Tuesday, September 12, 2006
I don't ordinarily plug books, even those of my colleagues, but I want to make an exception for this unusually important work. Many law professors may not, quite reasonably, know who Larry Laudan is. Laudan is a philosopher of science--concerned, often, with the epistemology of proof and evidence in the sciences--who is, uncontroversially, one of the handful of major figures in philosophy of science in the immediate post-Kuhn generation. He was the founder and a longtime faculty member in the History and Philosophy of Science unit at the University of Pittsburgh, which is still the premier unit of its kind in the world, and is now a faculty member at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (and a part-time member of our Law & Philosophy Program at Texas). He is responsible for some of the most influential critiques of both Kuhnian-style views and of anti-Kuhnian realists in philosophy of science. His classic books such as Progress and Its Problems (University of California Press, 1977) are translated into numerous foreign langauges. He is also the author of what remains my favorite (sophisticated) introduction to some central issues in philosophy of science, Science and Relativism (University of Chicago Press, 1990).
In the late 1990s, Laudan became interested in how the law handles questions of proof, and whether the rules governing proof at trial could be rationalized from the standpoint of maximizing the likelihood of true verdicts. A couple of papers leading up to the book appeared in Legal Theory, the journal I edit with Larry Alexander and Jules Coleman. And this new book is the result of his inquiries. Of particular interest to law professors will be the fact that Laudan mastered an enormous amount of legal literature, both Anglo-American and foreign, which he then subjects to lucid, philosophical scrutiny.