Dissertation Defense Announcement
The College of Arts and Sciences announces the Final Dissertation of
for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy
on May 11, 2018 at 3:00 PM, Clement 329.
Advisor: Deborah Tollefsen
Y'All Talkin' to Me? Essays on the Epistemology of Group Testimony
ABSTRACT:This dissertation brings together two issues in contemporary social epistemology: the epistemology of testimony and collective epistemology. Following the intuition that many of our beliefs have their source in the say-so of others, there is a great deal of philosophical interest in understanding how beliefs formed on the basis of testimony may be justified. Alongside this concern, field of collective epistemology is a rapidly developing sub-field of social epistemology that deals with questions surrounding the nature of group belief. Chapter One considers what the conditions are for a hearer to be justified in believing the testimony of a group. In it, I argue that whether a belief formed on the basis of group testimony is justified or not is not contingent on whether or not the group testifying can be considered to be a trustworthy testifier. Trustworthiness, I claim, is a property that only properly applies to individual testifiers, and not to group testifiers. Rather, I will claim that hearers of group testimony may be justified in believing the testimony of that group based on whether the group is a reliable source of information. We can trust people, but we can only rely on groups. In Chapter Two, I turn to the issue of group testimony and moral epistemology. Moral testimony refers to the moral beliefs people form on the basis of the testimony of others. My focus in this chapter are cases involving ethics committees and institutional research boards, who offer testimony regarding the moral status of certain types of actions. I argue that, in some cases, group moral testimony is more plausible than individual moral testimony and resists some of the major arguments for rejecting the idea of a moral expert. Chapter Three focuses on the concept of epistemic injustice. It addresses Miranda Fricker's claim that a condition for the amelioration of epistemic injustice requires that institutions develop and sustain epistemic virtues such as open-mindedness. I argue that her proposed solution for epistemic injustice inadequately conceptualizes how institutions form and sustain epistemic virtues; as such, revision of her theory of how to ameliorate epistemic injustice is necessary.