Evidence, Risk, and Proof Paradoxes: Pessimism about the Epistemic Project

International Journal of Evidence and Proof:online first (2021)
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Abstract

Why can testimony alone be enough for findings of liability? Why statistical evidence alone can’t? These questions underpin the “Proof Paradox” (Redmayne 2008, Enoch et al. 2012). Many epistemologists have attempted to explain this paradox from a purely epistemic perspective. I call it the “Epistemic Project”. In this paper, I take a step back from this recent trend. Stemming from considerations about the nature and role of standards of proof, I define three requirements that any successful account in line with the Epistemic Project should meet. I then consider three recent epistemic accounts on which the standard is met when the evidence rules out modal risk (Pritchard 2018), normic risk (Ebert et al. 2020), or relevant alternatives (Gardiner 2019 2020). I argue that none of these accounts meets all the requirements. Finally, I offer reasons to be pessimistic about the prospects of having a successful epistemic explanation of the paradox. I suggest the discussion on the proof paradox would benefit from undergoing a ‘value-turn’.

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Giada Fratantonio
University of Glasgow

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