epistemology. It saves students from reading Coady’s original book.

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Lackey, Jennfer, , . Testimonial knowledge and transmission
1999, Philosophical Quarterly 50 (197): 471-490.
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Added by: Jie Gao, Contributed by:

Abstract: We often talk about knowledge being transmitted via testimony. This suggests a picture of testimony with striking similarities to memory. For instance, it is often assumed that neither is a generative source of knowledge: while the former transmits knowledge from one speaker to another, the latter preserves beliefs from one time to another. These considerations give rise to a stronger and a weaker thesis regarding the transmission of testimonial knowledge. The stronger thesis is that each speaker in a chain of testimonial transmission must know that p in order to pass this knowledge to a hearer. The weaker thesis is that at least the first speaker must know that p in order for any hearer in the chain to come to know that p via testimony. I argue that both theses are false, and hence testimony, unlike memory, can be a generative source of knowledge.

Comment: This is a very good introductory paper on testimonial knowledge and debates between reductivists and non-reductivists. Note that it requires preliminary knowledge on JTB theory.

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Lackey, Jennfer, , . Testimony and the Infant/Child Objection
2005, Philosophical Studies 126(2): 163-190.
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Added by: Jie Gao, Contributed by:

Abstract: One of the central problems afflicting reductionism in the epistemology of testimony is the apparent fact that infants and small children are not cognitively capable of having the inductively based positive reasons required by this view. Since non-reductionism does not impose a requirement of this sort, it is thought to avoid this problem and is therefore taken to have a significant advantage over reductionism. In this paper, however, I argue that if this objection undermines reductionism, then a variant of it similarly undermines non-reductionism. Thus, considerations about the cognitive capacities of infants and small children do not effectively discriminate between these two competing theories of testimonial justification.

Comment: It is a good paper in terms of elucidating the debates between reductionism and non-reductionism. In particular, it critically examines a central problem for reductionism. Suitable as a further reading for teachings on testimony in a course on epistemology.

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Lackey, Jennfer, , . Testimony: Acquiring Knowledge from Others
2010, Goldman, Alvin and Whitcomb, Dennis (eds.), Social Epistemology: Essential Readings. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 71-91
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Added by: Jie Gao, Contributed by:

Introduction: Virtually everything we know depends in some way or other on the testimony of others – what we eat, how things work, where we go, even who we are. We do not, after all, perceive firsthand the preparation of the ingredients in many of our meals, or the construction of the devices we use to get around the world, or the layout of our planet, or our own births and familial histories. These are all things we are told. Indeed, subtracting from our lives the information that we possess via testimony leaves them barely recognizable. Scientific discoveries, battles won and lost, geographical developments, customs and traditions of distant lands – all of these facts would be completely lost to us. It is, therefore, no surprise that the importance of testimony, both epistemological and practical, is nearly universally accepted. Less consensus, however, is found when questions about the nature and extent of our dependence on the word of others arise. Is our justified reliance on testimony fundamentally basic, for instance, or is it ultimately reducible to perception, memory, and reason? Is trust, or some related interpersonal feature of our social interaction with one another, essential to the acquisition of beliefs that are testimonially justified? Is testimonial knowledge necessarily acquired through transmission from speaker to hearer? Can testimony generate epistemic features in its own right? These are the questions that will be taken up in this paper and, as will become clear, their answers have far-reaching consequences for how we understand our place in the social world.

Comment: In this excellent introductory paper, Lackey briefly overviews the essential issues about testimony. It is very useful as a general introduction on testimonal knowledge, hence good for junior undergraduate courses on epistemology or social epistemology.

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Lackey, Jennifer, , . Introduction: Perspectives on testimony
2007, Episteme 4 (3):233-237.
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Added by: Chris Blake-Turner, Contributed by: Wayne Riggs

Abstract: Almost everything we know depends in some way on testimony. Without the ability to learn from others, it would be virtually impossible for any individual person to know much beyond what has come within the scope of her immediate perceptual environment. The fruits of science, history, geography – all of these would be beyond our grasp, as would much of what we know about ourselves. We do not, after all, perceive that we belong to one family rather than to another – this is something we are told. Despite the overwhelming importance of testimony, it has been neglected to a large extent in the philosophical tradition. Arguably, this has resulted from a general sense that our other cognitive faculties, such as perception, are more basic and therefore ought to be the primary focus of our investigations. In recent years, however, the idea that testimony is of secondary importance has been forcefully challenged, and new ways of thinking of testimony have been fruitfully explored by a number of philosophers. The present issue of Episteme aims to build on this body of work and to broaden it by incorporating insights from three different groups of people: philosophers who have already done considerable work in social epistemology, philosophers who are for the first time applying their work in other areas of epistemology to testimony, and psychologists who study the development of our ability to learn from others. The papers in this issue, with one exception, were delivered at the fourth annual Episteme conference, held at Rutgers University in June, 2007

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Lackey, Jennifer, , . It takes two to tango: beyond reductionism and non-reductionism in the epistemology of testimony
2006, In Jennifer Lackey & Ernest Sosa (eds.), The Epistemology of Testimony. Oxford University Press. pp. 160–89.
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Added by: Chris Blake-Turner, Contributed by: Wayne Riggs

Abstract: How precisely do we successfully acquire justified belief from either the spoken or written word of others? This question is at the center of the epistemology of testimony, and the current philosophical literature contains only two general options for answering it: reductionism and non-reductionism. While reductionists argue that testimonial justification is reducible to sense perception, memory, and inductive inference, non-reductionists maintain that testimony is just as basic epistemically as these other sources. This chapter challenges the current terms of the debate by, first, showing that there are serious problems afflicting both reductionism and non-reductionism and by, second, suggesting an alternate, hybrid, view of testimonial justification.

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Lackey, Jennifer, , . Knowing from Testimony
2006, Philosophy Compass 1(5): 432-448.
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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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Lackey, Jennifer, , . Learning From Words: Testimony as a Source of Knowledge
2008, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
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Added by: Chris Blake-Turner, Contributed by: Wayne Riggs

Publisher’s Note: Testimony is an invaluable source of knowledge. We rely on the reports of those around us for everything from the ingredients in our food and medicine to the identity of our family members. Recent years have seen an explosion of interest in the epistemology of testimony. Despite the multitude of views offered, a single thesis is nearly universally accepted: testimonial knowledge is acquired through the process of transmission from speaker to hearer. In this book, Jennifer Lackey shows that this thesis is false and, hence, that the literature on testimony has been shaped at its core by a view that is fundamentally misguided. She then defends a detailed alternative to this conception of testimony: whereas the views currently dominant focus on the epistemic status of what speakers believe, Lackey advances a theory that instead centers on what speakers say. The upshot is that, strictly speaking, we do not learn from one another’s beliefs – we learn from one another’s words. Once this shift in focus is in place, Lackey goes on to argue that, though positive reasons are necessary for testimonial knowledge, testimony itself is an irreducible epistemic source. This leads to the development of a theory that gives proper credence to testimony’s epistemologically dual nature: both the speaker and the hearer must make a positive epistemic contribution to testimonial knowledge. The resulting view not only reveals that testimony has the capacity to generate knowledge, but it also gives appropriate weight to our nature as both socially indebted and individually rational creatures. The approach found in this book will, then, represent a radical departure from the views currently dominating the epistemology of testimony, and thus is intended to reshape our understanding of the deep and ubiquitous reliance we have on the testimony of those around us

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Lackey, Jennifer, , . The Epistemology of Testimony: Introduction
2006, In Jennifer Lackey & Ernest Sosa (eds.), The Epistemology of Testimony. Oxford University Press. pp. 1-24.
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Added by: Chris Blake-Turner, Contributed by: Wayne Riggs

Introduction: Our dependence on testimony is as deep as it is ubiquitous. We rely on the reports of others for our beliefs about the food we eat, the medicine we ingest, the products we buy, the geography of the world, discoveries in science, historical information, and many other areas that play crucial roles in both our practical and our intellectual lives. Even many of our most important beliefs about ourselves were learned at an earlier time from our parents and caretakers, such as the date of our birth, the identity of our parents, our ethnic backgrounds, and so on. Were we to refrain from accepting the testimony of others, our lives would be impoverished in startling and debilitating ways.

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Sliwa, Paulina, , . In defense of moral testimony
2012, Philosophical Studies 158 (2): 175-195.
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Added by: Nick Novelli, Contributed by:

Introduction: Moral testimony has been getting a bad name in the recent literature. It has been argued that while testimony is a perfectly fine source for nonmoral belief, there’s something wrong with basing one’s moral beliefs on it. This paper argues that the bad name is undeserved: Moral testimony isn’t any more problematic than nonmoral testimony.

Comment: This is a very good, easy to understand article on moral epistemology. The examples used are clear and well-presented, and it would be suitable even for students with no previous experience with moral epistemology. As the issue addressed, moral testimony, is a central one, this article would be recommended for an introductory course in moral epistemology.

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Vince, Rosa, , . Testimonial Smothering and Pornography
2018, Feminist Philosophy Quarterly 4(3)
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Added by: Andrea Blomqvist, Contributed by: Rosa Vince

Abstract: This paper defends the claim that there are two previously underexplored ways in which pornography silences women. These ways that pornography silences are (1) the smothering of refusal and (2) the smothering of sexual assault reports, and they can be explained in part through Kristie Dotson’s account of “testimonial smothering.” Unlike the work of other writers in the pornography as silencing literature, my discussion of silenced refusal of sex deals with the cases where women have said yes to sex but would have said no if they had felt that they could have. I show that this, and cases where women do not report sexual assault, count as testimonial smothering through identifying rape myths as a species of “pernicious ignorance.” I make the connection to pornography in presenting evidence that pornography contributes to acceptance of rape myths. This takes us to my general conclusion: Dotson’s account of testimonial smothering gives us a way in which pornography contributes to the silencing of women, by silencing their refusal of sex and their reports of sexual assault.

Comment: This paper can be used as a stand-alone argument for how some pornography might silence women, or can be viewed as part of the literature on silencing and pornography; as an alternative strategy to Rae Langton’s approach, using Kristie Dotson’s work instead of J L Austin’s. It can also be used as an example of how Kristie Dotson’s work on Testimonial Injustice has broad application.

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