Children and Testimonial Injustice: A Response to Burroughs and Tollefsen

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Department or Administrative Unit

Philosophy and Religious Studies

Publication Date



Michael Burroughs and Deborah Tollefsen (2016) claim that children are subject to widespread testimonial injustice. They argue that empirical data shows that children are prejudicially accorded less epistemic credibility in forensic contexts, and that this in turn shows that the same is true in broader contexts. While I agree that there is indeed testimonial injustice against children, I argue that Burroughs and Tollefsen exaggerate its severity and extent, by exaggerating children's testimonial reliability. Firstly, the empirical data do not quite support their claim about children's performance in forensic contexts. Secondly, while they advocate a relational conception of children's agency which emphasizes the role of adults in realizing their testimonial abilities, Burroughs and Tollefsen miss the full implications of such a conception for our evaluation of children's credibility, and for our behavior towards them in testimonial contexts. Thirdly, they underestimate the significance of children's limited general knowledge.


This article was originally published in Episteme. The full-text article from the publisher can be found here.

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