The sensitivity of legal proof

Synthese 203 (5):1-23 (2024)
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Abstract

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 of each relevant step of the proof procedure and/or sensitivity concerning all relevant alternatives. This account avoids problems that have been identified for other sensitivity views of legal proof. Moreover, it is argued that sensitivity, rather than safety, is the crucial modal condition for legal proof. It is, finally, shown that the provided account can fruitfully support very different existing views on the relationship between knowledge and legal proof.

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Guido Melchior
University of Graz

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