WHAT IS GENERAL FORENSICS?


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edited 3/15/19

We use "General Forensics" in this website to indicate the realm of the original, broader meaning in order to counter the more recent restriction of "forensics" to mean only "scientific forensics." Even some dictionaries have expunged the first option we cite below, for example,  in the broader American Heritage definition -- no doubt more than a little influenced by television and other popular media. Our intent is not to reject scientific forensics but to clarify that any discipline, scientific or not, is a possible adjunct to (hopefully) enhancing older, long-established discursive traditions of law and philosophy.

Here are some sources indicating the historically inclusive notion which we on this website call general forensics:
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language
fo·ren·sics  (f-rnsks, -zks) n. (used with a sing. verb)
1. The art or study of formal debate; argumentation.
2. The use of science and technology to investigate and establish facts in criminal or civil courts of law.
(The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2009.)

The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary  (m-w.com at http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/forensic)
1: an argumentative exercise
2: plural but sing or plural in constr : the art or study of argumentative discourse
3: plural but sing or plural in constr : the application of scientific knowledge to legal problems; especially : scientific analysis of physical evidence (as from a crime scene) (First Known Use of FORENSIC 1814)

The American Forensic Association used to provide (some ten years ago)  a characterization useful to those who would bring important concerns into broader forums, rather than concede it to technical cadres to dispose of such issues according to their own special interests. Here is that characterization:

"Forensics" is a word rooted in the Western world's classical experience. The Greeks organized contests for speakers that developed and recognized the abilities their society felt central to democracy. These exercises acquired the title "forensics," derived from the Latin term for ensis and closely related to forum. Because the training in this skill of public advocacy, including the development of evidence, found one of its important venues in the law courts, the term "forensic" has also become associated with the art and science of legal evidence and argument.

(NOTE WELL: This characterization has lately been replaced by the more popularized, narrower, "scientific" version of "forensics". -- EGR)

The distinction between general forensics as contrasted with scientific forensics is not an idle one. Many of the natural and social sciences recognize a forensic sub-area within their discipline. (For abundant example, see the membership information for the American Association of Forensic Sciences) However, demarcating what aspects of, say chemistry, are forensic or not -- which those proposing instructional programs must do  -- is clearly an exercise in general forensics, not just forensic chemistry. What makes a technical procedure relevant in deciding  questions of applicability and scope -- for whatever purpose -- is often determined by a variety of discourses addressed to a variety of non-technical publics and their varied concerns. -- EGR

See
General Analytic Thinking & Metacognition Catalog
and
Articles Employing General Forensics


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