§3. The Irreducibility of the Categories

 

82. We must begin by asking whether the three categories can be admitted as simple and irreducible conceptions; and afterward go on to ask whether they cannot all be supposed to be real constituents of the universe. For when I say that certain metaphysical schools do not admit them, I do not mean to say that they do not admit them as mere conceptions — a point to which they do not generally pay much attention, so that their opinions about this are not very marked — but that they do not admit them as real constituents of the universe.

I do not know that I could add anything material to what I said in my last lecture to show that Category the First must be admitted as an irreducible constituent of the phenomenon.

83. There would be no question that Category the Second is an irreducible conception were it not for the deplorable condition of the science of logic. This is illustrated by the fact that so flippant and wildly theorizing work as Prantl's Geschichte der Logik should be accepted, as it generally is, even among learned men, as a marvel of patient research. It is true that one or two chapters of it are relatively well done. The account of Aristotle's logic, though not good upon any high standard of completeness or of thorough comprehension, is nevertheless the best account of its subject that we have. But Prantl, to begin with, does not himself understand logic, meaning by logic the science of which those works treated, of which he gives or he professes to give an account; and yet with the shallowest ideas, he is so puffed up with his own views that he disdains to take the trouble to penetrate their meaning. The crude expressions of contempt in which he continually indulges toward great thinkers ought to put readers on their guard against him. In the next place he belongs to that too well-known class of German critics who get bitten with theories deduced from general conceptions, and who fall in love with these theories because they are their own offspring and treat them as absolute certainties although the complete refutation of them is near at hand. You will understand, of course, that I do not say these things without having read all the chief contributions to the questions on both sides and without having subjected them to careful study and criticism. Prantl's opinions about the Megarian philosophers, about what he calls the Byzantine logic, about the Latin medieval logic, about the Parva Logicalia, are wild theories, utterly untenable, and in several cases easily refuted by an easy examination of the MSS. Moreover, it is not a history of logic but mostly of the most trivial parts of logic. But I shall be asked whether I do not think his reading marvellously extensive. No, I do not. He had the Munich library at his hand. He had only to look into the books, and for the most part he has done little more than merely to look into them. He really often has no idea of what the real substance of the books is; and nothing is more common than to find in his notes passages copied out of one book which are nothing but textual copies of celebrated passages in much older works. I do not deny that the book is useful, because the rest of us haven't access to such a library; but I do not consider it a work of respectable erudition. There is no need of mincing words because he himself not only refers most disrespectfully to such solid students of medieval writings as Charles Thurot, Haureau and others, but frequently descends to what in English we should call the language of Billingsgate in characterising ancient opinions which he may or may not be aware are identical with those held today by analysts of logical forms whose studies are so much more exact than his that they are not to be named in the same day.

 


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