The puzzle of philosophical testimony

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An epistemologist tells you that knowledge is more than justified true belief. You trust them and thus come to believe this on the basis of their testimony. Did you thereby come to know that this view is correct? Intuitively, there is something intellectually wrong with forming philosophical beliefs on the basis of testimony, and yet it's hard to see why philosophy should be significantly epistemically different from other areas of inquiry in a way that would fully prohibit belief by testimony. This, I argue, is the puzzle of philosophical testimony. In this paper, I explore the puzzle of philosophical testimony and its ramifications. In particular, I examine the case for pessimism about philosophical testimony—the thesis that philosophical belief on the basis of testimony is impossible or is in some way illegitimate—and I argue that it lacks adequate support. I then consider whether the source of the apparent intellectual wrongness of testimonial‐based philosophical belief is grounded in non‐epistemic norms and goals of philosophical practice itself and argue that such norms are implausible, don't conflict with testimonial‐based philosophical belief, or else are mere disciplinary norms, lacking substantial normative force that would make it wrong to form testimonial‐based philosophical belief.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)142-163
Number of pages22
JournalEuropean Journal of Philosophy
Issue number1
Early online date2 Apr 2019
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2020


  • Intellectual autonomy
  • Norms
  • Philosophical knowledge
  • Testimony
  • Understanding


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