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Legal evidence and inference

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-T004-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved May 21, 2024, from

Article Summary

In the field of law there is a rich legacy of scholarship and experience regarding the properties, uses and discovery of evidence in inferential reasoning tasks. Over the centuries our courts have been concerned about characteristics of evidence that seem necessary in order to draw valid and persuasive conclusions from it. Thus, they have been led to consider such matters as the relevance of evidence, the credibility of the sources from which it comes, and the probative or inferential force of evidence. Court trials usually involve inferences about events in the past. The past can never be completely recovered. In addition, evidence about past events is frequently inconclusive, conflicting or contradictory, and often vague or ambiguous. The result is that inferences about past events are necessarily probabilistic in nature. Our courts have also been concerned about whether the interests of fairness require that, on occasion, evidence might be inadmissible, even though relevant and credible. Evidential and inferential issues such as the ones just mentioned are also of concern to philosophers and persons in other disciplines. This entry concerns several evidential issues of particular interest in legal contexts.

Citing this article:
Schum, David A.. Legal evidence and inference, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-T004-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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