My dissertation was about the epistemology normative structure of testimony, with an eye to expanding to an account of all speech acts in terms of their normative structure. (That would've happened in Part III of the dissertation, if the simple example about how the argument worked for testimony hadn't swallowed the whole thing.) Well, now that speech acts have been declared unsexy, it's time to look at how the epistemology of testimony is doing.
Well, actually not that badly--people publish on it--but in a forced segue [PHWIP!] I'm going to point you to Brian Leiter's poll on the trends in American philosophy over the last 20 years. I wouldn't presume to comment--20 years ago I wasn't paying attention to much American philosophy other than Godel, Escher, Bach if that counts and maybe* The Mind's I--but one thing I note, that didn't get mentioned, is that the epistemology of testimony was almost completely dormant in Anglo-American philosophy 20 years ago. I sometimes cite C.A.J. Coady's APQ article from 1973, and then the next stuff I cite on testimony or trust comes from 1986--Angus Ross's "Why Believe What We Are Told?" (neglected for a while afterward until Richard Moran started talking about it), Annette Baier's "Trust and Antitrust," Judith Baker's "Trust and Rationality"; then the testimony literature is pretty sparse until Coady's 1992 book and Tyler Burge's 1993 "Content Preservation." (All dates and titles approximate, and I may have left out stuff.)
So that's a trend in one area that I find important. In The Significance of Philosophical Skepticism, whose date I completely forget, Barry Stroud mentions testimony as an important source of justification not much discussed by philosophers. That's not true anymore.--Maybe speech act theory will experience a similar comeback in the next couple decades.
*That is, I'm not sure if I was reading it then, I am sure much of it counts as philosophy.Posted by Matt Weiner at February 25, 2004 06:24 PM