On Testimony: A Workshop with Professor Elizabeth Fricker
Organised by When Experts Disagree Research Project and UCD School of Philosophy
March 31, 2017
UCD Humanities Institute, Belfield, Dublin 4
10. 00-11.15 Elizabeth Fricker (Magdalen College, Oxford) “Norms, Constitutive and Social, and Assertion”
188.8.131.52 Coffee Break
11.30- 12.30 Edward Nettel (UCD School of Philosophy, IRC WEXD Research Project) “Reasons for Telling: Elizabeth Fricker on Giving One’s Word”
12.30-12.40 Response by Professor Fricker
12.40-2.00 Lunch Break
2.00- 3.00 Thomas Hodgson (UCD School of Philosophy, IRC Postdoctoral Fellow) “Linguistic meaning, semantic content, and testimony”
3.00-3.10 Response by Professor Fricker
3.15 – 4.15 Finnur Dellsén (UCD School of Philosophy, IRC WEXD Research Project) “Two False Principles of Testimonial Justification”
4.15-4.25 Response by Professor Fricker
4.25-4.45 Coffee Break
4.45-5.45 Elmar Unnsteinsson (UCD School of Philosophy, IRC Postdoctoral Fellow) “Insincerity, Consciousness, and Self-Deception”
5.45-6.15 Response by Professor Fricker followed by a general discussion
6.15 Close of Workshop
Elizabeth Fricker (Magdalen College, Oxford)
Norms, Constitutive and Social, and Assertion
I define a social norm as a regularity in behavior whose persistence is causally explained by the existence of sanctioning attitudes of participants to violations – without these sanctions individuals have motive to violate the norm. I show how a universal precept “When in circumstances S, do action F” can be sustained by the conditional preference of each to conform given that others do of a convention, and also reinforced by the sanctions of a norm. I observe that a precept with moral force can be reinforced by a social norm. I then consider constitutive norms and show by means of an example, competitive figure skating, how a type of activity or practise G can have a constitutive norm NG. An ongoing activity in a community is engagement in that practice only if NG is reinforced as a social norm by participants. I apply this to the case of assertion: the speech act type Assertion has a constitutive norm NA, and a practice of making speech acts in a community is one of making assertions only if it is controlled by NA enforced by the sanctions of a social norm.
Edward Nettel (UCD School of Philosophy, IRC WEXD Research Project)
“Reasons for Telling: Elizabeth Fricker on Giving One’s Word”
In some recent work, Elizabeth Fricker claims that the canonical way in which knowledge arises from conversation is when a speaker ‘gives her word on some topic’ by telling her audience something, and by her audience ‘taking the speaker’s word for it’. I focus on two aspects of this: (i) Fricker’s identification of one’s telling somebody something with one’s giving one’s word on a topic; and (ii) the resulting explanation of how speakers canonically make available knowledge to their audiences. In respect of (i), given Fricker’s conception of acts of telling somebody something, a speaker’s doing this cannot be properly identified with their giving their word. In respect of (ii), there is reason to think that the resultant picture fails to have the resources needed to explain how speakers put their audience in a position to acquire knowledge in a way distinctive of testimony. I suggest that we should instead focus on a speaker’sreasons for telling somebody something in determining the epistemic significance of their words.
Thomas Hodgson (UCD School of Philosophy, IRC Postdoctoral Fellow)
“Linguistic meaning, semantic content, and testimony”
Do sentences, in context, have propositions as their semantic contents? Many philosophers have defended a positive answer. I will present a challenge and a response to that challenge. The response involves a new argument for the positive answer based on the role of semantic content in explaining the practice of trusting the assertions of our interlocutors. The position that I develop can be used to give a new account of the epistemic difference between Gricean saying and implicating.
Finnur Dellsén (UCD School of Philosophy, IRC WEXD Research Project
“Two False Principles of Testimonial Justification”
Testimony is nearly always treated as binary phenomenon, but it should be clear that this is an oversimplification. Indeed, there are at least two dimensions of what we may call ‘testimonial strength’. First, in the case of testimony from more than one speaker, testimony can be said to be stronger to the extent that a greater proportion of the speakers give the same testimony. Second, in both single-speaker and multi-speaker testimony, testimony can be said to the stronger to the extent that each speaker expresses a greater confidence in the relevant proposition. This paper makes explicit two normative principles of testimonial strength that have been taken for granted in the literature, and argues that they are both false. This result arguably undermines non-reductionist views of testimonial justification.
Elmar Unnsteinsson (UCD School of Philosophy, IRC Postdoctoral Fellow)
“Insincerity, Consciousness, and Self-Deception”
I argue that insincerity in speech and self-deception utilize the same mental mechanism, the only difference being the target of manipulation. The argument depends on the idea that conscious representations of propositional attitudes are unreliable indicators of actual attitudes. Consciousness partly consists of things we tell ourselves we believe, and external speech largely consist of things we tell others we believe. Both phenomena are subject to similar pressures towards misrepresentation. Thus, if hearers ought to be sensitive to insincerity in their informants they ought, for the same reasons, to be sensitive to their predilection for self-deception