The Embedded Epistemologist: Dispatches from the Legal Front

30 Pages Posted: 22 May 2012

See all articles by Susan Haack

Susan Haack

University of Miami - School of Law; University of Miami - Department of Philosophy

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: June 2012


In ordinary circumstances, we can assess the worth of evidence well enough without benefit of any theory; but when evidence is especially complex, ambiguous, or emotionally disturbing - as it often is in legal contexts - epistemological theory may be helpful. A legal fact‐finder is asked to determine whether the proposition that the defendant is guilty, or is liable, is established to the required degree of proof by the [admissible] evidence presented; i.e., to make an epistemological appraisal. The foundherentist theory developed in Evidence and Inquiry can help us understand what this means; and reveals that degrees of proof cannot be construed as mathematical probabilities: a point illustrated by comparing the advantages of a foundherentist analysis with the disadvantages of probabilistic analyses of the evidence in the Sacco and Vanzetti case (1921), and of the role of the statistical evidence in Collins (1968).

Suggested Citation

Haack, Susan, The Embedded Epistemologist: Dispatches from the Legal Front (June 2012). Ratio Juris, Vol. 25, Issue 2, pp. 206-235, 2012. Available at SSRN: or

Susan Haack (Contact Author)

University of Miami - School of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 248087
Coral Gables, FL 33146
United States
305-284-3541 (Phone)
305-284-6506 (Fax)

University of Miami - Department of Philosophy ( email )

P.O. Box 248054
Coral Gables, FL 33124-4670
United States

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