Why Do We Believe What We Are Told?

Ratio (1):69-88 (1986)
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Abstract

It is argued that reliance on the testimony of others cannot be viewed as reliance on a kind of evidence. Speech being essentially voluntary, the speaker cannot see his own choice of words as evidence of their truth, and so cannot honestly offer them to others as such. Rather, in taking responsibility for the truth of what he says, the speaker offers a guarantee or assurance of its truth, and in believing him the hearer accepts this assurance. I argue that, contrary to appearances, this account is compatible with the hearer acquiring knowledge, and in fact throws interesting light on the idea of knowledge.

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Angus Ross
University of East Anglia

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