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Abstract

Local reductionism purports to defend a middle ground in the debate about the epistemic status of testimony-based beliefs. It does so by acknowledging the practical ineliminability of testimony as a source of knowledge, while insisting that such an acknowledgment need not entail a default-acceptance view, according to which there exists an irreducible warrant for accepting testimony. The present paper argues that local reductionism is unsuccessful in its attempt to steer a middle path between reductionism and anti-reductionism about testimonial justification. In particular, it challenges local reductionism ‘from within’, without appealing to anti-reductionist intuitions. By offering novel arguments to the effect that local reductionism fails by its own standards, the present paper considerably strengthens the case against this version of reductionism. Local reductionism, it is argued, fails for three main reasons. First, it cannot account for the rationality of testimonial rejection in paradigmatic cases, even though the possibility of rational rejection is thought to be of central justificatory importance. Second, it does not provide a sufficiently distinct non-testimonial basis to which testimonial justification can be successfully reduced. Finally, local reductionism is shown to be an intrinsically unstable position, in danger of collapsing into full-fledged ‘credulism’ of the kind historically associated with Thomas Reid.