Repainting the Rabbithole: Law, Science, Truth and Responsibility

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Law Department

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Research Article

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Law and Critique

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An exploration of the connections between law, science, and truth, this paper argues that ‘truth’ is an evolving, rather than fixed, concept. It is a human creation, and the processes, or standards, by which it has been evaluated have changed over time. Currently knowledge production is anchored in the natural sciences but reproduced and validated by philosophical rationalisation. There are two problems with this technique of knowledge verification (or ‘veridiction’). First, the natural sciences are not, in fact, practiced according to their ideal forms; and second, the Queen of Sciences, physics, underwent two fundamental paradigm shifts in the early nineteenth century. General relativity and quantum theory entered the scene, sending ripples throughout science, and the social sciences. These changes too have been slowly absorbed by philosophy, giving rise in part to the postmodernist and deconstructivist movements. I chart this gradual evolution of truth and knowledge production in physics and in law and analyse the resistance it has faced from both classical law and classical physics. Finally I argue that this resistance could be overcome, if legal theory, and especially legal positivism, would embrace a more accurate and up-to-date understanding of the science it purports to examine and emulate.

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