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Evidence for a good story. A hybrid theory of reasoning with arguments, stories and criminal evidence

29 October 2009

Promotie: F.J. Bex, 16.15 uur, Academiegebouw, Broerstraat 5, Groningen
Proefschrift: Evidence for a good story. A hybrid theory of reasoning with arguments, stories and criminal evidence
Promotor(s): prof.dr. H. Prakken, prof.dr. P.J. van Koppen,
Faculteit: Rechtsgeleerdheid
Contact: F.J. Bex, tel. 06-20626465, e-mail:

Evidence for a good story. A hybrid theory of reasoning with arguments, stories and criminal evidence

As a result of various high profile cases and (alleged) miscarriages of justice, there is an increasing obligation for investigators and decision makers in the criminal procedure to explain and justify their decisions in a clear and comprehensive way. Here, not only decisions that pertain to legal specifics but also decisions regarding the facts of the case should be justified. In other words, what happened and how does this follow from the available evidence?

In a legal context, the study of evidence is often equated with the study of the law of evidence. In contrast, Bex’ dissertation has as its main aim to propose a theory for the rational process of proof. The reasoning in the process of proof involves constructing, testing and justifying hypotheses about what happened using evidence (e.g. witness statements) and general commonsense knowledge (e.g. generalizations such as ‘witnesses usually speak the truth’).

A central theme in the dissertation is the logical structuring and analysis of reasoning with evidence, so that complex patterns of reasoning can be made more explicit and clear. Thus, possible sources of doubt in the reasoning can be identified more easily. Such an analysis of evidential reasoning uses scenarios or stories about what happened and arguments which can be used to anchor these stories in evidence. Another important tool in an analysis are critical questions, standard questions that can be used to criticize a story or argument and thus help in determining the quality of a decision about the facts in a case.

Last modified:15 September 2017 3.39 p.m.
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