Home > history of philosophy, mihwp, philosophy of law, simhp, torture > Andreas Blank – Presumption, Torture, and the Controversy over Exceptional Crimes, 1580-1632

Andreas Blank – Presumption, Torture, and the Controversy over Exceptional Crimes, 1580-1632

February 14, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

The Montreal Interuniversity Workshop in the History of Philosophy is pleased to announce a special session on early modern jurisprudence and its application to the ‘exceptional crime’ of witchcraft:
Andreas Blank (Universität zu Paderborn)
"Presumption, Torture, and the Controversy over Exceptional Crimes, 1580-1632"
The meeting will take place on February 16, 6-8PM at the Department of Philosophy of UQAM, Pavillon Thérèse Casgrain (W), Room W-5215, 455 boulevard René Lévesque, East.
You will find an abstract of the presentation below.
Le Séminaire interuniversitaire montréalais en histoire de philosophie est très heureux d’accueillir Professor Andreas Blank pour une réunion spéciale sur la philosophie du droit à l’âge classique et le ‘crime exceptionnel’ de sorcellerie:
Andreas Blank (Universität zu Paderborn)
"Presumption, Torture, and the Controversy over Exceptional Crimes, 1580-1632"
La communication sera en anglais; la discussion qui suivra sera en français et en anglais.

La séance aura lieu le 16 fevrier, 18-20h, au département de philosophie de l’UQAM, Pavillon Thérèse Casgrain (W), salle W-5215, 455 boulevard René Lévesque est, 5ème étage.
Veuillez trouver un résumé de la communication ci-dessous.

For more information, please contact / Pour plus d’informations, veuillez contacter:
Daniel Dumouchel (daniel.dumouchel@umontreal.ca)
Carlos Fraenkel (carlos.fraenkel@mcgill.ca) (en sabbatique, 2009-10)
Sara Magrin (magrin.sara@uqam.ca)
Dario Perinetti (perinetti.dario@uqam.ca)
Justin Smith (justismi@alcor.concordia.ca)

Presumption, Torture, and the Controversy over Exceptional Crimes, 1580-1632

How should a legal system deal with crimes that are perceived as threatening the very existence of a state and the security of its citizens? Obviously, such crimes pose practical problems concerning suitable investigative methods. But they also pose problems concerning the question of how to evaluate evidence, once it has been obtained. Typically, acts of treason or terrorism are planned secretly, such that many usual procedures of collecting and evaluating evidence are not available. Investigating such crimes, hence, might invite modifications both in the methods of obtaining evidence and in the standards of evaluating it. These problems are far from being novel (even if some of the types of crime associated with them are). In early modern legal thought, they were discussed under the category of “excepted crimes” (crimina excepta). Some early modern thinkers (including Jean Bodin) maintained that excepted crimes such as witchcraft warrant a dramatic lowering of the standards of juridical evidence, some others (including Friedrich Spee) opposed this view. In this paper, I will be particularly concerned with the role of the methodological concept of presumption in their discussion of the role of evidence in cases of excepted crimes. Presumptions are beliefs that are held to be true (or even certain) until and unless contrary evidence forces us to revise them. They are tools for arguing and acting rationally in situations of uncertainty. Obviously, excepted crimes are fraught with uncertainty: Conclusive evidence about who has done what is seldom available, and seldom do we know how best to protect the public from the effects of such crimes. Presumptive reasoning is inevitable here, and hard choices have to be made. And one such hard choice for which presumptions are relevant concerns the permissibility and usefulness of torture.

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