Nature of Knowledge Lecture
Professor Robert Audi
Notre Dame University
'Testimony as a Social Foundation of Knowledge'
ABSTRACT.Testimony, conceived broadly as affirming something to someone, is the mainstay of human communication and essential for the spread of knowledge. But testimony may also spread error. Under what conditions does affirming something succeed in creating knowledge of what is affirmed in the person addressed? Must the recipient, for instance, trust the attester? And does the attester have to know what is affirmed, or it is enough that it be true and believed by the attester? A related question is what it takes for the recipient to be justified in believing what the attester affirms. Is testimony-based justification acquired in the same way as testimony-based knowledge? These questions lead to another pressing one significant for us all: What standards must we uphold in forming beliefs on the basis of what we are told—whether in person or in other communications? In Aristotelian terms, what is the mean between a naive credulity and a crippling skepticism? This paper addresses these and other questions. It offers a theory of the role of testimony in producing knowledge and justification, a brief account of how trust of others can be squared with critical habits of mind, and an outline of some important standards for intellectual responsibility in giving and receiving testimony.
5pm Wednesday 7th July 2010.
Room F21, Psychology Building, 7 George Square (click here for a campus map).
School of Philosophy,
Psychology and Language Sciences,
Dugald Stewart Building,
3 Charles Street,
Edinburgh EH8 9AD