The Embedded Epistemologist: Dispatches from the Legal Front
Ratio Juris. Vol. 25 No. 2, June 2012
31 Pages Posted: 13 Jul 2012
Date Written: July 11, 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 context - epistemological theory may be helpful. A legal fact-finder is asked to determine whether the propostion 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 (1996).
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