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Why Are We Bound by Evidence? On The Normative Stance of Legal Proof

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Part of the Law and Philosophy Library book series (LAPS,volume 138)


The article aims at identifying the relationship between legal and epistemic normativity that determines the normative nature of legal evidence. For this task, the categorial tools developed on the grounds of contemporary metaethics are being applied, exposing the polysemic nature of the notion of normativity. It leads to the conclusion that legal normativity functions as metanormativity for epistemic normativity, as in the legal practice, evidence attains its epistemic significance within the course of the inferential interactions between participants of the ‘legal game’. Therefore if epistemic correctness is seen as a subset of legal correctness, at least within the legal evidence-finding process, different aims of both practices could reconcile. In this account epistemic normativity participates in forming the assertibility conditions for legal practice. Legal normativity, understood in terms of the mutual accountability of commitments of the participants of legal practice, gains objectivity in relation to its aim of arriving at a resolution based on factual findings. This objectivity, due to the history of past ascriptions and commitments, is able to give rise to the propositional content of evidence and thus it exceeds formal account of evidence based on coherence to legal standards only.


  • Metaethics
  • Practical reasoning
  • Normativity of law
  • Epistemic normativity
  • Metanormativity
  • Evidence
  • Epistemic reasons
  • Analytical pragmatism
  • Robert Brandom

The paper was prepared within the framework of a research project funded by the National Science Centre (Narodowe Centrum Nauki) (PRELUDIUM 17 2019/33/N/HS5/01418).

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  1. 1.

    Plunkett et al. (2019), p. xi.

  2. 2.

    Postema (1982), p. 165.

  3. 3.

    Marmor (2006).

  4. 4.

    With an example of article 7 of the Polish Code of Administrative Procedure (Journal of Laws 1960 No. 30, item 168), called the “Principle of Objective Truth”, that states: ‘Public administration bodies shall uphold the rule of law during proceedings and shall take all necessary steps to clarify the facts of a case and to resolve it, having regard to the public interest and the legitimate interests of members of the public’.

  5. 5.

    Nolfi (2015).

  6. 6.

    I am aware of the fact that normativism about belief is not an uncontroversial view. For critical examination see Glüer and Wikforss (2018). However, for the purposes of this paper, I decide not to advocate this view, but consider consequences of adopting normativists outlook on belief for the relationship between normativity of law (which is controversial itself, of course) and the normativity of belief, assuming there is one.

  7. 7.

    Côté-Bouchard (2016), p. 3183. I am aware of the debatable character of epistemic normativity, especially followed by a strategy of epistemic constitutivism. I decide to make it a point of departure for a discussion on the topic of the interrelation of both types of normativity, with the assumption that there are such. For a discussion of epistemic constitutivism see Côté-Bouchard (2016), for strategies of grounding epistemic normativity see Grimm (2009). However, as Côté-Bouchard claims, his criticism of epistemic constitutivism leaves open the possibility of deriving the content of epistemic norms from the constitutive aim of belief. I consider the topic of how the content of these norms are being determined as central for the present task.

  8. 8.

    E.g. Searle (1983).

  9. 9.

    Kelly (2003), p. 612.

  10. 10.

    I think it is not necessarily the case that the argument that is about to follow has to rest on the assumption that normativity of epistemic reason derives from epistemic rationality. An instrumentalist view on epistemic normativity is also possibly understood as being guided by norms of instrumental rationality, such as taking the means to one’s (epistemic) ends, although I don’t want to develop it here; for a discussion see Kelly (2003, 2007).

  11. 11.

    Wedgewood (2002).

  12. 12.

    Wedgewood (2002), pp. 268, 272.

  13. 13.

    “Suppose that a certain concept ‘F’ is normative for a certain practice. Then it is a constitutive feature of the concept ‘F’ that if one engages in this practice, and makes judgments about which moves within the practice are F and which are not, one is thereby committed to regulating one’s moves within the practice by those judgments” (after Wedgewood 2002, p. 268).

  14. 14.

    Wedgewood (2002), p. 269.

  15. 15.

    Kelly (2007), p. 468 (in the footnote).

  16. 16.

    Plunkett and Shapiro (2017).

  17. 17.

    McPherson (2011).

  18. 18.

    Joyce (2011).

  19. 19.

    Copp (2007).

  20. 20.

    Joyce (2011).

  21. 21.

    Broome (2013).

  22. 22.

    Copp (2007); after Finlay (2019), p. 205.

  23. 23.

    Parfit (2011).

  24. 24.

    Korsgaard (1996), pp. 7–48.

  25. 25.

    Lindeman (2019), p. 88.

  26. 26.

    For literature, see Côté-Bouchard (2016).

  27. 27.

    Côté-Bouchard (2016).

  28. 28.

    E.g. Velleman (2000).

  29. 29.

    Shapiro (2011), p. 213.

  30. 30.

    Plunkett (2013), p. 568.

  31. 31.

    Lindeman (2019), p. 88.

  32. 32.

    Depending on the concept of reasons that is being adopted. Some grant reason-giving character only to robust normativity, as Parfit (2011) who discerns between reason-giving and rule-implying normativity. Côté-Bouchard (2016) suggests a descriptive reading of ‘reasons’ that are norm-relative.

  33. 33.

    Côté-Bouchard (2016), p. 3183.

  34. 34.

    Rouse (2016).

  35. 35.

    Brandom (2008).

  36. 36.

    Dybowski (2017), p. 25.

  37. 37.

    Brandom (2008), p. 177.

  38. 38.

    Brandom (2008), p. 178.

  39. 39.

    Lewis (2018), p. 9.

  40. 40.

    Lewis (2018), p. 9.

  41. 41.

    E.g. Canale and Tuzet (2007), pp. 32–44.

  42. 42.

    E.g. Dybowski (2017, 2018).

  43. 43.

    Dybowski (2017), p. 32.

  44. 44.

    Dybowski (2017).

  45. 45.

    Finlay (2019).

  46. 46.

    See: Enoch (2019).

  47. 47.

    Plunkett and Shapiro (2017), p. xi.

  48. 48.

    Finlay (2019), p. 192.

  49. 49.

    Haack (2004).

  50. 50.

    Haack (2004), p. 48.

  51. 51.

    Kelly (2003), p. 612.

  52. 52.

    Haack (2004), p. 13.

  53. 53.

    Dummett (1959).

  54. 54.

    Rorty (1979).

  55. 55.

    Haack (2004), p. 8.

  56. 56.

    Haack (2004), p. 50.

  57. 57.

    Wedgewood (2002), p. 269.

  58. 58.

    Feldman (2000), pp. 14–15.

  59. 59.

    Harman (2004), p. 48.

  60. 60.

    Harman (2004), p. 48.


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Dziȩgielewska, W. (2021). Why Are We Bound by Evidence? On The Normative Stance of Legal Proof. In: Klappstein, V., Dybowski, M. (eds) Theory of Legal Evidence - Evidence in Legal Theory. Law and Philosophy Library, vol 138. Springer, Cham.

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