Naturalized Epistemology and the Law of Evidence

73 Pages Posted: 11 Dec 2001


This paper important developments in epistemology, and defends a theoretical framework for evidence scholarship from the perspective of naturalized epistemology. It demonstrates that naturalized epistemology provides a firm conceptual foundation for much research into law of evidence. These developments in epistemology have not been much noted in legal scholarship, despite their importance in philosophy and their coincidence with some widely shared approaches to evidence scholarship. This article is a partial antidote for the unproductive fascination in some quarters of the legal academy with "postmodern" conceptions of knowledge and truth and to the even more common search by the legal professoriat for algorithms that provide answers to important legal questions. In the field of evidence, there is some interest in post-modern epistemology, and much searching for the appropriate algorithm, such as Bayesian decision theory or micro-economics, or simply the complete neglect of epistemological matters. The article argues that the naturalistic turn in epistemology of the past thirty years (especially that branch of naturalized epistemology known as social epistemology) provides the appropriate theoretical framework for the study of evidence, as it does for virtually any enterprise concerned with the empirical adequacy of its theories and the truth-generating capacity of its methodologies. Evidence scholarship and law are concerned with both, and thus naturalized epistemology provides a fruitful way of understanding the limitations of some of the existing efforts to provide theoretical and philosophical foundations to evidence law. It also provides a way to conceptualize and evaluate specific rules of evidence, and concomitantly explains what most evidence scholars do, regardless of their explicit philosophical commitments. For the great bulk of evidentiary scholars, this article should solidify the ground beneath their feet.

Suggested Citation

Allen, Ronald J. and Leiter, Brian, Naturalized Epistemology and the Law of Evidence. Available at SSRN: or

Ronald J. Allen (Contact Author)

Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law ( email )

375 E. Chicago Ave
Chicago, IL 60611
United States
312-503-8372 (Phone)
312-503-2035 (Fax)

Brian Leiter

University of Chicago ( email )

1111 E. 60th St.
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

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