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Legal Burdens of Proof and Statistical Evidence

In James Chase & David Coady (eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Applied Epistemology. Routledge (forthcoming)

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  1. Rehabilitating Statistical Evidence.Lewis Ross - 2021 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 102 (1):3-23.
    Recently, the practice of deciding legal cases on purely statistical evidence has been widely criticised. Many feel uncomfortable with finding someone guilty on the basis of bare probabilities, even though the chance of error might be stupendously small. This is an important issue: with the rise of DNA profiling, courts are increasingly faced with purely statistical evidence. A prominent line of argument—endorsed by Blome-Tillmann 2017; Smith 2018; and Littlejohn 2018—rejects the use of such evidence by appealing to epistemic norms that (...)
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  • The safe, the sensitive, and the severely tested: a unified account.Georgi Gardiner & Brian Zaharatos - 2022 - Synthese 200 (5):1-33.
    This essay presents a unified account of safety, sensitivity, and severe testing. S’s belief is safe iff, roughly, S could not easily have falsely believed p, and S’s belief is sensitive iff were p false S would not believe p. These two conditions are typically viewed as rivals but, we argue, they instead play symbiotic roles. Safety and sensitivity are both valuable epistemic conditions, and the relevant alternatives framework provides the scaffolding for their mutually supportive roles. The relevant alternatives condition (...)
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  • Opacity of Character: Virtue Ethics and the Legal Admissibility of Character Evidence.Jacob Smith & Georgi Gardiner - 2021 - Philosophical Issues 31 (1):334-354.
    Many jurisdictions prohibit or severely restrict the use of evidence about a defendant’s character to prove legal culpability. Situationists, who argue that conduct is largely determined by situational features rather than by character, can easily defend this prohibition. According to situationism, character evidence is misleading or paltry. -/- Proscriptions on character evidence seem harder to justify, however, on virtue ethical accounts. It appears that excluding character evidence either denies the centrality of character for explaining conduct—the situationist position—or omits probative evidence. (...)
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  • Legal proof and statistical conjunctions.Lewis D. Ross - 2020 - Philosophical Studies 178 (6):2021-2041.
    A question, long discussed by legal scholars, has recently provoked a considerable amount of philosophical attention: ‘Is it ever appropriate to base a legal verdict on statistical evidence alone?’ Many philosophers who have considered this question reject legal reliance on bare statistics, even when the odds of error are extremely low. This paper develops a puzzle for the dominant theories concerning why we should eschew bare statistics. Namely, there seem to be compelling scenarios in which there are multiple sources of (...)
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  • Justice in Epistemic Gaps: The ‘Proof Paradox’ Revisited.Lewis Ross - 2021 - Philosophical Issues 31 (1):315-333.
    This paper defends the heretical view that, at least in some cases, we ought to assign legal liability based on purely statistical evidence. The argument draws on prominent civil law litigation concerning pharmaceutical negligence and asbestos-poisoning. The overall aim is to illustrate moral pitfalls that result from supposing that it is never appropriate to rely on bare statistics when settling a legal dispute.
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  • Statistical Resentment, Or: What’s Wrong with Acting, Blaming, and Believing on the Basis of Statistics Alone.David Enoch & Levi Spectre - 2021 - Synthese 199 (3-4):5687-5718.
    Statistical evidence—say, that 95% of your co-workers badmouth each other—can never render resenting your colleague appropriate, in the way that other evidence (say, the testimony of a reliable friend) can. The problem of statistical resentment is to explain why. We put the problem of statistical resentment in several wider contexts: The context of the problem of statistical evidence in legal theory; the epistemological context—with problems like the lottery paradox for knowledge, epistemic impurism and doxastic wrongdoing; and the context of a (...)
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  • Probability of Guilt.Mario Günther - manuscript
    In legal proceedings, a fact-finder needs to decide whether a defendant is guilty or not based on probabilistic evidence. We defend the thesis that the defendant should be found guilty just in case it is rational for the fact-finder to believe that the defendant is guilty. We draw on Leitgeb’s stability theory for an appropriate notion of rational belief and show how our thesis solves the problem of statistical evidence. Finally, we defend our account of legal proof against challenges from (...)
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  • The Disvalue of Knowledge.David Papineau - 2019 - Synthese 198 (6):5311-5332.
    I argue that the concept of knowledge is a relic of a bygone age, erroneously supposed to do no harm. I illustrate this claim by showing how a concern with knowledge distorts the use of statistical evidence in criminal courts, and then generalize the point to show that this concern hampers our enterprises across the board and not only in legal contexts.
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  • The Moral Grounds of Reasonably Mistaken Self-Defense.Renée Jorgensen Bolinger - 2021 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 103 (1):140-156.
    Some, but not all, of the mistakes a person makes when acting in apparently necessary self-defense are reasonable: we take them not to violate the rights of the apparent aggressor. I argue that this is explained by duties grounded in agents' entitlements to a fair distribution of the risk of suffering unjust harm. I suggest that the content of these duties is filled in by a social signaling norm, and offer some moral constraints on the form such a norm can (...)
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  • When Statistical Evidence is Not Specific Enough.Marcello Di Bello - 2021 - Synthese 199 (5-6):12251-12269.
    Many philosophers have pointed out that statistical evidence, or at least some forms of it, lack desirable epistemic or non-epistemic properties, and that this should make us wary of litigations in which the case against the defendant rests in whole or in part on statistical evidence. Others have responded that such broad reservations about statistical evidence are overly restrictive since appellate courts have expressed nuanced views about statistical evidence. In an effort to clarify and reconcile, I put forward an interpretive (...)
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  • Belief, Credence and Statistical Evidence.Davide Fassio & Jie Gao - 2020 - Theoria 86 (4):500-527.
    According to the Rational Threshold View, a rational agent believes p if and only if her credence in p is equal to or greater than a certain threshold. One of the most serious challenges for this view is the problem of statistical evidence: statistical evidence is often not sufficient to make an outright belief rational, no matter how probable the target proposition is given such evidence. This indicates that rational belief is not as sensitive to statistical evidence as rational credence. (...)
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  • Knowledge and Legal Proof.Sarah Moss - forthcoming - Oxford Studies in Epistemology.
    Existing discussions of legal proof address a host of apparently disparate questions: What does it take to prove a fact beyond a reasonable doubt? Why is the reasonable doubt standard notoriously elusive, sometimes considered by courts to be impossible to define? Can the standard of proof by a preponderance of the evidence be defined in terms of probability thresholds? Why is statistical evidence often insufficient to meet the burden of proof? -/- This paper defends an account of proof that addresses (...)
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  • Legal Evidence and Knowledge.Georgi Gardiner - forthcoming - In Clayton Littlejohn & Maria Lasonen Aarnio (eds.), The Routledge Handbook of the Philosophy of Evidence.
    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 (...)
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  • The Rational Impermissibility of Accepting (Some) Racial Generalizations.Renée Jorgensen Bolinger - 2020 - Synthese 197 (6):2415-2431.
    I argue that inferences from highly probabilifying racial generalizations are not solely objectionable because acting on such inferences would be problematic, or they violate a moral norm, but because they violate a distinctively epistemic norm. They involve accepting a proposition when, given the costs of a mistake, one is not adequately justified in doing so. First I sketch an account of the nature of adequate justification—practical adequacy with respect to eliminating the ~p possibilities from one’s epistemic statespace. Second, I argue (...)
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  • What it means to respect individuality.Xiaofei Liu & Ye Liang - 2020 - Philosophical Studies 178 (8):2579-2598.
    Using pure statistical evidence about a group to judge a particular member of that group is often found objectionable. One natural explanation of why this is objectionable appeals to the moral notion of respecting individuality: to properly respect individuality, we need individualized evidence, not pure statistical evidence. However, this explanation has been criticized on the ground that there is no fundamental difference between the so-called “individualized evidence” and “pure statistical evidence”. This paper defends the respecting-individuality explanation by developing an account (...)
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  • Relevance and Risk: How the Relevant Alternatives Framework Models the Epistemology of Risk.Georgi Gardiner - 2020 - Synthese 199 (1-2):481-511.
    The epistemology of risk examines how risks bear on epistemic properties. A common framework for examining the epistemology of risk holds that strength of evidential support is best modelled as numerical probability given the available evidence. In this essay I develop and motivate a rival ‘relevant alternatives’ framework for theorising about the epistemology of risk. I describe three loci for thinking about the epistemology of risk. The first locus concerns consequences of relying on a belief for action, where those consequences (...)
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  • Do We Really Need a Knowledge-Based Decision Theory?Davide Fassio & Jie Gao - 2021 - Synthese 199 (3-4):7031-7059.
    The paper investigates what type of motivation can be given for adopting a knowledge-based decision theory. KBDT seems to have several advantages over competing theories of rationality. It is commonly argued that this theory would naturally fit with the intuitive idea that being rational is doing what we take to be best given what we know, an idea often supported by appeal to ordinary folk appraisals. Moreover, KBDT seems to strike a perfect balance between the problematic extremes of subjectivist and (...)
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  • Explaining the Justificatory Asymmetry Between Statistical and Individualized Evidence.Renee Bolinger - forthcoming - In Jon Robson & Zachary Hoskins (eds.), The Social Epistemology of Legal Trials. Routledge. pp. 60-76.
    In some cases, there appears to be an asymmetry in the evidential value of statistical and more individualized evidence. For example, while I may accept that Alex is guilty based on eyewitness testimony that is 80% likely to be accurate, it does not seem permissible to do so based on the fact that 80% of a group that Alex is a member of are guilty. In this paper I suggest that rather than reflecting a deep defect in statistical evidence, this (...)
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  • Evidentialism and Moral Encroachment.Georgi Gardiner - 2018 - In McCain Kevin (ed.), Believing in Accordance with the Evidence. Springer Verlag.
    Moral encroachment holds that the epistemic justification of a belief can be affected by moral factors. If the belief might wrong a person or group more evidence is required to justify the belief. Moral encroachment thereby opposes evidentialism, and kindred views, which holds that epistemic justification is determined solely by factors pertaining to evidence and truth. In this essay I explain how beliefs such as ‘that woman is probably an administrative assistant’—based on the evidence that most women employees at the (...)
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  • Proof Paradoxes and Normic Support: Socializing or Relativizing?Marcello Di Bello - 2020 - Mind 129 (516):1269-1285.
    Smith argues that, unlike other forms of evidence, naked statistical evidence fails to satisfy normic support. This is his solution to the puzzles of statistical evidence in legal proof. This paper focuses on Smith’s claim that DNA evidence in cold-hit cases does not satisfy normic support. I argue that if this claim is correct, virtually no other form of evidence used at trial can satisfy normic support. This is troublesome. I discuss a few ways in which Smith can respond.
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  • Statistics and suspension.Wolfgang Freitag & Alexandra Zinke - 2020 - Philosophical Studies 177 (10):2877-2880.
    It has recently been argued that some cases of naked statistical evidence license a high credence, but not an outright belief. If this is correct, there cannot be an unconditional bridge principle from credence to outright belief. We show that at least one prominent putative counterexample to such a bridge principle is based on a mistake, by demonstrating that the statistical evidence falls short not only of licensing rational belief, but also of justifying a high credence.
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  • Trial by Statistics: Is a High Probability of Guilt Enough to Convict?Marcello Di Bello - 2019 - Mind 128 (512):1045-1084.
    Suppose one hundred prisoners are in a yard under the supervision of a guard, and at some point, ninety-nine of them collectively kill the guard. If, after the fact, a prisoner is picked at random and tried, the probability of his guilt is 99%. But despite the high probability, the statistical chances, by themselves, seem insufficient to justify a conviction. The question is why. Two arguments are offered. The first, decision-theoretic argument shows that a conviction solely based on the statistics (...)
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