How Testimony Can be a Source of Knowledge

When:19 Sep 2017, 2pm - 3:30pm
Venue:Morven Brown 310 (map ref C20)
Who:Nicholas Smith (James F. Miller Professor of Humanities and Professor of Philosophy at Lewis and Clark College)
Nicholas Smith

Philosophy Seminar Series


Much of what we regard ourselves as knowing came to us from the testimony of others. But recently epistemologists have debated just how testimony can be a source of knowledge at all. Must we have some independent way to confirm what we receive through testimony, or is there perhaps some reason why we should suppose that testimony is all by itself an adequate source of knowledge? This problem, I claim, is actually a version of a much older and better known problem: the so-called problem of the criterion. I will first explain this other, older, problem, and lay out the available options for solving it. I will then show why I think the problem of testimony is simply a version of the problem of the criterion. I will conclude by arguing that the best way to solve these problems comes from a theory of justification that few epistemologists seem to support these days: holistic coherence theory. In doing so, I hope I will provide some powerful new reasons for reconsidering this theory of justification.

About Nick Smith

Nick Smith is the author, co-author, editor or co-editor of over 15 books, including Plato’s Socrates (with T. C. Brickhouse), as well as more than 80 journal, encyclopedia, or dictionary articles, reviews, and translations, including three of the translations of works by Plato and Pseudo-Plato that appear in the new Plato: Complete Works from Hackett. In 1985, he won the American Philological Association Award for Excellence in the Teaching of Classics.

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