Research Group
in Analytic Philosophy

Beyond testimony: speech acts and the epistemology of communication

Date: 11 December 2019

Time: 15:00

Place: Seminari de Filosofia UB

Abstract

Most epistemologists accept (either implicitly or explicitly) the following view: to testify that p one must assert (alternatively: claim, affirm, state, tell someone) that p. Guided by this assumption, contemporary epistemology of testimony has made the speech act of assertion the focus of its analysis.

This paper argues that epistemology’s focus on assertoric acts (the ‘assertion paradigm’ for short) is unduly narrow. I will compare some scenarios in which knowledge is acquired from assertoric acts with scenarios in which knowledge is acquired from non-assertoric acts. These cases have many important epistemic features in common, and I will argue that there is no obvious reason to limit epistemological inquiry to the former set of communicative acts.

If I am right, epistemologists are better off abandoning the assertion paradigm. Moving away from it has important consequences: it leads to (i) an expansion of the domain of the discipline, and this in turn prompts us to (ii) systematically challenge existing solutions to epistemological problems, in addition to (iii) opening up new questions for epistemological inquiry.