Culture wars revisited

Michael Lynch and Alan Sokal enagage in a most civil dialogue: Defending Science: An Exchange. Readers might also be interested in Susan Haack’s Defending Science-Within Reason: Between Scientism and Cynicism and James Robert Brown’s Who Rules in Science?: An Opinionated Guide to the Wars – two cracking reads – and both past contributors to EPISTEME.


Susan Haack – Epistemology: who needs it?

I had the great pleasure of listening to Susan Haack today. Her talk was entitled “Epistemology: Who Needs It?” (see the abstract below). She was wonderfully lucid and engaging without ever coming over as dry or pompous nor losing her stance as a “passionate and unfashionable moderate.” She would be the perfect ambassador for the public understanding of science. Susan must rate as one of the greatest female philosophers around whose expertise ranges from the highly technical to the very accessible. To her credit she has never portrayed herself in clichéd “I’m a female philosopher therefore I’m a feminist philosopher” terms. Her intellectual honesty and openness is beyond reproach. Susan is also a most generous person. She kindly agreed to participate in the first issue of EPISTEME that I edited. Not only that, she hopped off a plane in London for the launch of EPISTEME from China feeling like crap and being the trooper that she is, delivered her paper without any indication of her discomfort. She also participated in the EPISTEME Dartmouth conference three years ago – see her paper here. My favourite book of hers is admittedly not her best one – but it somehow captures her – Manifesto of a Passionate Moderate. Her best and most challenging book is Evidence and Inquiry.

Epistemology: Who Needs It?

This reflection on the real-world relevance of epistemological ideas begins with the thought that all of us—when we wonder what to make of newspaper reports of supposed medical breakthroughs, of failures of military intelligence, etc., etc.— call, implicitly or explicitly, on epistemology; and shows how an understanding of, e.g., the differences between genuine inquiry and advocacy research, the nature of wishful and fearful thinking, and the material character of the relevance and its bearing on what relevant evidence we may be missing, can illuminate the ways in which inquiry can go wrong and evidence can mislead us.

The epistemology of legal evidence

A reminder that the bumper issue of EPISTEME is available for free download. See the first paragraph below which discusses the lacuna this issue fills.



Epistemology and the philosophy of law are both thriving, but it is unfortunate that there is so little interaction between the two. Few books on epistemology deal with legal evidence, and few books on the legal system’s approach to evidence even recognize the sphere of philosophical epistemology. Law is not listed in the index to the admirable Blackwell Companion to Epistemology, and its entry on evidence moves on quickly after distinguishing what epistemologists and lawyers mean by evidence. The Oxford Handbook on Epistemology also has no index entry on law and only one short discussion of how psychology has affected evidence law. Perhaps more surprisingly, the Oxford Handbook of Jurisprudence and Philosophy of Law has 1,050 pages with no article or even entry in its index on evidence and only two pages that refer to epistemology. The Blackwell Companion to Philosophy of Law and Legal Theory does have one short article on evidence, but only one mention of epistemology or evidence outside of that article.

Evidence and Law

The latest issue of EPISTEME is a terrific bumper issue devoted to this fascinating topic. As if that’s not news enough, it is available for free download – hurry while stocks last! As plugged by Leiter.

Table of Contents – Evidence and Law

Special offer – all free issues free until Feb 28

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