Testimony: Knowing Through Being Told

  • Elizabeth Fricker


The expression ‘testimony’ in everyday usage in English is confined to reports by witnesses or by experts given in a courtroom, or other formal setting. But in analytic philosophy the expression is used as a label for the process by which knowledge or belief is gained from understanding and believing the spoken or written reports of others generally, regardless of setting. In a modern society testimony thus broadly understood is one of the main sources of belief. Very many of an individual’s beliefs are gained second-hand: from personal communication, from all sorts of purportedly factual books, from written records of many kinds, and from newspapers, television and the internet. Testimony enables the diffusion of current news, information (or misinformation), opinion and gossip throughout a community with a shared language. It also enables the preservation and passing on of our accumulated heritage of knowledge and belief: in history, geography, the sciences, technology, etc. We would be almost unimaginably epistemically impoverished, without the resources provided by testimony in its various forms.


Justify Belief Folk Psychology Perceptual Belief Background Belief Epistemic Luck 
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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Elizabeth Fricker
    • 1
  1. 1.Magdalen CollegeOxfordUK

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