Critique of the testimonial knowledge from the outsider’s point of view: the luck argument and the problem of disagreement

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Transliteration of original Title: 
Kritika svidetel'skogo znaniya c pozitsii vneshnego nablyudatelya: argument ot udachi i problema raznoglasiya
Denis Maslov
Institute of Philosophy and Law, Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences
Issue number: 
no.3 (vol.53)

The article considers the John Greco’s conception of testimonial knowledge that aims to overthrow three sceptical arguments against religious knowledge. Prof. Greco presupposes that a religious community already possesses a true religious belief and its reliability is justified exclusively by means of reliability of transmission.  The author puts this conception in question and presents some sceptical arguments regarding the initial origination of a religious belief and verifying the truth-ness of a religious belief in front of epistemic disagreement problem. In particular, he draws an attention on three moments: 1) difference between inside and outside position as to any religious community, 2) lack of inductive verifying evidence in support of religious knowledge, and 3) difference between origination a belief in a community for the first time and transmission of beliefs already given in a community. The author takes a perspective of an outsider who doesn’t belong to any religious community (on the assumption that there are secular communities different from religious ones). Firstly, he suggests another from Greco’s version of the “luck argument”, which concerns the luck in origination of a belief, not the accidence in spreading it. John Greco solves a problem that arises from argument of luck as far as it regards transmission of beliefs inside a community. The author argues that the genuine problem is to establish an originating source of a religious belief, and taking that into consideration, testimonial evidence cannot eliminate this kind of luck. Secondly, he observes the problem of disagreement among different religious communities. He shows that an outsider doesn’t have any epistemic reason to prefer one of the conflicting religious beliefs of different communities, for he doesn’t belong to any of them. Thus, the problem of “epistemic peers” still remains unsolved.

religious scepticism, epistemology of disagreement, luck argument

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Fogelin R. Pyrrhonian Reflections on Knowledge and Justification. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994. 256p. 

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