CSMN Colloquium: Mona Simion
Mona Simion (CSMN/Concept Lab)
According to strong anti-reductionism (SAR) in the epistemology of testimony, testimonial entitlement is easy to come by: all you need to do is listen to what you are being told. Now, say you like SAR; one question that you will need to answer is how it can be that testimonial entitlement can come so cheaply. After all, people are free to lie. Furthermore, they tend to be self-interested in the first instance, so we’d expect them to lie when this furthers their own interests. But how, then, could it be that we are entitled to believe on mere say-so?
One ambitious solution to this problem is due to Tyler Burge, who attempts to offer an a priori vindication of testimony as a source of entitlement. In a nutshell, according to Burge, since reason aims at truth, both the content of intelligible propositional presentations-as-true and the prima facie rationality of their source indicate a prima facie source of truth.
This talk has two aims: first, it argues that the Burge solution fails, due to implausible function-theoretic commitments. Second, it goes on a rescue mission on behalf of SAR. I put forth a social strong anti-reductionist account, which I dub ‘Testimonial Contractarianism’. According to the view defended here, in virtue of the social contract in play, compliance with the norms governing speech acts is the default position for speakers. Insofar as norm compliance is the default for speakers, I argue, all else equal, entitlement to believe is the default for hearers.