Saturday, March 30, 2013

Round-table on the philosophy of testimony: UPDATED

Within the 2013 Coffee Break Conference, I will host a panel on the Philosophy of Testimony. Besides the usual scheme (short presentations+long discussions about each of them), I am thinking of having a final round-table, open also to people working with testimony (e.g., anthropologists, scholars working with statistics…). In order to avoid to have nothing but a final chat (which is always nice, and will anyway take place throughout the conference), I and the other participants agreed on some of the questions we would like to discuss. We will next send them to the participants of the other panels of the CBC conference.

Here are our proposals (1--4 are my ideas, whereas I owe to Massimo Cuono, Marco Lauri, Sudipta Munsi and Roy Tzohar the other suggestions):

  1. 1. Is it legitimate to pay one's witness (as is frequently the case in anthropology and/or whenever one works with statistics)? How much does economical interest alter the testimony?
  2. 2. Is perception reliable enough to become the object of testimony (can we, e.g., trust someone when she refers about what she has seen, although we know that it was dark and that she probably believes to have seen more than she has actually seen)?
  3. 3. Is second-grade testimony (e.g., I refer that S told me that p) reliable?
  4. 4. How can the reliability of a witness be tested? Can, e.g., the fact that she is honest be a criterion? Or that she has proved to be reliable in a certain (different) case?
  5. Is the medium of testimony neutral? In other words, what role does the form of testimony play? This is especially relevant in the case of written testimonies from authors of the past.
  6. How much does testimony depend on memory? Can we trust the former and mistrust the latter?
  7. Is testimony publicly available? Or are only some interpreters allowed to interpret it? 
  8. Connected with the above is: What distinguishes the judge's and the historian's (etc.) use of testimony?

What would you add/change? Which aspects of the philosophy of testimony need to be debated?

For further information on the CBC in general and on Philosophy of Testimony in particular, see this  (CBC) and  this (Testimony) wiki page. Within this blog, see this post. For the original post on the philosophy of testimony, see here.

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