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age as a Relevant Factor in Reductionism

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Age as a relevant factor in Reductionism


Age as a relevant factor in Reductionism

Skarieth Sayyid Ojeda


December 7, 2014

In daily life we receive testimonies, a report that a person wants to transmit to another individual. At the moment of giving the testimony, the hearer decides to accept or decline the testimony. Consequently, we form a justified belief based on the speaker`s testimony. According to (Lackey & Sosa, 2006), when we accept P (testimony), we are forming a justified belief from P. In respect to epistemology, we question if we can obtain knowledge from testimony. Can we accept all testimonies? Is our testimony-based belief justified? At this point I want you to start thinking about ‘how’ you accept a testimony. Consider the procedure from hearing the testimony to form a belief, and then accept it as knowledge. Epistemology inquiries ‘how’ can one get knowledge or justified beliefs via testimony. In this paper, I explore one type of procedure about how we obtain knowledge via testimony. Specifically, I examine the acceptance of testimony by ordinary means (i.e. reductionism). I will highlight a deficit in the reductionism theory. Then, I argue that reductionism is subject to individual`s characteristic (i.e. age) at the moment of processing a testimony. Finally, I offer two approaches to handle the ‘age’ problem in testimony.

Reductionism argues that the formation and justification of a belief is independent of the grounds of testimony by itself (Traiger, 2010). The epistemic status of one`s testimony-based belief can be reduced to the epistemic status of a non-testimony based belief. Therefore, the justification of a testimony must be a posteriori. Reductionism claims that A has the right to believe Q`s P is truth based on A`s background beliefs and A`s beliefs on Q`s credibility. So, A`s reasons to accept Q`s P does not involve any epistemic principle unique to testimony cases. This means we are processing the testimony to general sources of knowledge. The a posteriori involves first to perceive the message, and then infers the testimony to accept it. For the purpose of my paper, I inquest in the testimony a posterior (perception and inference):

* Perception: receive the message via our ordinary senses such as hearing or seeing gestures.

* Inference: We reason about the speaker`s credibility, and how well the message fits with our previous knowledge.

Reductionism explains that by processing (using perception and inference) the testimony, we form a justified belief and then knowledge. For example, my friend is telling me that airplanes are the fastest mean of transportation. Before accepting her testimony, I will ‘process’ the testimony to general sources of knowledge. Firstly, I am hearing her message via my ordinary sense of perception. Secondly, I reason that my friend is a reliable source, and that airplanes are in fact a mean of transportation. After ‘processing’ her testimony, I reasonable know that airplanes are the fastest mean of transportation. It should be emphasized that by ‘processing’ the testimony, the testimony is regarded as not an epistemic source by itself. Still, one could question the degree of inference necessary to process the testimony. Reductionism emphasizes that ‘processing’ (inference and perception) the testimony is fundamental to obtain knowledge. From this point, I analyze how different individuals process testimony.

In order to properly process the testimony, we need to competently reason about the message. As in my previous example, I have a developed critical reasoning to infer that the testimony is true. According to reductionism, I properly process the testimony, and hence I obtain knowledge. But, what if I didn’t process properly the testimony due my reasoning was not developed enough. For instance, a scenario in which a kid is reasoning about a testimony. A stranger is reporting that mermaids exist to an adult and a child. The adult is more skeptical about the testimony, and infers not to accept it. Meanwhile, the child is fascinated with the testimony. One could claim the degree of reasoning is different between adults and children. We cannot expect a child have the same degree of reasoning as an adult. Even though you could be skeptical of my perspective, my point is just rooted in human biology. According to Waltz (1999), the improvement of a higher level of cognition (e.g. inductive and deductive reasoning tasks) is subject to the development of the prefrontal cortex. This means that children (prefrontal cortex is developing) cannot have the same degree of cognition as adults ( a developed prefrontal cortex). From this fact and daily experience, there is an actual difference between adults and children in terms of reasoning

This reasoning difference has implications in respect to the reductionism theory. When we acknowledge that children and adults have different levels of cognition, also their reasoning capability differs. Therefore, adults could better process the testimony than children. This would mean that adults are the only capable to obtain knowledge from testimony in terms of reductionism. In order to illustrate my argument, I analyze two-subcategories of reductionism: local reductionism and global reductionism.

Global reductionism explains that a testimony-based belief is constantly justified, and then one is able to offer sufficient non-testimonial grounds in support of that testimony-based belief (Pritchard, 2004). This means we accept the speaker`s message based on our positive reasons that testimonies are generally reliable. As a result, we usually accept all testimonies by remembering our positive experience, and inferring that people generally tell the truth. However, a child does not have enough experience to reason that people generally tell the truth. As in my previous experience, the child is not reasoning that people usually say the truth. The child is accepting that mermaids exist, regardless of his previous experience with testimonies.

Moreover, local reductionism claims that we need more specific reasons to accept a testimony. The justification of each particular testimony is reduced to the listener must have specific positive reasons to accept the speaker`s testimony (Gelfert, 2010). Is the speaker reliable? Does his story matches with our previous knowledge? How plausible is his story? These specific reasons rely ultimately in our memory, inference, and perception (general sources of knowledge). If we decide these reasons are strong enough, we infer the speaker`s


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