, Volume 191, Issue 1, pp 55–78 | Cite as

Reliability of testimonial norms in scientific communities



Several current debates in the epistemology of testimony are implicitly motivated by concerns about the reliability of rules for changing one’s beliefs in light of others’ claims. Call such rules testimonial norms (tns). To date, epistemologists have neither (i) characterized those features of communities that influence the reliability of tns, nor (ii) evaluated the reliability of tns as those features vary. These are the aims of this paper. I focus on scientific communities, where the transmission of highly specialized information is both ubiquitous and critically important. Employing a formal model of scientific inquiry, I argue that miscommunication and the “communicative structure” of science strongly influence the reliability of tns, where reliability is made precise in three ways.


Testimony Epistemology Reductionism Social structure of science Networks Homophily 


  1. Adler, J. E. (1994). Testimony, trust, knowing. The Journal of Philosophy, 91(5), 264–275.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Burge, T. (1993). Content preservation. The Philosophical Review, 102(4), 457–488.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Coady, C. A. J. (1973). Testimony and observation. American Philosophical Quarterly, 10(2), 149–155.Google Scholar
  4. Foley, R. (2005). Universal intellectual trust. Episteme: A Journal of Social Epistemology, 2(1), 5–11.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Fricker, E. M. (1994). Against gullibility. Synthese Library, p. 125.Google Scholar
  6. Fricker, E. M., & Cooper, D. E. (1987). The epistemology of testimony. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, Supplementary Volumes, 61, 57–106.Google Scholar
  7. Goldman, A. I. (2001). Experts: Which ones should you trust? Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 63(1), 85–110.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Golub, B., & Jackson, M. O. (2012). How homophily affects the speed of learning and best-response dynamics. Quarterly Journal of Economics, 127(3), 1287–1338.Google Scholar
  9. Grinstead, C. M., & Snell, J. L. (1997). Introduction to probability. Providence, RI: American Mathematical Society.Google Scholar
  10. Lackey, J. (2011). Testimony: Acquiring knowledge from others. In A. I. Goldman & D. Whitcomb (Eds.), Social epistemology: Essential readings (pp. 314–337). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  11. Lehrer, K., & Wagner, C. (1981). Rational consensus in science and society: A philosophical and mathematical study (Vol. 24). London: D. Reidel.Google Scholar
  12. Zollman, K. J. (2011). The communication structure of epistemic communities. In A. Goldman (Ed.), Social epistemology: Essential, readings (pp. 338–350). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Munich Center for Mathematical PhilosophyLudwig-Maximilians-Universität München Fakultät für Philosophie, Wissenschaftstheorie und Religionswissenschaft Lehrstuhl für Logik und Sprachphilosophie Geschwister-Scholl-Platz 1MünchenGermany

Personalised recommendations