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The Specific Evidence Rule. Reference Classes – Individuals – Personal Autonomy

Kyriakos N. Kotsoglou

This paper grapples with the issue of naked statistical evidence in general and the reference class problem (RCP) in particular. By analysing the reasoning patterns underlying the RCP, I will show, first, that the RCP rests on theoretical presuppositions which we are by no means willing to accept. Such a presupposition is the wholesale approach in decision-making. Secondly, I will show that the very effort to increase the level of precision to a maximum so that a reference class contains a single member only is theoretically inconsistent insofar, as it deprives reference classes of their general (and thus scientific) character. Thereupon, I will argue, thirdly, that the decision to enact a specific evidence rule is a political one and reflects deep moral and jurisprudential values, not scientific propositions. Such a value is personal autonomy, which I go on to illuminate briefly. Whether the trier of fact will treat cases in a wholesale approach or not depends on constitutional arrangements and legal values putting emphasis on the individual and the latter’s dignity.

reference class problem; individualisation; specific evidence; discretion; personal autonomy; statistical inferences


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