Epistemic Ambivalence in Law
Philosophical Topics, Special Issue on "Law and Epistemology" 31 (2021)
27 Pages Posted: 3 Nov 2022
Date Written: October 11, 2021
In this paper, I aim to initiate an exploration of the phenomenon of ambivalence in legal decision-making. I will restrict my inquiry to epistemic ambivalence, rather than other types of ambivalence which legal decision-makers are also likely to experience. In addition, I will only examine the epistemic consequences of ambivalence about belief,which also has important moral and affective dimensions. Finally, I will only discuss epistemic strategies that may be used to reason through ambivalence about belief, rather than attempting to provide a whole account of the resources that legal decision-makers have at their disposal to properly deal with it. In short, I will study ambivalence in law from an epistemic angle – albeit in the recognition that other perspectives would be needed to provide a full account of this phenomenon. The plan is as follows. Section 2 will explain the concept of ambivalence, its sources, and consequences and it will lay out an account of the main kinds of epistemic ambivalence confronting legal decision-makers. Drawing on the psychology of ambivalence, section 3 will examine different ways in which epistemic ambivalence is addressed in processes of decision-making, some of which are epistemically objectionable. Section 4 argues that virtue-based remedies may help legal decision-makers tackle ambivalence in ways that are epistemically productive. I conclude in section 5 with some suggestions for further research.
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