Philosophical Studies

, Volume 176, Issue 12, pp 3303–3327 | Cite as

Knowledge-yielding communication

  • Andrew PeetEmail author


A satisfactory theory of linguistic communication must explain how it is that, through the interpersonal exchange of auditory, visual, and tactile stimuli, the communicative preconditions for the acquisition of testimonial knowledge regularly come to be satisfied. Without an account of knowledge-yielding communication this success condition for linguistic theorizing is left opaque, and we are left with an incomplete understanding of testimony, and communication more generally, as a source of knowledge. This paper argues that knowledge-yielding communication should be modelled on knowledge itself. It is argued that knowledge-yielding communication occurs iff interlocutors coordinate on truth values in a non-lucky and non-deviant way. This account is able to do significant explanatory work: it sheds light on the nature of referential communication, and it allows us to capture, in an informative way, the sense in which interlocutors must entertain similar propositions in order to communicate successfully.


Testimony Communication Knowledge Reference Luck 



This paper has been in the works for a long time, and it has benefited from discussion with, and comments from too many people to name. However, I will do my best to name a few: Mark Bowker, Herman Cappelen, Alex Davies, Anna Drozdzowicz, Rachel Fraser, Lizzie Fricker, Mikkel Gerken, Olav Gjelsvik, Sandy Goldberg, Patrick Greenough, Josh Habgood-Coote, Torfinn Huvenes, Matt McKeever, Andrea Onofri, Peter Pagin, Kim Phillips Pedersen, Eli Pitcovski, Joey Pollock, and an anonymous reviewer for Philosophical Studies. This paper has also benefited greatly from the discussion it received when presented at the University of St Andrews ‘Testimony in Context’ workshop, the University of Hamburg ‘New Trends in Epistemology’ workshop, and the ConceptLab work in progress seminar at the University of Oslo. I thank the audiences who were present at these events, and the organizers.


  1. Audi, R. (1997). The place of testimony in the fabric of knowledge and justification. American Philosophical Quarterly, 34(4), 405–422.Google Scholar
  2. Barnett, D. (2015). Is memory merely testimony from one’s former self? Philosophical Review, 124(3), 353–392.Google Scholar
  3. Bezuidenhout, A. (1997). The communication of de re thoughts. Noûs., 31(2), 197–225.Google Scholar
  4. Bezuidenhout, A. (2002). Truth-conditional pragmatics. Noûs, 36(16), 105–134.Google Scholar
  5. Blome-Tillmann, M. (2017). Sensitivity actually. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 94(3), 606–625.Google Scholar
  6. Broncano-Berrocal, F. (2018). Purifying impure virtue epistemology. Philosophical Studies, 175(2), 385–410.Google Scholar
  7. Byrne, A., & Thau, M. (1996). In defence of the hybrid view. Mind, 105(417), 139–149.Google Scholar
  8. Carston, R. (2002). Thoughts and utterances: The pragmatics of explicit communication. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  9. Evans, G. (1982). The varieties of reference. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Fraser, R. (2016). Risk, doubt, and transmission. Philosophical Studies, 173, 2803–2821.Google Scholar
  11. Gamester, W. (2018). Truth: Explanation, success, and coincidence. Philosophical Studies, 175(5), 1243–1265.Google Scholar
  12. Goldberg, S. (2007). Anti-individualism: Mind and language, knowledge and justification. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  13. Graham, P. (2016). Against actual-world reliablism: Epistemcally correct procedures and reliably true outcomes. In Fernandez (Ed.), Performance epistemology: foundations and applications (pp. 83–106). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  14. Graham, P. (2017). Normal circumstances reliabilism: Goldman on Reliability and Justified Belief. Philosophical Topics, 45(1), 33–61.Google Scholar
  15. Greco, J. (1999). Agent reliabilism. Philosophical Perspectives, 13, 273–296.Google Scholar
  16. Hawthorne, J., & Manley, D. (2012). The reference book. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  17. Heck, R. (1995). The sense of communication. Mind, 104(413), 79–106.Google Scholar
  18. Heck, R. (2002). Do demonstratives have senses? Philosopher’s Imprint, 2(2), 1–33.Google Scholar
  19. Lackey, J. (1999). Testimonial knowledge and transmission. The Philosophical Quarterly, 49(197), 471–490.Google Scholar
  20. Lackey, J. (2008). What luck is not. Australasian Journal of Philosophy., 86(2), 255–267.Google Scholar
  21. Lando, T. (2017). Coincidence and common cause. Noûs, 51, 132–151.Google Scholar
  22. Leonard, N. (2018). The transmission view of testimony and the problem of conflicting justification. American Philosophical Quarterly, 55(1), 27–36.Google Scholar
  23. Loar, B. (1976). The semantics of singular terms. Philosophical Studies, 30(6), 353–377.Google Scholar
  24. MacFarlane, J. (2005). Knowledge laundering: Testimony and sensitive invariantism. Analysis, 65(286), 132–138.Google Scholar
  25. MacFarlane, J. (2016). Vagueness as indecision. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, 90, 255–283.Google Scholar
  26. Manley, D. (2007). Safety, content, aprioity, self-knowledge. The Journal of Philosophy, 104, 421–441.Google Scholar
  27. Onofri, A. (2018). The publicity of thought. The Philosophical Quarterly, 68(272), 521–541.Google Scholar
  28. Owens, D. (1993). Causes and coincidences. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  29. Pagin, P. (2008). What is communicative success? Canadian Journal of Philosophy, 38, 85–116.Google Scholar
  30. Pagin, P. (2019). When does communication succeed? The case of general terms. In T. Marques & Å. Wikforss (Eds.), Shifting concepts. Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  31. Paul, M. (1999). Success in referential communication. Philosophical Studies Series Vol. 80. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Publishers.Google Scholar
  32. Peet, A. (2017). Referential intentions and communicative luck. Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 95(2), 379–384.Google Scholar
  33. Peet, A. (2018). Testimonial knowledge without knowledge of what is said. Pacific Philosophical Quarterly, 99(1), 65–81.Google Scholar
  34. Peet, A., & Pitcovski, E. (2017). Lost in transmission: Testimonial justification and practical reason. Analysis, 77(2), 336–344.Google Scholar
  35. Peet, A., & Pitcovski, E. (2018). Normal knowledge: Towards an explanation based theory of knowledge. The Journal of Philosophy, 155(3), 141–157.Google Scholar
  36. Plantinga, A. (1993). Warrant: The current debate. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  37. Pritchard, D. (2005). Epistemic luck. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  38. Pritchard, D. (2007). Anti-luck epistemology. Synthese, 158(3), 277–297.Google Scholar
  39. Pritchard, D. (2012). Anti-luck virtue epistemology. The Journal of Philosophy, 109, 247–279.Google Scholar
  40. Pritchard, D. (2014). The modal account of luck. Metaphilosophy, 45(4–5), 594–619.Google Scholar
  41. Schoubye, A., & Stokke, A. (2016). What is said? Noûs, 50(4), 759–793.Google Scholar
  42. Sosa, E. (2007). A virtue epistemology. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  43. Sperber, D., & Wilson, D. (1986). Relevance: Communication and cognition. Oxford/Cambridge, MA: Blackwell/Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  44. Weber, C. (2015). Indexical beliefs and communication: Against stalnaker on self-location. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 90(3), 640–663.Google Scholar
  45. Williamson, T. (2000). Knowledge and its limits. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of Oslo (CSMN & ConceptLab)OsloNorway

Personalised recommendations