Relying on Others
An Essay in Epistemology
University Press 2010
In our attempts to know and understand the world around us, we inevitably rely on others to provide us with reliable testimony about facts and states of affairs to which we do not have access. What is the nature of this reliance? Do testifiers simply provide us with especially compelling evidence? Should we regard the testimony of others as only so much more local data in our cognitive environment? Or is there a deeper sense in which much of our knowledge depends on others?
In his new book, Relying on Others: An Essay in Epistemology (Oxford University Press, 2010), Sanford Goldberg argues for the striking thesis that in cases of testimonial knowledge, part of our justification in believing another’s testimony resides in the mind/brain of the testifier. This thesis runs counter to what Goldberg regards as a widespread and insufficiently examined premise at the heart of most views in contemporary epistemology, namely, individualism, which is the view that a believer’s justification never extends outside of the believer’s mind/brain. Goldberg argues that, over a significant range of cases, a believer’s justification depends upon irreducibly social factors, and thus that an individual’s justification sometimes resides in part in the cognitive processes of others.