Hedged testimony

Noûs 57 (2):341-369 (2023)
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Speakers offer testimony. They also hedge. This essay offers an account of how hedging makes a difference to testimony. Two components of testimony are considered: how testimony warrants a hearer's attitude, and how testimony changes a speaker's responsibilities. Starting with a norm-based approach to testimony where hearer's beliefs are prima facie warranted because of social norms and speakers acquire responsibility from these same norms, I argue that hedging alters both components simultaneously. It changes which attitudes a hearer is prima facie warranted in forming in response to testimony, and reduces how much responsibility a speaker undertakes in testifying. A consequence of this account is that speakers who hedge for strategic purposes deprive their hearers of warrant for stronger doxastic attitudes.

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Peter van Elswyk
Northwestern University


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