Seminar Series in Analytic Philosophy 2023-24: Session 5

Testimony and Expressive Behaviour

Matthew Parrott (University of Oxford)


20 October 2023, 16:00 (Lisbon Time – WET)

Faculdade de Letras de Lisboa

Sala Mattos Romão (Departamento de Filosofia)


Abstract: People often directly tell us about their thoughts, feelings, and desires. This common practice has led some philosophers to claim that testimony can be a fundamental way of knowing about others’ minds. In this talk, I shall argue that this claim is plausible only if we assume a certain conception of testimony, one which aligns it very closely with perception. By contrast, I shall argue that if we were to adopt a different conception of testimony, such as Richard Moran’s ‘assurance view’, then our acquiring testimonial knowledge of someone else’s mind would epistemically depend upon our having non-testimonial knowledge of their mental states. More specifically, I shall claim that this latter knowledge is based on a person’s expressive behaviours. Although one might naturally think this is either perceptual or inferential, in the final part of this talk, I develop an alternative framework for explaining how expressive behaviours ground our ordinary knowledge of others’ minds.