Cohen on inductive probability and the law of evidence

Philosophy of Science 54 (1):76-91 (1987)
L. Jonathan Cohen has written a number of important books and articles in which he argues that mathematical probability provides a poor model of much of what paradigmatically passes for sound reasoning, whether this be in the sciences, in common discourse, or in the law. In his book, The Probable and the Provable, Cohen elaborates six paradoxes faced by advocates of mathematical probability (PM) when treating issues of evidence as they would arise in a court of law. He argues that his system of inductive probability (PI) satisfactorily handles the issues that proved paradoxical for mathematical probability, and consequently PI deserves to be thought of as an important standard of rational thinking. I argue that a careful look at each of the alleged paradoxes shows that there is no conflict between mathematical probability and the law, except when for reasons of policy we opt for values in addition to accuracy maximization. Recognizing the role of such policies provides no basis for questioning the adequacy of PM. The significance of this critical treatment of Cohen's work is that those interested in revising the laws of evidence to allow for more explicitly mathematical approaches ought to feel that such revisions will not violate the spirit of forensic rationality
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DOI 10.1086/289354
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Paul Thagard (1989). Explanatory Coherence (Plus Commentary). Behavioral and Brain Sciences 12 (3):435-467.
Peter Achinstein (1989). Explanation and Acceptability. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 12 (3):467.

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