The Logic of Guilt, Innocence and Legal Discourse

Part of the Logic, Argumentation & Reasoning book series (LARI, volume 14)


Even though the notions of guilt and innocence are two of the most important ones for any legal system, there are surprisingly deep and complicated confusions that entangle them. There is much clarifying work to be done here, part of which is to investigate the logical principles governing these concepts. In this paper, I build on Larry Laudan’s analysis in his book Truth, Error and Criminal Law. Though I have great respect for the conceptual lines he draws, I will show that the logical relationships of these concepts is richer than Laudan makes out. In order to do so, I will use one of the oldest aids to logical reasoning, the square of oppositions. The square captures these logical relations well, albeit only with some idealizing assumptions in place. I will go on to argue that these idealizations are in harmony with a useful way to model legal deliberation in constructive logic.


Legal reasoning Legal discourse Guilt Innocence Constructive logic Larry Laudan 



This research was financed by the research project ‘‘New Logics for Verificationism’’ PI 1082/1-102288852134 funded by the German Research Foundation. The paper has benefited form comments by two anonymous referees, Georgios Karageorgoudis and the audience at the fourth world congress on the square of oppositions, held in 2014 at the Vatican. I would like to express special thanks to João Marcos and Lothar Philipps. Prof. Philipps sadly passed away recently, and I would like to dedicate this paper to his memory.


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© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Munich Center for Mathematical PhilosophyMunichGermany

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