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When Does Evidence Suffice for Conviction?

Mind 127 (508):1193-1218 (2018)

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  1. The sensitivity of legal proof.Guido Melchior - 2024 - Synthese 203 (5):1-23.
    The proof paradox results from conflicting intuitions concerning different types of fallible evidence in a court of law. We accept fallible individual evidence but reject fallible statistical evidence even when the conditional probability that the defendant is guilty given the evidence is the same, a seeming inconsistency. This paper defends a solution to the proof paradox, building on a sensitivity account of checking and settling a question. The proposed sensitivity account of legal proof not only requires sensitivity simpliciter but sensitivity (...)
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  • The puzzle of plausible deniability.Andrew Peet - 2024 - Synthese 203 (5):1-20.
    How is it that a speaker _S_ can at once make it obvious to an audience _A_ that she intends to communicate some proposition _p_, and yet at the same time retain plausible deniability with respect to this intention? The answer is that _S_ can bring it about that _A_ has a high justified credence that ‘_S_ intended _p_’ without putting _A_ in a position to know that ‘_S_ intended _p_’. In order to achieve this _S_ has to exploit a (...)
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  • Thinking about Past Minds: Cognitive Science as Philosophy of Historiography.Adam Michael Bricker - 2023 - Journal of the Philosophy of History 17 (2):219-242.
    This paper outlines the case for a future research program that uses the tools of experimental cognitive science to investigate questions that traditionally fall under the remit of the philosophy of historiography. The central idea is this – the epistemic profile of historians’ representations of the past is largely an empirical matter, determined in no small part by the cognitive processes that produce these representations. However, as the philosophy of historiography is not presently equipped to investigate such cognitive questions, legitimate (...)
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  • What is Rational Belief?Clayton Littlejohn & Julien Dutant - forthcoming - Noûs.
    A theory of rational belief should get the cases right. It should also reach its verdicts using the right theoretical assumptions. Leading theories seem to predict the wrong things. With only one exception, they don't accommodate principles that we should use to explain these verdicts. We offer a theory of rational belief that combines an attractive picture of epistemic desirability with plausible principles connecting desirability to rationality. On our view, it's rational to believe when it's sufficiently likely that you'd know (...)
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  • Profiling, Neutrality, and Social Equality.Lewis Ross - 2022 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 100 (4):808-824.
    I argue that traditional views on which beliefs are subject only to purely epistemic assessment can reject demographic profiling, even when based on seemingly robust evidence. This is because the moral failures involved in demographic profiling can be located in the decision not to suspend judgment, rather than supposing that beliefs themselves are a locus of moral evaluation. A key moral reason to suspend judgment when faced with adverse demographic evidence is to promote social equality—this explains why positive profiling is (...)
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  • Against legal probabilism.Martin Smith - 2021 - In Jon Robson & Zachary Hoskins (eds.), The Social Epistemology of Legal Trials. Routledge.
    Is it right to convict a person of a crime on the basis of purely statistical evidence? Many who have considered this question agree that it is not, posing a direct challenge to legal probabilism – the claim that the criminal standard of proof should be understood in terms of a high probability threshold. Some defenders of legal probabilism have, however, held their ground: Schoeman (1987) argues that there are no clear epistemic or moral problems with convictions based on purely (...)
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  • Civil liability and the 50%+ standard of proof.Martin Smith - 2021 - International Journal of Evidence and Proof 25 (3):183-199.
    The standard of proof applied in civil trials is the preponderance of evidence, often said to be met when a proposition is shown to be more than 50% likely to be true. A number of theorists have argued that this 50%+ standard is too weak – there are circumstances in which a court should find that the defendant is not liable, even though the evidence presented makes it more than 50% likely that the plaintiff’s claim is true. In this paper, (...)
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  • More on Normic Support and the Criminal Standard of Proof.Martin Smith - 2021 - Mind 130 (519):943-960.
    In this paper I respond to Marcello Di Bello’s criticisms of the ‘normic account’ of the criminal standard of proof. In so doing, I further elaborate on what the normic account predicts about certain significant legal categories of evidence, including DNA and fingerprint evidence and eyewitness identifications.
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  • Justification, knowledge, and normality.Clayton Littlejohn & Julien Dutant - 2020 - Philosophical Studies 177 (6):1593-1609.
    There is much to like about the idea that justification should be understood in terms of normality or normic support (Smith 2016, Goodman and Salow 2018). The view does a nice job explaining why we should think that lottery beliefs differ in justificatory status from mundane perceptual or testimonial beliefs. And it seems to do that in a way that is friendly to a broadly internalist approach to justification. In spite of its attractions, we think that the normic support view (...)
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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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  • n-1 Guilty Men.Clayton Littlejohn & Julien Dutant - forthcoming - In Simon Kirchin (ed.), The Future of Normativity. Oxford:
    We argue that there is nothing that can do the work that normative reasons are expected to do. A currently popular view is that in any given situation, a set of normative reasons (understood as a set of facts, typically about the agent’s situation) always determines the ways we prospectively should or should not respond. We discuss an example that we think shows no such collection of facts could have this normative significance. A radical response might be to dispense with (...)
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  • Algorithmic Decision-making, Statistical Evidence and the Rule of Law.Vincent Chiao - forthcoming - Episteme:1-24.
    The rapidly increasing role of automation throughout the economy, culture and our personal lives has generated a large literature on the risks of algorithmic decision-making, particularly in high-stakes legal settings. Algorithmic tools are charged with bias, shrouded in secrecy, and frequently difficult to interpret. However, these criticisms have tended to focus on particular implementations, specific predictive techniques, and the idiosyncrasies of the American legal-regulatory regime. They do not address the more fundamental unease about the prospect that we might one day (...)
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  • Statistical Evidence, Normalcy, and the Gatecrasher Paradox.Michael Blome-Tillmann - 2020 - Mind 129 (514):563-578.
    Martin Smith has recently proposed, in this journal, a novel and intriguing approach to puzzles and paradoxes in evidence law arising from the evidential standard of the Preponderance of the Evidence. According to Smith, the relation of normic support provides us with an elegant solution to those puzzles. In this paper I develop a counterexample to Smith’s approach and argue that normic support can neither account for our reluctance to base affirmative verdicts on bare statistical evidence nor resolve the pertinent (...)
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  • What should we believe about the future?Miloud Belkoniene - 2020 - Synthese 197 (6):2375-2386.
    This paper discusses the ability of explanationist theories of epistemic justification to account for the justification we have for holding beliefs about the future. McCain’s explanationist account of the relation of evidential support is supposedly in a better position than other theories of this type to correctly handle cases involving beliefs about the future. However, the results delivered by this account have been questioned by Byerly and Martin. This paper argues that McCain’s account is, in fact, able to deliver plausible (...)
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  • The rational dimension of understanding.Miloud Belkoniene - 2022 - Synthese 200 (5):1-16.
    It is natural to regard understanding as having a rational dimension, in the sense that understanding seems to require having justification for holding certain beliefs about the world. Some philosophers however argue that justification is not required to gain understanding of phenomena. In the present paper, my intention is to provide a critical examination of the arguments that have been offered against the view that understanding requires justification in order to show that, contrary to what they purport to establish, justification (...)
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  • Normalcy, Understanding and the Problem of Statistical Evidence.Miloud Belkoniene - 2019 - Theoria 85 (3):202-218.
    This article examines Smith’s recent treatment of the problem of statistical evidence and the conception of epistemic justification that he puts forward. Two possible solutions to the problem of statistical evidence that result from his analysis of cases involving a contrast between statistical and individual evidence are considered. The solution resulting from Smith’s conception of epistemic justification is shown to be inferior to the solution calling for an explanationist conception of epistemic justification. As a result, Smith’s analysis of cases illustrating (...)
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  • Epistemology and the law: why there is no epistemic mileage in legal cases.Marvin Backes - 2020 - Philosophical Studies 177 (9):2759-2778.
    The primary aim of this paper is to defend the Lockean View—the view that a belief is epistemically justified iff it is highly probable—against a new family of objections. According to these objections, broadly speaking, the Lockean View ought to be abandoned because it is incompatible with, or difficult to square with, our judgments surrounding certain legal cases. I distinguish and explore three different versions of these objections—The Conviction Argument, the Argument from Assertion and Practical Reasoning, and the Comparative Probabilities (...)
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  • Knowledge, Evidence, and Naked Statistics.Sherrilyn Roush - 2023 - In Luis R. G. Oliveira (ed.), Externalism about Knowledge. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
    Many who think that naked statistical evidence alone is inadequate for a trial verdict think that use of probability is the problem, and something other than probability – knowledge, full belief, causal relations – is the solution. I argue that the issue of whether naked statistical evidence is weak can be formulated within the probabilistic idiom, as the question whether likelihoods or only posterior probabilities should be taken into account in our judgment of a case. This question also identifies a (...)
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  • Legal Burdens of Proof and Statistical Evidence.Georgi Gardiner - 2018 - In David Coady & James Chase (eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Applied Epistemology. New York: Routledge.
    In order to perform certain actions – such as incarcerating a person or revoking parental rights – the state must establish certain facts to a particular standard of proof. These standards – such as preponderance of evidence and beyond reasonable doubt – are often interpreted as likelihoods or epistemic confidences. Many theorists construe them numerically; beyond reasonable doubt, for example, is often construed as 90 to 95% confidence in the guilt of the defendant. -/- A family of influential cases suggests (...)
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  • Reverse-Engineering Risk.Angela O’Sullivan & Lilith Mace - forthcoming - Erkenntnis:1-26.
    Three philosophical accounts of risk dominate the contemporary literature. On the probabilistic account, risk has to do with the probability of a disvaluable event obtaining; on the modal account, it has to do with the modal closeness of that event obtaining; on the normic account, it has to do with the normalcy of that event obtaining. The debate between these accounts has proceeded via counterexample-trading, with each account having some cases it explains better than others, and some cases that it (...)
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  • Meta-uncertainty and the proof paradoxes.Katie Steele & Mark Colyvan - 2023 - Philosophical Studies 180 (7):1927-1950.
    Various real and imagined criminal law cases rest on “naked statistical evidence”. That is, they rest more or less entirely on a probability for guilt/liability derived from a single statistical model. The intuition is that there is something missing in these cases, high as the probability for guilt/liability may be, such that the relevant standard for legal proof is not met. Here we contribute to the considerable debate about how this intuition is best explained and what it teaches us about (...)
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  • An objection to the modal account of risk.Martin Smith - 2023 - Synthese 201 (5):1-9.
    In a recent paper in this journal Duncan Pritchard responds to an objection to the modal account of risk pressed by Ebert, Smith and Durbach ( 2020 ). In this paper, I expand upon the objection and argue that it still stands. I go on to consider a more general question raised by this exchange – whether risk is ‘objective’, or whether it is something that varies from one perspective to another.
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  • Reconsidering the Rule of Consideration: Probabilistic Knowledge and Legal Proof.Tim Smartt - 2022 - Episteme 19 (2):303-318.
    In this paper, I provide an argument for rejecting Sarah Moss's recent account of legal proof. Moss's account is attractive in a number of ways. It provides a new version of a knowledge-based theory of legal proof that elegantly resolves a number of puzzles about mere statistical evidence in the law. Moreover, the account promises to have attractive implications for social and moral philosophy, in particular about the impermissibility of racial profiling and other harmful kinds of statistical generalisation. In this (...)
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  • Merely statistical evidence: when and why it justifies belief.Paul Silva - 2023 - Philosophical Studies 180 (9):2639-2664.
    It is one thing to hold that merely statistical evidence is _sometimes_ insufficient for rational belief, as in typical lottery and profiling cases. It is another thing to hold that merely statistical evidence is _always_ insufficient for rational belief. Indeed, there are cases where statistical evidence plainly does justify belief. This project develops a dispositional account of the normativity of statistical evidence, where the dispositions that ground justifying statistical evidence are connected to the goals (= proper function) of objects. There (...)
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  • Statistical Evidence and the Problem of Specification.Frederick Schauer - 2023 - Episteme 20 (2):367-376.
    Philosophical debates over statistical evidence have long been framed and dominated by L. Jonathan Cohen's Paradox of the Gatecrasher and a related hypothetical example commonly called Prison Yard. These examples, however, raise an issue not discussed in the large and growing literature on statistical evidence – the question of what statistical evidence is supposed to be evidence of. In actual practice, the legal system does not start with a defendant and then attempt to determine if that defendant has committed some (...)
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  • Knowledge‐norms in a common‐law crucible.Cosim Sayid - 2021 - Ratio 34 (4):261-276.
    Ratio, Volume 34, Issue 4, Page 261-276, December 2021.
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  • Knowledge‐norms in a common‐law crucible.Cosim Sayid - 2021 - Ratio 34 (4):261-276.
    Not only is the common‐law standard of proof of mere likelihood in ordinary civil cases justifiable, but its justifiability supports the conclusion that there is no general norm that one must assert that p only if p is known. An argument by Voltaire is formalized to show that the mere likelihood standard is rational. It is also shown that no applicable norm preempts the common‐law rule. An objection that takes the pertinent knowledge‐norm to be honoured in the breach is rejected (...)
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  • The Foundations of Criminal Law Epistemology.Lewis Ross - 2022 - Ergo: An Open Access Journal of Philosophy 9.
    Legal epistemology has been an area of great philosophical growth since the turn of the century. But recently, a number of philosophers have argued the entire project is misguided, claiming that it relies on an illicit transposition of the norms of individual epistemology to the legal arena. This paper uses these objections as a foil to consider the foundations of legal epistemology, particularly as it applies to the criminal law. The aim is to clarify the fundamental commitments of legal epistemology (...)
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  • Recent work on the proof paradox.Lewis D. Ross - 2020 - Philosophy Compass 15 (6):e12667.
    Recent years have seen fresh impetus brought to debates about the proper role of statistical evidence in the law. Recent work largely centres on a set of puzzles known as the ‘proof paradox’. While these puzzles may initially seem academic, they have important ramifications for the law: raising key conceptual questions about legal proof, and practical questions about DNA evidence. This article introduces the proof paradox, why we should care about it, and new work attempting to resolve it.
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  • Rehabilitating Statistical Evidence.Lewis Ross - 2019 - 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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  • 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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  • Criminal Proof: Fixed or Flexible?Lewis Ross - 2023 - Philosophical Quarterly (4):1-23.
    Should we use the same standard of proof to adjudicate guilt for murder and petty theft? Why not tailor the standard of proof to the crime? These relatively neglected questions cut to the heart of central issues in the philosophy of law. This paper scrutinises whether we ought to use the same standard for all criminal cases, in contrast with a flexible approach that uses different standards for different crimes. I reject consequentialist arguments for a radically flexible standard of proof, (...)
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  • In defence of the modal account of legal risk.Duncan Pritchard - 2022 - Synthese 200 (4):1-16.
    This paper offers an articulation and defence of the modal account of legal risk in light of a range of objections that have been proposed against this view in the recent literature. It is argued that these objections all trade on a failure to distinguish between the modal nature of risk more generally, and the application of this modal account to particular decision-making contexts, such as legal contexts, where one must rely on a restricted body of information. It is argued (...)
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  • No Reasons to Believe the False.Javier González De Prado Salas - 2019 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 100 (3):703-722.
    I argue that if there are nondisabled reasons to believe p, then there cannot be nondisabled reasons to believe something incompatible with p. I first defend a restricted version of the view, which applies only to situations where the relevant agent has complete evidence. Then, I argue for a generalized version of the view, which holds regardless of the agent's evidence. As a related result, I show that, given plausible assumptions, there cannot be nondisabled reasons to believe something false.
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  • No Reasons to Believe the False.Javier González Prado - 2019 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 100 (3):703-722.
    I argue that if there are nondisabled reasons to believe p, then there cannot be nondisabled reasons to believe something incompatible with p. I first defend a restricted version of the view, which applies only to situations where the relevant agent has complete evidence. Then, I argue for a generalized version of the view, which holds regardless of the agent's evidence. As a related result, I show that, given plausible assumptions, there cannot be nondisabled reasons to believe something false.
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  • Grounding legal proof.Michael S. Pardo - 2021 - Philosophical Issues 31 (1):280-298.
    Philosophical Issues, Volume 31, Issue 1, Page 280-298, October 2021.
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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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  • Privacy rights and ‘naked’ statistical evidence.Lauritz Aastrup Munch - 2021 - Philosophical Studies 178 (11):3777-3795.
    Do privacy rights restrict what is permissible to infer about others based on statistical evidence? This paper replies affirmatively by defending the following symmetry: there is not necessarily a morally relevant difference between directly appropriating people’s private information—say, by using an X-ray device on their private safes—and using predictive technologies to infer the same content, at least in cases where the evidence has a roughly similar probative value. This conclusion is of theoretical interest because a comprehensive justification of the thought (...)
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  • Knowledge, Individualised Evidence and Luck.Dario Mortini - 2022 - Philosophical Studies 179 (12):3791-3815.
    The notion of individualised evidence holds the key to solve the puzzle of statistical evidence, but there’s still no consensus on how exactly to define it. To make progress on the problem, epistemologists have proposed various accounts of individualised evidence in terms of causal or modal anti-luck conditions on knowledge like appropriate causation, sensitivity and safety. In this paper, I show that each of these fails as satisfactory anti-luck condition, and that such failure lends abductive support to the following conclusion: (...)
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  • The Epistemology of Plea Bargaining.Richard B. Miller - 2020 - Social Epistemology 34 (5):501-512.
    Systems-oriented social epistemology, studies epistemic systems in which individuals work together to determine the epistemic status (true, justified, true beyond a reasonable doubt, e...
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  • Just Probabilities.Chad Lee-Stronach - forthcoming - Noûs.
    I defend the thesis that legal standards of proof are reducible to thresholds of probability. Many have rejected this thesis because it seems to entail that defendants can be found liable solely on the basis of statistical evidence. I argue that this inference is invalid. I do so by developing a view, called Legal Causalism, that combines Thomson's (1986) causal analysis of evidence with recent work in formal theories of causal inference. On this view, legal standards of proof can be (...)
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  • Why Is Proof the Only Way to Acquire Mathematical Knowledge?Marc Lange - forthcoming - Australasian Journal of Philosophy.
    This paper proposes an account of why proof is the only way to acquire knowledge of some mathematical proposition’s truth. Admittedly, non-deductive arguments for mathematical propositions can be strong and play important roles in mathematics. But this paper proposes a necessary condition for knowledge that can be satisfied by putative proofs (and proof sketches), as well as by non-deductive arguments in science, but not by non-deductive arguments from mathematical evidence. The necessary condition concerns whether we can justly expect that if (...)
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  • Standards and values.Matthew Kotzen - 2021 - Philosophical Issues 31 (1):167-187.
    Philosophical Issues, Volume 31, Issue 1, Page 167-187, October 2021.
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  • What's Wrong with Prepunishment?Alex Kaiserman - 2023 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 104 (3):622-645.
    Punishing someone for a crime before they have committed it is widely considered morally abhorrent. But there is little agreement on what exactly is supposed to be wrong with it. In this paper, I critically evaluate several objections to the permissibility of prepunishment, making points along the way about the connections between time, knowledge, desert, deterrence and duty. I conclude that, although the conditions under which it could permissibly be administered are unlikely ever to arise in practice, nevertheless in principle, (...)
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  • Sensitivity, safety, and admissibility.Zoë A. Johnson King - 2022 - Synthese 200 (6):1-22.
    This paper concerns recent attempts to use the epistemological notions of sensitivity and safety to shed light on legal debates about so-called “bare” statistical evidence. These notions might be thought to explain either the outright inadmissibility of such evidence or its inadequacy for a finding of fact—two different phenomena that are often discussed in tandem, but that, I insist, we do better to keep separate. I argue that neither sensitivity nor safety can hope to explain statistical evidence’s inadmissibility, since neither (...)
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  • Belief, Credence, and Evidence.Elizabeth Jackson - 2020 - Synthese 197 (11):5073-5092.
    I explore how rational belief and rational credence relate to evidence. I begin by looking at three cases where rational belief and credence seem to respond differently to evidence: cases of naked statistical evidence, lotteries, and hedged assertions. I consider an explanation for these cases, namely, that one ought not form beliefs on the basis of statistical evidence alone, and raise worries for this view. Then, I suggest another view that explains how belief and credence relate to evidence. My view (...)
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  • Justification, excuse, and proof beyond reasonable doubt.Hock Lai Ho - 2021 - Philosophical Issues 31 (1):146-166.
    Philosophical Issues, Volume 31, Issue 1, Page 146-166, October 2021.
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  • Statistical evidence and incentives in the law.John Hawthorne, Yoaav Isaacs & Vishnu Sridharan - 2021 - Philosophical Issues 31 (1):128-145.
    Philosophical Issues, Volume 31, Issue 1, Page 128-145, October 2021.
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  • Profiling and Proof: Are Statistics Safe?Georgi Gardiner - 2020 - Philosophy 95 (2):161-183.
    Many theorists hold that outright verdicts based on bare statistical evidence are unwarranted. Bare statistical evidence may support high credence, on these views, but does not support outright belief or legal verdicts of culpability. The vignettes that constitute the lottery paradox and the proof paradox are marshalled to support this claim. Some theorists argue, furthermore, that examples of profiling also indicate that bare statistical evidence is insufficient for warranting outright verdicts.I examine Pritchard's and Buchak's treatments of these three kinds of (...)
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