The Embedded Epistemologist: Dispatches from the Legal Front
30 Pages Posted: 22 May 2012
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).
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