Can Testimony Generate Knowledge?

Philosophica 78 (2):105-127 (2006)
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Jennifer Lackey ('Testimonial Knowledge and Transmission' The Philosophical Quarterly 1999) and Peter Graham ('Conveying Information, Synthese 2000, 'Transferring Knowledge' Nous 2000) offered counterexamples to show that a hearer can acquire knowledge that P from a speaker who asserts that P, but the speaker does not know that P. These examples suggest testimony can generate knowledge. The showpiece of Lackey's examples is the Schoolteacher case. This paper shows that Lackey's case does not undermine the orthodox view that testimony cannot generate knowledge. This paper explains why Lackey's arguments to the contrary are ineffective for they misunderstand the intuitive rationale for the view that testimony cannot generate knowledge. This paper then elaborates on a version of the case from Graham's paper 'Conveying Information' (the Fossil case) that effectively shows that testimony can generate knowledge. This paper then provides a deeper informative explanation for how it is that testimony transfers knowledge, and why there should be cases where testimony generates knowledge.

Author's Profile

Peter Graham
University of California, Riverside


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