CFP: Synthese Topical Collection: Evidence in Law and Ethics

Submission deadline: October 10, 2021

Topic areas


Call for Papers

Evidence in Law and Ethics


Guest Editors:

Adam Dyrda, Jagiellonian University, Faculty of Law and Administration, ul. Bracka 12, 31-005, Kraków, Poland (professor)

Tomasz Żuradzki, Jagiellonian University, Institute of Philosophy & Interdisciplinary Centre for Ethics, ul. Grodzka 52, 31-044 Kraków, Poland (professor)


Topical Collection Description:

The concept of evidence is a major epistemological notion in jurisprudential literature. The case is similar in practical ethics, in particular in relation to the evaluation of clinical decisions or research practice, where the concept of evidence has recently been acquiring more attention. However, there is no consensus as to what counts as proper evidence in these domains, nor has the general concept of evidence been given a clear explication. Historically, some technical notions related to evidence (e.g. proof, doubt, testimony, witness, expert) have been developed in the domain of law, to some extent drawing on ideas developed within the philosophy of science. Concepts such as evidential threshold, burden of proof, probative value, criminal profiling, and evidential restrictions or exclusions (such as unfair prejudice, confusing the issues, misleading the jury, undue delay, wasting time, or needlessly presenting cumulative evidence) constitute an important part of legal thinking. Philosophical inquiries obviously supply new insights into this old theme of legal investigations, e.g. the conflicts between different types of evidence, on how to evaluate their hierarchy and strength (in abstract terms), as well as on making decisions based on the evidence (in particular circumstances). Thus the idea arose to provide an interdisciplinary platform for a thorough discussion of evidence related themes as they are used by legal scholars, ethicists, epistemologists, and philosophers of science. This issue will focus on new and insightful philosophical inquiries into concepts and theories of evidence that have a legal pedigree or find a particular application in legal contexts. The issue will comprise contributions on the concept of evidence and how problems in law and ethics may force us to carefully rethink it, rather than papers primarily on ethics or law that consider the issue of evidence.

In particular, we want to focus on the problem of statistical evidence that has been discussed by lawyers for many years, and has recently attracted the attention of philosophers. The issue has become a burning one, especially with notions such as “naked statistical evidence,” related to the use (and misuse) of base-rate statistics and probability in decision-making under uncertainty. Although judicial, clinical, or research decisions are commonly made under incomplete factual knowledge, norms for judicial decisions under uncertainty differ tremendously from norms for clinical decisions or for research practice. Legal systems in principio do not allow (with the exception of DNA evidence) us to convict a suspect on the basis of statistical evidence (i.e., that persons with similar characteristics often commit this type of crime) whereas the distribution of health-related features in a population serves as crucial evidence for both clinical and research decisions under uncertainty. This discussion has a well-established tradition, yet it has recently regained popularity as novel approaches have been proposed (see the list of literature attached). In this special issue we propose a particular perspective of integrated ethico-legal inquiry: starting from the discussion of the role of naked statistical evidence in legal proceedings, up to some of the broader implications in other fields of ethical considerations, such as biomedical research and healthcare, including the role that Artificial Intelligence can play when it comes to analyzing evidence.


Appropriate Topics for Submission include, among others:

• Epistemic risk and the role of non-epistemic values in scientific and legal evidential reasoning,

• Reasonable doubt, higher-order evidence, statistical evidence, evidentiary thresholds,

• Models of evidential reasoning, standards of proof, and evidence-based heuristics,

• The concept of testimony in different contexts,

• Ethical bases for evidential restrictions or exclusions,

• Epistemology of legal (esp. court) evidential disagreement,

• The ethics of belief of witness experts, court parties, jury, and judges,

• Conceptions of risk in law and practical ethics (probabilistic, modal, normalcy, etc.),

• Evidence in algorithmic decision-making in law, healthcare, and medicine.

For further information, please contact the guest editors:

[email protected]; [email protected]

The deadline for submissions is October 10, 2021

Adam Dyrda, [email protected]

Tomasz Żuradzki, [email protected]

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