, Volume 27, Issue 3, pp 259–282 | Cite as

Burdens of Proof and the Case for Unevenness

  • Imran Aijaz
  • Jonathan McKeown-Green
  • Aness WebsterEmail author


How is the burden of proof to be distributed among individuals who are involved in resolving a particular issue? Under what conditions should the burden of proof be distributed unevenly? We distinguish attitudinal from dialectical burdens and argue that these questions should be answered differently, depending on which is in play. One has an attitudinal burden with respect to some proposition when one is required to possess sufficient evidence for it. One has a dialectical burden with respect to some proposition when one is required to provide supporting arguments for it as part of a deliberative process. We show that the attitudinal burden with respect to certain propositions is unevenly distributed in some deliberative contexts, but in all of these contexts, establishing the degree of support for the proposition is merely a means to some other deliberative end, such as action guidance, or persuasion. By contrast, uneven distributions of the dialectical burden regularly further the aims of deliberation, even in contexts where the quest for truth is the sole deliberative aim, rather than merely a means to some different deliberative end. We argue that our distinction between these two burdens resolves puzzles about unevenness that have been raised in the literature.


Burden of proof Presumption Argumentation Expected utility 



We would like to thank Tim Dare, Justine Kingsbury, Fred Kroon, Immi Patterson, Glen Pettigrove, Chris Tucker, Konni Woods and three anonymous reviewers for detailed comments on various versions of this paper. We would also like to thank the audience at the 2008 meeting of the Australasian Association of Philosophy (New Zealand Division).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Imran Aijaz
    • 1
  • Jonathan McKeown-Green
    • 2
  • Aness Webster
    • 3
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Literature, Philosophy and The ArtsThe University of Michigan-DearbornDearbornUSA
  2. 2.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of AucklandAucklandNew Zealand
  3. 3.School of PhilosophyUniversity of Southern CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA

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