SMNR: Legal Epistemology: Proof/Truth in Law

Class Unique: 29525
A criminal trial is designed to get at the truth about a purported crime. Its methods of doing so, however --methods incorporated into the rules of evidence and procedure-- make clear that a trial’s search for truth is modulated in a variety of ways by non-epistemic considerations (usually deriving from political morality). This seminar will examine a host of fascinating puzzles at the intersection of moral theory, epistemology and the criminal law. Specifically, it will focus on such key notions as: proof beyond a reasonable doubt; the presumption of innocence; the burden of proof; so-called affirmative defenses; and rules of evidence that aim to strike a balance between respecting the rights of defendants and trying to reconstruct what actually happened. It should be of interest to advanced students of law and perhaps to philosophers puzzled about how, if at all, epistemic and moral issues can be integrated into a coherent theory of inquiry. Seminar grades will depend on class discussion (25%) and one serious research paper (75%).

Class Details

Meeting Days Time Location
Thursday 2:15 - 4:05 pm JON 5.208
Evaluation Method Date Time Alpha Range Room

Additional Information

Course Type
Grading Method
Pass/Fail Allowed


  • Truth, Error & Criminal Law - Larry Laudan
      Cambridge , edition: paper
      ISBN: 978-0-521-73035-8   (required)


Laudan, Larry Laudan, Larry