What’s the matter with epistemic circularity?

Philosophical Studies 171 (2):177-205 (2014)
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Abstract
If the reliability of a source of testimony is open to question, it seems epistemically illegitimate to verify the source’s reliability by appealing to that source’s own testimony. Is this because it is illegitimate to trust a questionable source’s testimony on any matter whatsoever? Or is there a distinctive problem with appealing to the source’s testimony on the matter of that source’s own reliability? After distinguishing between two kinds of epistemically illegitimate circularity—bootstrapping and self-verification—I argue for a qualified version of the claim that there is nothing especially illegitimate about using a questionable source to evaluate its own reliability. Instead, it is illegitimate to appeal to a questionable source’s testimony on any matter whatsoever, with the matter of the source’s own reliability serving only as a special case.
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Archival date: 2013-11-12
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2013-11-13

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