Recent years have seen fresh impetus brought to debates about the proper role of statistical evidence in the law. Recent work largely centres on a set of puzzles known as the ‘proof paradox’. While these puzzles may initially seem academic, they have important ramifications for the law: raising key conceptual questions about legal proof, and practical questions about DNA evidence. This article introduces the proof paradox, why we should care about it, and new work attempting to resolve it.
Recent experimental studies indicate that epistemically irrelevant factors can skew our intuitions, and that some degree of scepticism about appealing to intuition in philosophy is warranted. In response, some have claimed that philosophers are experts in such a way as to vindicate their reliance on intuitions—this has become known as the ‘expertise defence’. This paper explores the viability of the expertise defence, and suggests that it can be partially vindicated. Arguing that extant discussion is problematically imprecise, we will finesse the (...) notion of ‘philosophical expertise’ in order to better reflect the complex reality of the different practices involved in philosophical inquiry. On this basis, we offer a new version of the expertise defence that allows for distinct types of philosophical expertise. The upshot of our approach is that wholesale vindications or rejections of the expertise defence are shown to be unwarranted; we must instead turn to local, piecemeal investigations of philosophical expertise. Lastly, in the spirit of taking our own advice, we exemplify how recent developments from experimental philosophy lend themselves to this approach, and can empirically support one instance of a successful expertise defence. (shrink)
Recent work takes both philosophical and scientific progress to consist in acquiring factive epistemic states such as knowledge. However, much of this work leaves unclear what entity is the subject of these epistemic states. Furthermore, by focusing only on states like knowledge, we overlook progress in intermediate cases between ignorance and knowledge—for example, many now celebrated theories were initially so controversial that they were not known. -/- This paper develops an improved framework for thinking about intellectual progress. Firstly, I argue (...) that we should think of progress relative to the epistemic position of an intellectual community rather than individual inquirers. Secondly, I show how focusing on the extended process of inquiry (rather than the mere presence or absence of states like knowledge) provides a better evaluation of different types of progress. This includes progress through formulating worthwhile questions, acquiring new evidence, and increasing credence on the right answers to these questions. I close by considering the ramifications for philosophical progress, suggesting that my account supports rejecting the most negative views while allowing us to articulate different varieties of optimism and pessimism. (shrink)
Despite playing an important role in epistemology, philosophy of science, and more recently in moral philosophy and aesthetics, the nature of understanding is still much contested. One attractive framework attempts to reduce understanding to other familiar epistemic states. This paper explores and develops a methodology for testing such reductionist theories before offering a counterexample to a recently defended variant on which understanding reduces to what an agent knows.
A question, long discussed by legal scholars, has recently provoked a considerable amount of philosophical attention: ‘Is it ever appropriate to base a legal verdict on statistical evidence alone?’ Many philosophers who have considered this question reject legal reliance on bare statistics, even when the odds of error are extremely low. This paper develops a puzzle for the dominant theories concerning why we should eschew bare statistics. Namely, there seem to be compelling scenarios in which there are multiple sources of (...) incriminating statistical evidence. As we conjoin together different types of statistical evidence, it becomes increasingly incredible to suppose that a positive verdict would be impermissible. I suggest that none of the dominant views in the literature can easily accommodate such cases, and close by offering a diagnosis of my own. (shrink)
What should we do about low conviction rates for sexual offences? Much of the discussion focuses on the problem of prosecution: i.e. too few accusations of sexual assault make their way to court. Here, I want to consider the problem from a different angle—namely, what should we do if prosecution rates rise, but conviction rates do not? After all, prosecutions are not an end in themselves. The problem is that too few people who are guilty of sexual assault are being (...) punished. So, what steps, if any, should be taken if conviction rates fail to rise along with prosecution rates? (shrink)