Why do we trust the testimonial account of others?
Firstly, I briefly wish to outline the parameters of trust and testimony that Zagzebski refers to in her book Epistemic Authority: A Theory of Trust, Authority, and Autonomy in Belief and then outline the reasons she also rejects the reductionist account, before examining the ways in which she suggests are reasons as to why we trust the testimonial account of others.
For Zagzebski, there is an important distinction between asserting that something is the case, and telling you that something is the case. The latter invokes the doctrine of trust, and involves an implicit contract between speaker and hearer- an interpersonal contract between ...view middle of the document...
So, for Zagzebski trust in testimony doesn’t seem to be based on rational assessment of other people’s truthfulness, nor any other reasons. To argue this, she first discusses different types of ‘epistemic egoism’ in which the demands of consistency push the epistemic egoist into weaker and weaker forms of egoism forcing her eventually to reject egoism and adopt trust:
a. Extreme epistemic egoism: What Zagzebski calls extreme epistemic egoism holds that the fact that someone else has a belief is never a reason for her to believe it, not even when conjoined with evidence that the other person is reliable.
b. Strong epistemic egoism: it holds that one has no obligation to count what another person believes as relevant to her own beliefs, but she may do so if she sees that given what she believes about them, they are likely to serve her desire for the truth.
c. Weak epistemic egoism: It holds that when one has evidence that someone else’s belief reliably serves one’s desire for the truth in some domain, one is not only rationally permitted, one is rationally require d to take their beliefs into account for forming one’s own belief.
Zagzebski argues that the demands of consistency push the epistemic egoist into weaker and weaker forms of egoism forcing her eventually to reject egoism. The extreme epistemic egoist trusts only her own powers and previous beliefs as a means to getting further true beliefs and knowledge. But, by using her own powers (perception, inference etc.) she can find out that other people are reliable source of knowledge. So, by using her own powers she sees that she is permitted to trust the powers and beliefs of many people and she begins to accept some beliefs on testimony. Trust in her own powers requires her to weaken her extreme...