LAW 562

Epistemology and Law

Law & Philosophy

This seminar brings contemporary work in epistemology, including formal epistemology, to bear on the dual questions of how the law is known (how we work out what the law is) and how the law knows (how the law takes itself to know something or takes something to be true).

In tackling the first question we focus on common law systems in which decisions of courts are themselves sources of law. In such systems we need to know what contribution decisions make to the law to know what the law is. Some say that decisions give rise to rules or to reasons; others that the law is whichever theory best fits and justifies existing legal materials, including judicial decisions. We consider these theories before asking whether we can understand precedent (in the sense of the contribution previous decisions make to the law) by appealing to the notion of inference to best explanation or abduction. We conclude by considering the notion of legal proof and its relationship to knowledge.

Students will be asked to read challenging philosophical writing, attend and participate regularly, write some short reaction papers, and write a seminar paper.

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