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Knowledge from Testimony: Benefits and Dangers


  • Seán Moran

Correspondence: Seán Moran, School of Education, Waterford Institute of Technology, Ireland.



Testimony is an important source of knowledge in many contexts, including that of education, but the notion of the teacher as testifier is not often discussed. Since much that is believed by individuals has come to them not from direct experience but by accepting the accounts of others, the trustworthiness of their interlocutors' testimonies, whether these be spoken, textual or electronic in form, is an important factor in determining whether or not they acquire true, justified beliefs. Testimonial trustworthiness is a combination of competence and sincerity, both of which tend to be high when a teacher testifies in her area of expertise. But in the world beyond the classroom there are situations in which the competence or sincerity of the testifier is low, so it is important that the learner acquires an epistemically-virtuous, well-attuned disposition towards testimony.