Two conceptions of relevance

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Courts use complex modes of relevance judgments in regulating the introduction of information and construction of factual narratives. Likewise, common law works both through and around relevance presuppositions in determining doctrine. This study examines different functions of relevance--conceived as different conceptions, at times competing, at times interdependent. The distinctions between these conceptions are arranged on three levels: (1) a normative/"causal" level, arguing for the status of relevance as a requirement for a "meaning-based" conception of entailment and drawing on discussions from relevance logic and modal logic; (2) a pragmatic/metapragmatic level that explores the ways in which law's "factfinding" and other epistemological functions are subjected to normative, practical purposes (under the heading "practical primacy"); and (3) the relevance/metarelevance distinction between the kinds of information admitted to the court's discursive space and the very notion of reliance on information in regulating decision making. All these levels are accommodated primarily by the law of evidence (although not exclusively); in an important sense, they define it. The study claims that although pragmatic and semantic relevance (corresponding to the "fit thesis") are at the center of most studies, it is relevance's metapragmatic function in constituting legal discourse that merits special attention, viz, the constitutive role of relevance in determining what may count as knowledge rather than merely its regulative or derivative function regarding relations between information and presupposed doctrine.ce are discussed throughout.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)283-315
Number of pages33
JournalCybernetics and Systems
Issue number4-5
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Information Systems
  • Artificial Intelligence


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