Roman Logic

The Roman tradition of Ei incumbit probatio qui dicit, non qui negat (“Proof is incumbent upon him who asserts, not on him who denies”) must be deconstructed. We’ve relied on this model since at least the 6th century. It has been the basis for the “presumption of innocence” or “innocent until proven guilty” model that is currently in question by the mainstream.

I think it is proper that we question it.

However, it is not enough to simply question it. If all we do is question it then we leave it to somebody else to provide the answer. So, lets deconstruct it a little bit. The first clause states that it is the one who affirms something who bears the responsibility of defending that proposition, and the second clause states that it is not him who denies the allegation.

Thus, it is improper to begin with the assumption that those who are charged with something are guilty. It is much rather proper to assert that those who are making a claim against somebody hold the burden of proof. No doubt, this produces all kinds of injustices in the world. Yet, it has been our model for centuries.

I was once in an anarchist collective that relied on consensus decision making. We explicitly did not make use of Roman logic. As a consequence, we found collective decision-making quite arbitrary – or, at least, some of us noticed that there were some people in the collective who discovered how to abuse the system. The following occurred regularly:

Meeting #1:

Proposal: George proposes that we add non-vegan muffins to stock.
Rejections: 7 collective members.
Decision: We do not serve non-vegan muffins. Decision was blocked.

This decision is based on the logic that if just one person negates, then the decision is blocked. All is well at this point, and justice seems to be served. However:

Meeting #2:

Proposal: George proposes that we DO NOT add non-vegan muffins to our product list.
Rejections: 1 collective member rejects, the proposer.
Decision: We DO serve non-vegan muffins.

You can see the logical problem. In both cases, a proposal can be made to pass if constructed either negatively or positively. As the size of the group grows, the probability of situation #2 happening increases.

However, if our collective had made a decision to not allow NEGATIVE proposals then we would have constructed a logic that could defend itself against this sort of abuse. The same happens when we favor an inverted version of Roman logic: “Proof is NOT incumbent upon him who asserts, but on him who denies.”)

This leaves open the question of what constitutes a proof. Certainly, I am of the opinion that a proof does not need to be sanctioned by the state, police, or judicial system for it to be a proof. Many things can count as proofs. The debate about what constitutes a proof is an important one. But before we can have the more important discussion we need to be sure we are not defenders of a logic which places the burden of proof on those against whom a charge has been brought.

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3 thoughts on “Roman Logic

  1. I have a feeling that this is a logic related to the ‘liar paradox’. A simple way to resolve this would be that the ‘proposer’ of a proposition be banned from voting on it. It may take too much effort than its worth to work this out, so i’ll just comment.

    I also don’t think you’ve put much thought into to it. I’ve been in anarchist collectives like this; alot of the people actually are a bit arrogant in that they do use consensus on things like vegan muffins, and are also stridently anticapitalist and tell anyone that ‘anarchism is the one true way’; but everyone morning they go to their job to get some money and then go to the store. The exact same mentality as some preacher who says ion his sermon ‘gays should die, and women should shut up, and money is wrong’, and after that takes the tithes to his local gay club to have fun.

    Also, I am ‘suspicious’ that this blog may be just one more production similar to some deranged lunatic or preacher on a street corner who holds you up, wastes your time, and says they are saying something profound and you should just listen to him or her. I saw your revision of Lacan’s formula; in college I knew and hung out with a bunch of semiotics people into lacan, derrida, situationism etc. but I was into ‘hard’ (math) sciences, so I think Alan Sokal’s view that this whole approach (like Levy—larval subjects) is actually a combination of essentially poetry or art (throwing paint on a canvas or making rhymes doesn’t design or build the computer the ‘aesthete ‘ uses or anything—so they should be seen as parasites or entertainers like prostitutes). And it may be actually ‘authoritarian’ like religion because this line of work is passed off as worth learning, and one can sell it from a university position (similar to a preacher). Your formula might be gibberish (eminem) so sure call it art, but don’t waste my time saying I should listen to and pay you to explain it to me.

    My view is you wrote an abstract, so tell us the punch line. What does that formula say, since you use some well kniown math symbols which do have meaning, like letters and words do.

    Also,you say you are an anarchist and i once did too, though now i prefer anti-authoritarian because to me anarchism is a bit like religion—some people even consider me to be a christian because i believe in the golden rule (actuallly, i don’t but i think that ‘ethical/moral principle’ is an ideal that appears to be worth striving for.) The anarchists I know/knew tend to either fairly meek worker bees who don’t think about issues much, like many christians. They just say ‘im an anarchist’. The other sort are essentially type A greedy, authoritarian types who compete to define what anaerchism is and thus who gets to dominate the group. Many of these people never actually do anything collectively that is important. The most functional anarchist collectives I’ve observed (meaning they do something other than slef-promote and sell their little clique and cult, typically of the sort of the ‘cool hipster ‘ variety (eg crimethinc) actually rely for 60-90% of their activity on non-anarchists. This is similar to the whole ‘antiempiralist/anticapitalist left’ which usually organizes their activity so they can buy computers created in some sweatshop . Maybe people are trying—-some people do have gardens, but those ‘vegan muffins’ in general still rely mostly on agricultural companies, capitalist farmers.

    Yet the people eating those animal-cruelty free muffins won’t mention the people who spend their lives farming or driving trucks, etc so they can get the ingrediants.

    Perhaps you have a Lacanian math formula to decide whether some logic other than ‘roman’ can tell what the collective should do. Maybe just dont buy muffins until they are ‘cruelty free’ for the say whole ecosystem.

  2. is liking pizza compatible with anarchism, or does it, and the preferences it represents, actually legitimize and maintain current rulers and rules, including ‘roman logic’? i went to some group discussing jacobin mag the other day, and in the discussion one person pointed out local food (eg tomatoes grown in greenhouses in the winter) actually had a greater carbon footprint than if you flew them in from chile. i’ve seen similar arguments—eg we should grow flowers in kenya, and completely deplete the local lakes and water table and pollute it with pesticides, so we can have flowers on valentines day. or, we should deforest the amazon jungle to grow soy and cattle so europeans have something they like to eat. It seems possible many of these preferences are actually viruses or memes installed by the ETs and other aliens who rule the universe. The famous scientist Kurt Vonnegut, along with Fred Hoyle of cosmology, developed this theory in sirens of titan. Perhaps some Lacanian psychotherapy applied to these ETs could convince them to try a new programming language to hack the universe in new ways, or one could DIY and hack them instead.. . Extra extra hear all about it..

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