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date: 27 October 2021

Abstract and Keywords

Which is more fundamental, assertion or testimony? Should we understand assertion as basic, treating testimony as what one gets when one adds an interpersonal addressee? Or should we understand testimony as basic, treating mere assertion—assertion without testimony—as what one gets when one subtracts that interpersonal relation? This article argues for the subtractive approach and for the more general thesis that its treatment of the interpersonal element in assertion makes understanding that interpersonal element the key to understanding how assertion expresses belief. This theory of belief expression in assertion treats it as internalizing the transmission of belief in testimony. How we understand that internalizing move depends on how we conceptualize the interpersonal element in testimony. Since what will be called the Command Model does not give one the conceptual resources to make this move, one should adopt an alternative that will be called the Custodial Model, on which a testifier aims not to convince her addressee but to reason with him—to give him reasons to believe what she tells him, where those reasons are grounded in her trustworthiness in thus attempting to influence him. The subtractive approach to assertion thus rests on a key distinction between the aims of reasoning and persuasion.

Keywords: assertion, testimony, judgment, belief, trust, illocutionary norms, persuasion, interpersonal reasoning

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