Testimony, Transmition, and Safety

Joachim Horvath


Most philosophers believe that testimony is not a fundamental
source of knowledge, but merely a way to transmit already existing
knowledge. However, Jennifer Lackey has presented some counterexamples which
show that one can actually come to know something through testimony that no
one ever knew before. Yet, the intuitive idea can be preserved by the weaker
claim that someone in a knowledge-constituting testimonial chain has to have
access to some non-testimo-nial source of knowledge with regard to what is
testified. But even this weaker claim has a counterexample which I develop
in close connection with a safety-account of knowledge. Thus, testimonial
statements can sometimes enable us to know something for which none of our
infor-mants has any source of knowledge available. I conclude that my
counterexample nevertheless does not affect the core of our intuitions about
testimony, although it establishes that testimony can indeed be a
fundamental source of knowledge.

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