chapter  14
Epistemic Cognition in Legal Reasoning
ByMICHAEL WEINSTOCK
Pages 15

The stakes in legal reasoning are quite high. People can be sent to prison, ordered to pay large settlements, or denied compensation for perceived wrongs. Moreover, the decisions need to be predominantly right and justified or people will lose faith in the legal system. Civil democratic society depends on the trustworthiness of the legal system and a sound, fair decision-making process. Because of this, and because it is the province of lawyers and philosophers, the rational and evidentiary bases for decisions are carefully delineated. However, how legal philosophers and lay reasoners construe the epistemic nature and practices of legal reasoning likely differ. Whereas the framing of legal reasoning set forth by expert philosophical epistemologists and those trained in legal thinking is important for defining the domain of legal epistemology and for setting ideal standards of legal reasoning, it is equally important to understand and differentiate expert legal epistemology from the untutored, folk epistemologies that lay legal decision-makers bring to the task (Weinstock, 2009).