When Does Evidence Suffice for Conviction?

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

There is something puzzling about statistical evidence. One place this manifests is in the law, where courts are reluctant to base affirmative verdicts on evidence that is purely statistical, in spite of the fact that it is perfectly capable of meeting the standards of proof enshrined in legal doctrine. After surveying some proposed explanations for this, I shall outline a new approach – one that makes use of a notion of normalcy that is distinct from the idea of statistical frequency. The puzzle is not, however, merely a legal one. Our unwillingness to base beliefs on statistical evidence is by no means limited to the courtroom, and is at odds with almost every general principle that epistemologists have proposed as to how we ought to manage our beliefs.

Author's Profile

Martin Smith
University of Edinburgh

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