The belief that violence has increased suggests that the world we made has contaminated us, perhaps irretrievably. The belief that it has xxi decreased suggests that we started off nasty and that the artifices of civilization have moved us in a noble direction, one in which we can hope to continue.

The "XXI" in capitals mean 21 in Roman numerals, but I don't think the lower-case letters "xxi" here also refer to 21. It seems that the sentence is well understood if the "xxi" is removed. What does the very word mean here? Thank you.

  • 1
    I've seen lowercase letters also representing roman numerals but it wouldn't make sense in this sentence. Do you think that xxi refers to some piece of information like a diagram or maybe a page in the appendices?
    – Aaron
    Aug 6, 2015 at 4:08
  • I think we need some more context. Where were these excerpts taken from? Was this an online text where this could be a consequence of some character encoding issue? It may refer to a footnote or appendix entry.
    – Alex W
    Aug 6, 2015 at 4:10

2 Answers 2


The sentence containing "xxi" appears in the preface to the book The Better Angels of Our Nature by Steven Pinker. The words "The belief that it has" are the last words on page xxi, appearing just above the page number. The sentence continues on page xxii with "decreased suggests that we started off nasty and ...." The characters "xxi" were included in the sentence by a careless copy-and-paste.

  • I see. Thank you a lot. The excerpt is our English reading assignment, of which I don't know the source exactly.
    – Jarl
    Aug 6, 2015 at 4:51

In the theoretical books I've read, I mentioned lowercase Roman numerals denoting page numbers of the introduction part of the book which is just before the first chapter. When Chapter 1 begins, the pages are numbered with Arabic numerals.

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