Evidence and Reason

Evidence and Reason

Professor Scott Brewer
Spring 2018 course
Th, F 1:10pm - 2:40pm
3 classroom credits

Prerequisites: None

Exam type: No Exam

The role of reasoned evidentiary inferences in political and cultural life has been profoundly pressed into awareness: it is now an unfortunate commonplace to say that we live in a public space of "post-truth" politics, in this country and more broadly around the world. In such a space, canons that call for careful weighing of evidence and the testing of judgments about what is true are either overtly rejected and disparaged or silently disrespected and unheeded. Reasoned inferences with evidence pervade everyday life and are essential to domains that are of special interest in this course: philosophy, law, politics, science, and religion. In this course we explore several related questions: (i) What is the nature of evidence and reasoning with evidence in the domains of philosophy, law, politics, science, and religion? (ii) What are the criteria of good evidence in these domains, and – closely related to that question -- what are the criteria for good evidentiary arguments in these domains? (iii) In what ways and to what extent are the criteria for good evidence and good evidentiary arguments the same across these domains? (iv) How does the close analysis of evidence and argument illuminate the problem of “post-truth” politics? (v) Is there a counterpart to “post-truth politics” in what might be called “post-truth law”? The course requires no background in philosophy or evidence law. Readings are from cases, statutes, and works by philosophers, intellectual and political historians, jurisprudential theorists, economists, and cognitive scientists. Course work consists of regular class attendance and participation and a paper on a topic, to be worked out with the professor, that is fairly related to course topics and readings.

Subject Areas: Legal & Political Theory