Colloquium (Sarah Moss, Michigan)
Thursday March 5, 2020, 3:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Sarah Moss is a professor of philosophy at the University of Michigan. She works primarily in epistemology and the philosophy of language, and often on questions at the intersection of these subfields. In her book Probabilistic Knowledge (OUP, 2018), she argues that partial beliefs can constitute knowledge in just the same way that full beliefs can. Her book has several surprising consequences for traditional theories in the philosophy of mind and language, as well as for social and political questions concerning racial profiling and legal standards of proof.
Knowledge and Legal Proof
Contemporary legal scholarship on evidence and proof addresses a host of apparently disparate questions: What does it take to prove a fact beyond a reasonable doubt? Why is the reasonable doubt standard notoriously elusive, even sometimes considered by courts to be impossible to define? Can the standard of proof by a preponderance of the evidence be defined in terms of probability thresholds? Why is merely statistical evidence often insufficient to meet the burden of proof?
This paper defends an account of proof that addresses each of these questions. Where existing theories take a piecemeal approach to these puzzles, my theory develops a core insight that unifies them—namely, the thesis that legal proof requires knowledge. Although this thesis may seem radical at first, I argue that it is in fact highly intuitive; indeed, the knowledge account of legal proof does better than several competing accounts when it comes to making sense of our intuitive judgments about what legal proof requires.