How Law Knows in the American Trial Court

46 Pages Posted: 19 Aug 2005


The word "know" has an inevitably normative bite. I can believe that the moon is made of green cheese, but I cannot know it. So the question that forms the title of this essay really contains two questions: (1) What do we do in the trial court? and (2) Does that amount to knowledge? The first question calls for linguistic phenomenology, as Hannah Arendt put it, and the second question for a kind of theorizing that has a long and important history. This essay summarizes that history and then identifies some of the philosophical commitments that would allow us to say that the practical understandings that emerge at trial may fairly be called knowledge.

Suggested Citation

Burns, Robert P., How Law Knows in the American Trial Court. HOW LAW KNOWS, Douglas, Sarat, & Umphrey, eds., Stanford University Press, Available at SSRN:

Robert P. Burns (Contact Author)

Northwestern University - Pritzker School of Law ( email )

375 E. Chicago Ave
Chicago, IL 60611
United States
312-503-6613 (Phone)
312-503-8977 (Fax)

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