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Mind your Ps and Qs: a contrastive account of testimonial inference to the best explanation

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Testimonial inference to the best explanation (TIBE) is a promising descriptive account of our testimonial practices. In this paper I argue that TIBE must be supplemented by contrastivism in order to explain both the success and the failure of testimony. In doing so, I incorporate two domains of the philosophy of science which are often treated as distinct: contrastive explanation (Why P rather than Q?) and contrastive knowledge (S knows P rather than Q). This contrastivist development imposes a requirement to manage contrast classes. In light of this, I make the novel argument that TIBE is a two-step process. A primary IBE is performed in order to identify the speaker’s contrast class. A secondary IBE is then performed to evaluate the truth of the speaker’s testimony. These developments help emphasise the role of context in the management of testimony.

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