Picture of A Philosopher Looks at the O.J. Verdict (MP3 download)

A Philosopher Looks at the O.J. Verdict (MP3 download)

By Leonard Peikoff


In one of the most widely publicized trials in American history, former football star and actor O. J. Simpson was tried on two counts of murder following the 1994 deaths of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman. In this 1996 lecture delivered at Boston’s Ford Hall Forum, Dr. Leonard Peikoff weighs in on “the trial of the century” from a philosopher’s perspective, arguing that “the verdict, along with what led to it, reveals in stark purity the contradictions of our legal system and of our entire nation.”

Peikoff looks at the issues raised by the trial and media response -- including reasonable doubt, conspiracy theories, racism, planted gloves and arguments from emotion -- and finds the process deficient from a philosophical point of view. Peikoff pays special attention to the standards by which evidence in a trial should be weighed, and he discusses the difference between arbitrary claims and evidence-based possibilities.

Based on his examination of the motives and attitudes of both jurors and attorneys as well as the controversial techniques used by the defense, led by attorney Johnnie Cochran, Peikoff describes the trial as “a very ugly and frightening turning point” and “an event that forever embodies the essence of an era.”

This lecture was delivered at Boston’s Ford Hall Forum, America’s oldest (founded in 1908) continuously operating free public lecture series. Over the years, such luminaries as Ayn Rand, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Eleanor Roosevelt, and Henry Kissinger have appeared on its podium.

The Q & A that follows the lecture expands on its subject matter and also includes the following topics:

  • Philosophy as a science
  • Government-assigned defense lawyers
  • The movie Forrest Gump
  • The philosophy of skepticism
  • The proper role of a defense attorney
  • Jury sequestration and  jury selection
  • How a philosophy spreads throughout a culture
  • The civil rights movement

Recorded on April 21, 1996 at the Ford Hall Forum in Boston, MA.

(MP3 download; 90 min., with Q & A, 64.24 MB)

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The description of this product has not necessarily been reviewed or approved by Leonard Peikoff.