On the Need for Epistemic Enhancement

Law, Innovation and Technology 5 (1):85-112 (2013)
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Klaming and Vedder (2010) have argued that enhancement technologies that improve the epistemic efficiency of the legal system (“epistemic enhancements”) would benefit the common good. But there are two flaws to Klaming and Vedder’s argument. First, they rely on an under-theorised and under-specified conception of the common good. When theory and specification are supplied, their CGJ for enhancing eyewitness memory and recall becomes significantly less persuasive. And second, although aware of such problems, they fail to give due weight and consideration to the tensions between the individual and common good. Taking these criticisms onboard, this article proposes an alternative, and stronger, CGJ for epistemic enhancements. The argument has two prongs. Drawing from the literature on social epistemology and democratic legitimacy, it is first argued that there are strong grounds for thinking that epistemic enhancements are a desirable way to improve the democratic legitimacy of the legal system. This gives prima facie but not decisive weight to the CGJ. It is then argued that due to the ongoing desire to improve the way in which scientific evidence is managed by the legal system, epistemic enhancement is not merely desirable but perhaps morally necessary. Although this may seem to sustain tensions between individual and common interests, I argue that in reality it reveals a deep constitutive harmony between the individual good and the common good, one that is both significant in its own right and one that should be exploited by proponents of enhancement.

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John Danaher
University College, Galway


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