Vanderbilt Law Review

Article Title

Real Proof I

First Page



The trial of an issue of fact is an epistemic, a logical, and a legal affair. In its epistemic aspect it can be viewed as a process of learning: By means of the trial the jury acquires the knowledge which it must have in order to decide the issue. The analysis of this aspect of a trial is primarily concerned with the different kinds of knowledge and with the various ways in which knowledge is obtained. In its logical aspect the trial of an issue of fact can be viewed as a process of teaching: By their proof and disproof of the contradictory propositions of which the issue is constituted," the litigants impart to the jury the knowledge which it needs in order to resolve the issue. The analysis of this aspect of a trial distinguishes the kinds of propositions which are employed in the proof and disproof of material propositions, formulates the conditions of the assertion of propositions as true or false or as probable to some degree, and states the rules of contradiction and of inference 'which are the criteria of the formal validity of the probative processes which litigants undertake. In its legal aspect a trial can be viewed as a judicially administered proceeding designed to resolve material issues, but serving other ends as well. The rules of procedural law which govern the judicial administration of a trial, having these various ends in view, determine how a jury may acquire the knowledge it needs and what litigants may do in their efforts at proof and disproof.

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