Legal evidence and knowledge

In Maria Lasonen-Aarnio & Clayton Littlejohn (eds.), The Routledge Handbook of the Philosophy of Evidence. Routledge (2019)
  Copy   BIBTEX


This essay is an accessible introduction to the proof paradox in legal epistemology. In 1902 the Supreme Judicial Court of Maine filed an influential legal verdict. The judge claimed that in order to find a defendant culpable, the plaintiff “must adduce evidence other than a majority of chances”. The judge thereby claimed that bare statistical evidence does not suffice for legal proof. In this essay I first motivate the claim that bare statistical evidence does not suffice for legal proof. I then introduce and motivate a knowledge-centred explanation of this fact. The knowledge-centred explanation rests on two premises. The first is that legal proof requires knowledge of culpability. The second is that one cannot attain knowledge that p from bare statistical evidence that p. To motivate the second premise, I suggest that beliefs based on bare statistical evidence fail to be safe—they could easily be wrong—and bare statistical evidence cannot eliminate relevant alternatives. I then cast doubt on the first premise; I argue that legal proof does not require knowledge. I thereby dispute the knowledge-centred explanation of the inadequacy of bare statistical evidence for legal proof. Instead of appealing to the nature of knowledge, I suggest we should seek a more direct explanation by appealing to those more foundational epistemic properties, such as safety or eliminating relevant alternatives.



External links

  • This entry has no external links. Add one.
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

Similar books and articles

The Reasonable and the Relevant: Legal Standards of Proof.Georgi Gardiner - 2019 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 47 (3):288-318.
Recent work on the proof paradox.Lewis D. Ross - 2020 - Philosophy Compass 15 (6):e12667.
Legal proof and statistical conjunctions.Lewis D. Ross - 2020 - Philosophical Studies 178 (6):2021-2041.
The “She Said, He Said” Paradox and the Proof Paradox.Georgi Gardiner - forthcoming - In Zachary Hoskins and Jon Robson (ed.), Truth and Trial.
'More Likely Than Not' - Knowledge First and the Role of Statistical Evidence in Courts of Law.Michael Blome-Tillmann - 2017 - In Carter Adam, Gordon Emma & Jarvis Benjamin (eds.), Knowledge First,. Oxford University Press. pp. 278-292.
De Re Beliefs and Evidence in Legal Cases.Samuel J. Thomas - 2021 - Dissertation, Arizona State University
Evidence, Risk, and Proof Paradoxes: Pessimism about the Epistemic Project.Giada Fratantonio - 2021 - International Journal of Evidence and Proof:online first.
Rethinking Criminal Law. [REVIEW]Andrew Botterell - 2009 - Canadian Journal of Law and Jurisprudence 22:93-112.
Legal stories and the process of proof.Floris Bex & Bart Verheij - 2013 - Artificial Intelligence and Law 21 (3):253-278.


Added to PP

393 (#51,035)

6 months
173 (#17,596)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

Georgi Gardiner
University of Tennessee, Knoxville

References found in this work

Knowledge and its limits.Timothy Williamson - 2000 - New York: Oxford University Press.
Knowledge and lotteries.John Hawthorne - 2004 - New York: Oxford University Press.
Epistemic Luck.Duncan Pritchard - 2005 - Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press UK.
Knowledge and Its Limits.Timothy Williamson - 2003 - Philosophical Quarterly 53 (210):105-116.

View all 32 references / Add more references