Justification Under Uncertainty


There is a controversy as to the moral status of an action in the face of uncertainty concerning a non-moral fact that is morally significant (according to an applicable moral standard): According to the objective conception, the right action is determined in light of the truth, namely the actual state of affairs (regarding the pertinent fact), whereas according to the subjective conception, the right action depends on the epistemic state of the agent, namely her (justified) belief (concerning the pertinent fact). A similar debate concerns the law, with respect to uncertainty regarding a legally significant fact. In this paper, I argue that moral and legal normative concepts are ambiguous and include two aspects: The ideal aspect, which is concerned with the constitutive feature of the normative standard, and the pragmatic aspect, which determines the correct action under uncertainty. With regard to each aspect, a different conception is appropriate: The objective conception should govern the ideal aspect and the subjective conception the pragmatic aspect. And the relevant aspect (and therefore the appropriate conception) depends on the question under consideration regarding the pertinent normative standard: what is its constitutive feature or whether an action is right (according to the applicable normative standard) in the face of uncertainty.

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Correspondence to Re’em Segev.

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Segev, R. Justification Under Uncertainty. Law and Philos 31, 523–563 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10982-012-9131-8

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  • Epistemic State
  • Criminal Liability
  • Normative Concept
  • Objective Conception
  • Subjective Conception