Statistical Evidence, Sensitivity, and the Legal Value of Knowledge

Philosophy and Public Affairs 40 (3):197-224 (2012)
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Abstract

The law views with suspicion statistical evidence, even evidence that is probabilistically on a par with direct, individual evidence that the law is in no way suspicious of. But it has proved remarkably hard to either justify this suspicion, or to debunk it. In this paper, we connect the discussion of statistical evidence to broader epistemological discussions of similar phenomena. We highlight Sensitivity – the requirement that a belief be counterfactually sensitive to the truth in a specific way – as a way of epistemically explaining the legal suspicion towards statistical evidence. Still, we do not think of this as a satisfactory vindication of the reluctance to rely on statistical evidence. Knowledge – and Sensitivity, and indeed epistemology in general – are of little, if any, legal value. Instead, we tell an incentive-based story vindicating the suspicion towards statistical evidence. We conclude by showing that the epistemological story and the incentive-based story are closely and interestingly related, and by offering initial thoughts about the role of statistical evidence in morality.

Author Profiles

Levi Spectre
Open University of Israel
David Enoch
Hebrew University of Jerusalem

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