Epistemology Research Group

Wednesday, October 21, 2015
Room 1.17, Dugald Stewart Building, 3 Charles Street, Edinburgh, EH8 9AD
Event type: 
Research Groups

Prof Peter J. Graham on "Sincerity and the Reliability of Testimony: Burge on the a Priori Basis of Testimonial Warrant".

Abstract: Following Reid, non-reductionists about testimonial warrant (justification) believe that we are prima facie, defeasibly entitled to take what another person tells us at face value. Following Hume, reductionists disagree; we are entitled to take the word of another only on the basis of independent evidence of the credibility of the speaker. In ‘Content Preservation’ from 1993 and again in Cognition Through Understanding (2013), Tyler Burge argues that Reid is correct. He then asks about the basis of our prima facie entitlement to take the word of another at face value. Does our warrant derive a priori from the nature of reason, or does it derive empirically through contingent facts about human communication? He argues that it has an a priori basis. I expound and criticize Burge’s argument. Burge’s argument is intelligible in the context of his teleological reliabilist framework. In that context, Burge argues a priori that reason has the function of transpersonally conveying true information. I argue that Burge fails to establish a priori that the function is unconditionally reliable (as opposed to conditionally reliable); that the function is reliable (as opposed to good enough); and that reason actually has that function. I believe instead that our entitlement is based empirically in contingent facts about human nature and human social organization.