Testimonial Insult: A Moral Reason for Belief?

Finlay Malcolm

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When you don’t believe a speaker’s testimony for reasons that call into question the speaker’s credibility, it seems that this is an insult against the speaker. There also appears to be moral reasons that count in favour of refraining from insulting someone. When taken together, these two plausible claims entail that we have a moral reason to refrain from insulting speakers with our lack of belief, and hence, sometimes, a moral reason to believe the testimony of speakers. Reasons for belief arising from non-epistemic sources are controversial, and it’s often argued that it’s impossible to base a belief on non-epistemic reasons. However, I will show that even if it is possible to base a belief on non-epistemic reasons, in the case of testimonial insult, for many or most cases, the moral reasons for belief don’t need to be the basis of our doxastic response. This is because there are, in many or most cases, either sufficient epistemic reasons for belief, or sufficient moral reasons for action that guide our response to testimony. Reasons from testimonial insult, in many cases, simply lead to overdetermination. Even if there are such moral reasons for belief, they are therefore practically unnecessary in many cases. There are, though, some cases in which they play an important role in guiding belief. This perhaps surprising conclusion is one unexplored way to defend epistemic over pragmatic reasons for belief.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)27-48
Number of pages22
JournalLogos & Episteme
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 31 Mar 2018


  • Belief
  • Epistemic
  • Insult
  • Moral
  • Reasons
  • Testimony


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