Peter Grahams takes an in-depth analysis of the reliability of testimony by exploring whether it is okay to take the word of others at face value. The question of whether it is appropriate to take things, words, or people at face value is a controversial subject and relies on many things. First, the term face value refers to the outward appearance of something or a person. In relation to words, it entails believing something told without doubting or questioning it. In other words, the face value of something is the apparent worth of that thing that is depicted, many times, the real value of that thing might not be the same as the portrayed face value.
In his article, Graham critiques whether we are entitled or justified to take the word of others at face value. In order to answer the question, he explores the views of Thomas Reid and Coady. The two figures defended the Reidian view. According to Reid’s theory of perception, people should base their judgment of an external object depending on their awareness of the object that is being viewed and their belief in the existence of the object being perceived (Nichols, 2007). Graham disagrees with Coady and Reid’s notion that testimony in its actual nature is a reliable type of evidence regarding how the world is. In his article, Graham shows that many people might believe in face value but only when that is the only option. However, this is always a partial belief since one will always be in search of supporting evidence. An example he provides is that when you are asking for directions to a cathedral in a new city, one will be forced to trust the person who provides them with the direction, therefore, they have to accept what they are told without any form of reservation. However, accepting will rely on whether the person looks truthful but when they seem suspicious, it is normal not to trust. However, even though one may follow the directions, they will be anxious to come across supporting evidence. Therefore, when people or something seems reliable, there might be no need for evidence but if it seems unreliable, then supporting evidence is necessary.
Graham describes the two cases of normally having to take what is said at face value as the principle of default acceptance and the principle of entitled acceptance. He presents Hume’s notion that people always accept what others say because they have seen a correlation between what people say and how the world is. Deducing from the reductivism position, held by Coady, people are entitled to accept what they are told only when they have inductively ascertained that the informant is trustworthy. On the other hand, Reid held the two principles noting that people are naturally nurtured to rely on what other people say and they are justified for this behavior (Nichols, 2007). Therefore, Graham’s exploration is more interested in the psychology of acceptance claim and the epistemology of acceptance claim.
While examining Coady’s book, Graham explores Coady’s argument which states that “if we understand what speakers of a language mean by their words, then if what they apparently report is systematically false, then they are not, in fact, making reports” (Graham, 2000, pg. 696). The evaluation highlights several key aspects, he notes in the first step that if everyone within a particular community speaks false things about things that are not in the immediate vicinity, then people will not believe what is said. In the second case, if no one believes what is said about things that are not in the immediate perceptual vicinity, then the speaker will not believe the audience will accept his or her message. In the third step, the speaker can provide evidence of a situation that is not in the immediate perceptual vicinity, in this way, the audience will have a reason to believe what is said (Eckel & Petrie 2014).
From these three phases, it can be deduced that not everything that is said is false and vice versa. Graham summarizes Coady’s notion stating that he is trying to find a connection between what people are doing when making and accepting reports or rather what they are told and when is information reported justified or entitled to be accepted at face value. He ends the article by saying that he disagrees with Coady’s notion and goes further noting that the line of inquiry taken by Coady is not likely to bear results within the epistemology of testimony.
My critique of this article is that Graham largely presents what Reid and Coady provide as their accounts of when face value is supposed to be accepted. However, he does not provide his own accounts or rather views of the subject. He revolves around rejecting Coady’s notion while he does not offer a strong counter argument. I would probably note that what Graham has provided is a summary of what Coady examined in relation to the philosophy of face value. However, a strength that I can draw from the article is that the author has extensively explored Coady’s book to bring out what Coady evaluated in his research. He has also used numerous examples that were very good at explaining and describing scenarios that make the text easily comprehensible.
My perception regarding the subject of face value is that society is grounded on culture. Therefore, people are often likely to accept reports or rather messages basing on the norms of society. Also, I agree with Graham that people will accept information basing on their judgment of the informant. If the informant is someone trustable, then they are likely to accept what the informant says at face value. However, if the informant is not trustable, then it is normal for people to reject the information or seek more evidence to confirm before accepting the information (Eckel & Petrie 2014). I think Graham’s article would have been improved by adding more evidence from what other scholars have found out regarding the subject while scrutinizing Coady’s text.
Eckel, C. C., & Petrie, R. (2011). Face value. American Economic Review, 101(4), 1497-1513.
Graham, P.J. (2000) ‘The Reliability of Testimony’ Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, Vol. 61, No. 3. (Nov., 2000), pp. 695-709
Nichols, R. (2007). Thomas Reid’s Theory of perception. Oxford University Press on Demand.