The Socratic Heart of the Adversarial System

16 Pages Posted: 26 Aug 2014 Last revised: 9 Nov 2014

Date Written: August 25, 2014


Italy is in a special position from which to observe the comparison between the accusatorial and the inquisitorial models, because it has adopted a highly original procedural form. Since 1989, a model drawing its inspiration from the adversarial procedure has been progressively introduced into the Italian inquisitorial judicial system. At first it has been used solely in trials; then, from 1999 it has been extended to all judicial proceedings (as a result of the reform of article 111 of the Constitution). This new introduction cuts deep not only into the judicial culture but also into current Italian culture, because the adversarial principle (in Italy called contraddittorio) was presented as a benefit to be safeguarded and maintained, and no longer as a problem to be avoided. Unfortunately, within the sphere of actual judicial experience the value attributed to the adversarial model mainly consists in a sterile dramatisation of facts. The purpose of this research paper is to explain the intrinsic rationality and the alethic value of the confrontation between the parties. It demonstrates the integral Socratic structure of the adversarial model, which not only represents a logical means of verification, or refutation, of discrepancies in legal arguments, but also defines the truth conditions of legal arguments.

Keywords: accusatorial model, inquisitorial model, judicial systems, Italy, contradditorio, adversarial system

Suggested Citation

Sommaggio, Paolo, The Socratic Heart of the Adversarial System (August 25, 2014). University of Leicester School of Law Research Paper No. 14-21, Available at SSRN:

Paolo Sommaggio (Contact Author)

University of Trento ( email )

Via Giuseppe Verdi 26
Trento, Trento 38152

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