Testimony as a Philosophical Problem
This chapter argues that an important though largely unrecognized shift occurred in the Early Enlightenment period concerning philosophical conceptions of testimony and testimonial knowledge. Whereas prior to the Enlightenment testimonial knowledge or belief was often taken to be the result of a cognitive capacity distinctively connected to theoretical authority, figures like John Locke and David Hume began to portray testimony as a kind of ordinary inductive evidence, thereby severing the traditional connection between testimony and authority. This shift in the way in which testimony was conceived was a straightforward application to the epistemic realm of broader Enlightenment suspicions concerning the place of authority in political and religious affairs, but it is one that is seldom recognized. It amounts to a substantive claim about the nature of theoretical rationality, that fully rational cognitive agents are epistemically autonomous.
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