Friends and Fans — I have retired from my work as a public intellectual, so Philosophy in Action is on indefinite hiatus. Please check out the voluminous archive of free podcasts, as well as the premium audio content still available for sale. My two books — Responsibility & Luck: A Defense of Praise and Blame and Explore Atlas Shrugged — are available for purchase too. Best wishes! — Diana Brickell (Hsieh)

The Importance of Credibility

Q&A Radio: 11 January 2015, Question 1

I answered a question on the importance of credibility on 11 January 2015. You can listen to or download the podcast of just this question below – or check out the whole episode of Philosophy in Action Radio.

Should a person's credibility matter in judging his empirical claims? Is it rational to use a person's track record – meaning the frequency or consistency of truth in his past statements – in judging the likely truth of his current statements? In Ayn Rand's Normative Ethics, Tara Smith explains that to believe something just because someone said it is a violation of the virtue of independence. Also, to judge an argument based on the speaker is known as the fallacy of "ad hominem." However, doesn't the character of the speaker matter when considering whether to believe his claims? For example, when Thomas Sowell makes an empirical claim, my knowledge that he vigorously tests his hypotheses against the facts makes me more likely to judge his claim as true, even before I've confirmed his statement. Likewise, if a person is frequently wrong in his factual claims, I'd be sure to require lots of evidence before believing him. Is that rational? Or should all factual claims be treated equally regardless of who makes them?

My Answer, In Brief: The credibility and track-record of the person who asserts a claim matters. Along with many other factors, it's not proof or evidence of truth, but it's can be reason to take an idea seriously or regard it as plausible.

Tags: Credibility, Epistemology, Ethics, Expertise, Fallacies, Honesty, Independence, Logic, Philosophy, Rationality


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About Philosophy in Action

I'm Dr. Diana Brickell (formerly Diana Hsieh). I'm a philosopher, and I've long specialized in the application of rational principles to the challenges of real life. I completed my Ph.D in philosophy from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 2009. I retired from work as a public intellectual in 2015.

From September 2009 to September 2015, I produced a radio show and podcast, Philosophy in Action Radio. In the primary show, my co-host Greg Perkins and I answered questions applying rational principles to the challenges of real life. We broadcast live over the internet on Sunday mornings.

You can listen to these 362 podcasts by subscribing to the Podcast RSS Feed. You can also peruse the podcast archive, where episodes and questions are sorted by date and by topic.

My first book, Responsibility & Luck: A Defense of Praise and Blame, can be purchased in paperback and Kindle. The book defends the justice of moral praise and blame of persons using an Aristotelian theory of moral responsibility, thereby refuting Thomas Nagel's "problem of moral luck." My second book (and online course), Explore Atlas Shrugged, is a fantastic resource for anyone wishing to study Ayn Rand's epic novel in depth.

You can also read my blog NoodleFood and subscribe to its Blog RSS Feed.

I can be reached via e-mail to diana@philosophyinaction.com.

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