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Chapter 3 develops the information economy framework by invoking two additional resources: the concept of a speech-act from philosophy of language, and the concept of joint agency from action theory. The chapter also vindicates a prominent anti-reductionist theme: that the interpersonal relation of trust plays an essential role in testimonial knowledge. The central idea is that knowledge transmission essentially involves a kind of joint agency, characterized by a special sort of cooperation between speaker and hearer, and that joint agency essentially involves relations of trust between the cooperating agents. In addition, it is argued that the kind of joint agency involved in knowledge transmission essentially involves the speech-act of “telling.” The central idea is that a successful telling requires that the speaker intends to pass on knowledge to the hearer, and that the hearer understands that this is the speaker’s intention. It follows that a successful telling involves the kinds of “shared intention” and “common understanding” that are a characteristic of joint agency.
Chapter 9 argues for a “social turn” in the philosophy of religion, by showing how the information economy framework can be fruitfully applied to several perennial issues in religious epistemology, including the problem of religious disagreement, Hume’s critique of testimonial evidence for miracles, and the problem of divine hiddenness. More generally, the chapter argues, contemporary epistemology of religion assumes an overly individualistic account of knowledge and justification, including reductionist accounts of testimonial knowledge and evidence. By adopting recent advances in the epistemology of testimony and in social epistemology more generally, a social religious epistemology promises to enrich and expand the field.
Chapter 7 considers whether there can be a transmission of understanding, arguing that understanding can indeed be transmitted by the kind of extended testimony that one finds in standard educational settings. To make the case, the chapter defends a neo-Aristotelian account of understanding as systematic knowledge of causes, where “causes” are understood broadly, in terms of various kinds of dependence relations. So understood, it is argued, the transmission of understanding can be conceived as a special case of the transmission of knowledge. The information economy framework enters the argument in two ways. First, the framework helps to explain both the mechanisms by which understanding is transmitted by testimony in educational settings, and the intuition that it cannot be. Second, the framework helps to address an objection to the claim that understanding is a kind of knowledge.
Chapter 1 begins by invoking an intuitive distinction between the generation of knowledge and the transmission of knowledge. Very roughly, generation concerns coming to know “for oneself,” as when one reasons to a conclusion on the basis of good evidence. Transmission concerns coming to know “from someone else,” as when one is told by someone else who knows. Section 1.1 argues that some but not all testimony is at the service of knowledge transmission, with the result that some but not all testimonial knowledge is transmitted knowledge. Section 1.2 redraws some familiar categories in the epistemology of testimony so as to better characterize our target and related phenomena, better frame our questions, and better see the possible answers. Finally, a central thesis of the book is introduced and discussed: that knowledge transmission is irreducible to knowledge generation, and for that reason requires its own theoretical treatment. More specifically, it is argued that an adequate account of transmission must go beyond the usual theoretical resources of traditional epistemology – that is, beyond those resources that the tradition uses to theorize knowledge generation.
Chapter 8 considers the widespread epistemic dependence that characterizes “big science,” and uses the information economy framework to dispel the worry that such dependence is inconsistent with the standards for scientific knowledge. This leads to a new argument against reductionism in the epistemology of testimony. First, reductionism is shown to be untenable for scientific knowledge. Second, if reductionism must be rejected for scientific knowledge, then it should be rejected more generally. This second idea can be vindicated in two ways. First, anti-reductionism about scientific knowledge entails anti-reductionism about knowledge in general, since anti-reductionism is best understood as the thesis that some transmitted knowledge cannot be reduced to generated knowledge. Second, if anti-reductionism is required for scientific knowledge, then reductionism for non-scientific knowledge is unmotivated. The most elegant position is anti-reductionism about knowledge transmission in general.
Chapter 6 extends the metaphor of a knowledge economy by considering the category of “common knowledge,” understood in the analogy to common or public property. The chapter then considers this idea in relation to Wittgenstein’s notion of hinge commitments, and in particular Wittgenstein’s observation that some of our most deeply held commitments are neither “a result of investigation” (and so, not from generation) nor something that is typically asserted (and so, not from transmission). The chapter also looks at the notion of procedural knowledge in cognitive psychology and artificial intelligence, and argues that many of the distinctive features that Wittgenstein attributes to hinge commitments are also characteristic features of procedural knowledge. In particular, procedural knowledge is tacit in both theoretical and practical reasoning, and in that sense drives perception, inference and action. This suggests a virtue-theoretic account of common knowledge, in terms of tacit knowledge that is constitutive of cognitive virtue. In this way, it is possible to preserve a unified account of generated knowledge, transmitted knowledge, and common knowledge.
Chapter 2 introduces an “information economy” framework for approaching the epistemology of testimony. It is argued that, in a well-designed epistemic community, the norms governing information acquisition and information distribution will be different. This is because the dominant concern of information acquisition is quality control, whereas the dominant concern of information distribution is to provide access. The central idea, then, is to understand knowledge generation in terms of the norms governing information acquisition and to understand knowledge transmission in terms of the norms governing information distribution. The reason for adopting this approach is its explanatory power. In particular, the framework (a) explains a range of cases in the testimony literature; (b) provides a principled understanding of the transmission–generation distinction; and (c) explains the truth behind various and conflicting positions in the epistemology of testimony. Moreover, the framework nicely integrates with other plausible positions in epistemology, the philosophy of language, action theory, social science, and cognitive science.
Chapter 4 develops the information economy framework further by exploring two of its essential elements. In particular, the chapter further explores the nature of social environments and social-cognitive abilities. One central idea is that social environments are “layered” in ways that create various kinds of transmission channels. In particular, social environments are shaped in part by (a) interpersonal relationships, (b) social norms, (c) institutional rules, and (d) positive law. These various dimensions constitute a kind of “social space” that practical-cognitive agents must navigate. Such space is also “contoured,” in ways that affect the flow of information. A related idea is that practical-cognitive agents must embody various social-cognitive capacities, including linguistic capacities, mind-reading capacities, and what one might call “social sensibilities”; that is, awareness of one’s location in social space.
Chapter 5 argues that the information economy framework can be wedded to a virtue-theoretic epistemology so as to yield a unified account of knowledge generation and knowledge transmission. The argument begins with the familiar virtue-theoretic idea that knowledge is a kind of success from virtuous or competent agency, as opposed to a mere lucky success. Knowledge is an achievement in that sense. But now we draw a distinction between the competent agency of an individual and the competent joint agency of two individuals acting together. The argument, then, is that knowledge generation is to be understood in terms of success due to the competent agency of the knower. Knowledge transmission is to be understood in terms of success due to the competent joint agency of speaker and hearer acting together. The same argument is used to address the most persistent and pressing objection to virtue epistemology – that it cannot give an adequate account of testimonial knowledge, and that, more generally, virtue epistemology is overly individualistic.
How do we transmit or distribute knowledge, as distinct from generating or producing it? In this book John Greco examines the interpersonal relations and social structures which enable and inhibit the sharing of knowledge within and across epistemic communities. Drawing on resources from moral theory, the philosophy of language, action theory and the cognitive sciences, he considers the role of interpersonal trust in transmitting knowledge, and argues that sharing knowledge involves a kind of shared agency similar to giving a gift or passing a ball. He also explains why transmitting knowledge is easy in some social contexts, such as those involving friendship or caregiving, but impossible in contexts characterized by suspicion and competition rather than by trust and cooperation. His book explores phenomena that have been undertheorized by traditional epistemology, and throws new light on existing problems in social epistemology and the epistemology of testimony.
What kind of abilities are apt for producing knowledge? Alternatively: How should we understand the notion of 'cognitive ability', in the virtue-theoretic idea that knowledge is true belief attributable to cognitive ability? Robust virtue epistemology understands the notion in such a way that the ability condition on knowledge entails a safety condition as well. Greco relativizes abilities to environments, Sosa does not. Pritchard's modest virtue epistemology denies that ability grounds safety, but adds an additional safety condition on knowledge. Turri (2011) requires that knowledge-producing abilities manifest safety as well as truth, while Turri (2015 and 2016) denies that knowledge requires safety. This chapter considers the dispute among these alternatives in light of questions regarding the value of knowledge: In what sense is knowledge valuable, and in what sense of 'ability' does success-from-ability give knowledge its value? The chapter defends a version of robust virtue epistemology in light of these questions.