Gaining Scientific Knowledge from Others

  • Kevin McCain
Part of the Springer Undergraduate Texts in Philosophy book series (SUTP)


This chapter explores how we gain knowledge from other people. In particular two of the primary ways that we come to have social evidence are explored. The first is the most prevalent form of social evidence: testimony. This chapter examines some of the best explanations of how it is that we come to have knowledge via the testimony of others. The second way that we come to have social evidence is by learning of disagreements. This chapter explores the epistemic significance of disagreement as it occurs in science. In particular it discusses how we should respond when we discover that someone disagrees with us about a scientific claim. When we discover that equally informed experts in an area of science disagree we should refrain from believing one side or the other is correct until we have further deciding evidence. When novices discover that experts disagree with them concerning a scientific claim, the novices should defer to the experts.


Local Reductionism Doxastic Attitude Positive Reason Testimonial Knowledge Average Summer Temperature 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Adler, J. (2014). Epistemological problems of testimony. In E. N. Zalta (Ed.), The Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy (Spring 2014 Edition).
  2. Audi, R. (2011). Epistemology: A contemporary introduction to the theory of knowledge (3rd ed.). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  3. Bratman, M. (1993). Shared intention. Ethics, 104, 97–113.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Carey, B., & Matheson, J. (2013). How skeptical is the equal weight view? In D. E. Machuca (Ed.), Disagreement and skepticism (pp. 131–149). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  5. Christensen, D. (2009). Disagreement as evidence: The epistemology of controversy. Philosophy Compass, 4, 756–767.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Christensen, D., & Lackey, J. (Eds.). (2012). The epistemology of disagreement: New essays. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Conee, E. (2009). Peerage. Episteme, 6, 313–323.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Elga, A. (2007). Reflection and disagreement. Nous, 41, 478–502.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Faulkner, P. (2000). The social character of testimonial knowledge. Journal of Philosophy, 97, 581–601.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Faulkner, P. (2007). What is wrong with lying? Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 75, 535–557.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Feldman, R., & Warfield, T. (Eds.). (2010). Disagreement. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  12. Frances, B. (2014). Disagreement. In S. Bernecker & D. Pritchard (Eds.), The Routledge companion to epistemology (pp. 68–74). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  13. Fricker, E. (1994). Against gullibility. In B. K. Matilal & A. Chakrabarti (Eds.), Knowing from words (pp. 125–161). Dordrecht: Kluwer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Fricker, E. (1995). Critical notice: Telling and trusting: Reductionism and anti-reductionism in the epistemology of testimony. Mind, 104, 393–411.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Gilbert, M. (1989). On social facts. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  16. Gleick, J. (2004). Isaac Newton. New York: Vintage Books.Google Scholar
  17. Goldberg, S. (2008). Testimonial knowledge in early childhood, revisited. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 76, 1–36.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Goldman, A. I. (1999). Knowledge in a social world. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Goldman, A. I. (2011). A guide to social epistemology. In A. Goldman & D. Whitcomb (Eds.), Social epistemology: Essential readings (pp. 11–37). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  20. Harman, G. (1965). The inference to the best explanation. Philosophical Review, 74, 88–95.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Harris, P., & Corriveau, K. (2011). Young children’s selective trust in informants. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London B (Biological Sciences), 366, 1179–1187.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hawking, S. (Ed.). (2002). On the shoulders of giants: The great works of physics and astronomy. Philadelphia: Running Press.Google Scholar
  23. Hinchman, E. S. (2005). Telling as inviting trust. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 70, 562–587.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Kornblith, H. (2013). Is philosophical knowledge possible? In D. E. Machuca (Ed.), Disagreement and skepticism (pp. 260–276). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  25. Lackey, J. (2005). Testimony and the infant/child objection. Philosophical Studies, 126, 163–190.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Lackey, J. (2008). Learning from words. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Lackey, J. (2011). Testimony: Acquiring knowledge from others. In A. Goldman & D. Whitcomb (Eds.), Social epistemology: Essential readings (pp. 71–91). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  28. Lehrer, K. (2006). Testimony and trustworthiness. In J. Lackey & E. Sosa (Eds.), The epistemology of testimony (pp. 145–159). Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Lewis, D. (1969). Convention. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  30. Lipton, P. (2007). Alien abduction: Inference to the best explanation and the management of testimony. Episteme, 4, 238–251.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. List, C. (2014). Three kinds of collective attitudes. Erkenntnis, 79, 1601–1622.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Longino, H. (2013). The social dimensions of scientific knowledge. In E. N. Zalta (Ed.), The Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy (Spring 2013 Edition).
  33. Machuca, D. E. (Ed.). (2013). Disagreement and skepticism. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  34. Malmgren, A.-S. (2006). Is there a priori knowledge by testimony? Philosophical Review, 115, 199–241.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Matheson, J. (2015a). Disagreement and epistemic peers. Oxford Handbooks Online in Philosophy.
  36. Matheson, J. (2015b). The epistemic significance of disagreement. New York: Palgrave-MacMillan.Google Scholar
  37. Mill, J. S. (1859/2008). On liberty. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  38. Moran, R. (2006). Getting told and being believed. In J. Lackey & E. Sosa (Eds.), The epistemology of testimony (pp. 272–306). Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Peirce, C. S. (1868). Some consequences of four incapacities. Journal of Speculative Philosophy, 2, 140–157.Google Scholar
  40. Peirce, C. S. (1878/1982). How to make our ideas clear. In H. S. Thayer (Ed.), Pragmatism: The classical writings (pp. 79–100). Indianapolis: Hackett.Google Scholar
  41. Pettit, P. (2003). Groups with minds of their own. In F. Schmitt (Ed.), Socializing metaphysics (pp. 167–193). Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield.Google Scholar
  42. Quinton, A. (1975). The presidential address: Social objects. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, 76, 1–27.Google Scholar
  43. Rupert, R. (2011). Empirical arguments for group minds: A critical appraisal. Philosophy Compass, 6, 630–639.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Schiffer, S. (1972). Meaning. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  45. Schiffer, S. (2003). The things we mean. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Searle, J. (1995). The construction of social reality. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  47. Shatz, D. (2004). Peer review: A critical inquiry. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield.Google Scholar
  48. Wilson, R. A. (2004). Boundaries of the mind: The individual in the fragile sciences. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kevin McCain
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of Alabama at BirminghamBirminghamUSA

Personalised recommendations