Testimony, recovery and plausible deniability: A response to Peet

Episteme 16 (1):18-38 (2019)
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According to telling based views of testimony (TBVs), B has reason to believe that p when A tells B that p because A thereby takes public responsibility for B's subsequent belief that p. Andrew Peet presents a new argument against TBVs. He argues that insofar as A uses context-sensitive expressions to express p, A doesn't take public responsibility for B's belief that p. Since context-sensitivity is widespread, the kind of reason TBVs say we have to believe what we're told, is not widespread. Peet doesn't identify any problem with his own argument though he does attempt to limit its sceptical potential by identifying special contexts in which TBVs stand a chance of success. A more general defence of TBVs can be provided by showing Peet's argument to be unsound. I argue that Peet's argument is unsound because it requires us to wrongly suppose that speakers do far less labour than their audiences in context-sensitive linguistic communication. I aim to show why—in the context of the epistemology of testimony and the philosophy of language—it's important to recognize the labour that speakers can do, and so can can be held responsible for not doing, in episodes of context-sensitive linguistic communication.

Author's Profile

Alex Davies
University of Tartu


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