Proceedings of the XXII World Congress of Philosophy

Volume 53, 2008

Theory of Knowledge

Xiang Huang
Pages 85-95

Situating Default Position inside the Space of Reasons
John McDowell’s Epistemology of Testimony

Epistemology of testimony’s map has been charted by identifying the basic controversy between reductionism and non-reductions. John McDowell’s article “Knowledge by Hearsay” (1993/1998) has been taken as a clear example of non-reductionism. This is, however, only partially right. It is correct that, as a non-reductionist, he defends the justifying role that the default position plays in testimonial knowledge. But, his insistence on situating the default position inside the space of reasons suggests that default position should be understood as a kind of reasoning, and that only then evidential reasons can be applied in concrete justifying procedures. This is a very different understanding of the default position from that of classical non-reductionists such as Coady (1992) and Burge (1993, 1997). If McDowell’s epistemology of testimony can be understood in this way, as this paper aims to establish, it should be considered as an attempt to supersede the reductionist and non-reductionist dichotomy, an attempt that brings a series of reconsiderations of a satisfactory epistemology of testimony.