SOPhiA 2019

Salzburgiense Concilium Omnibus Philosophis Analyticis

SOPhiA ToolsDE-pageEN-page

Programme - Talk

The value of predictions for criminal cases: on inference to the best explanation and predictivism
(Philosophy of Science, English)

That predictions play a key role in the assessment of scientific explanations, such as models and theories, is uncontroversial. However, many philosophers of science also defend the more controversial position of predictivism. This is the thesis that when a scientific explanation is confirmed by a successful prediction, it receives more confirmation from this than if the same fact had been accommodated -- where the explanation was built to fit that fact.

In this paper I defend predictivism in the context of criminal cases. Like in science, assessing the truthfulness of explanations is a key part of criminal trials. These explanations come in the form of the stories that the prosecution and/or the defense construct to explain the evidence in the case. Such stories also yield predictions. I argue that when a story is confirmed by a successful prediction, this often gives us an additional reason to infer the truth of that story through a process called inference to the best explanation. A story that accommodates typically does not receive the same benefit.

I distinguish two kinds of stories and argue in favor of predictivism for both. Some stories are built mainly around the testimony of a witness or defendant. Successful prediction gives us a reason to believe that the person who tells the story is credible and reliable. Other stories are constructed through a (police) investigation. Building on the work of Peter Lipton I argue that a successful prediction made by a story of this kind is evidence investigators did not "fudge" the explanation and that the explanation is not based on a biased or misleading set of evidence. I explain the benefits of prediction for both kinds of stories using a real criminal case.

Chair: Gregor Greslehner
Time: 16:00-16:30, 18 September 2019 (Wednesday)
Location: SR 1.005

Hylke Jellema 
(University of Groningen, The Netherlands)

Hylke Jellema is a PhD student at the University of Groningen, Faculty of Law. His research focuses on how to combine Bayesian and explanation-based approaches to criminal evidence.

Testability and Meaning deco