§3. The Irreducibility of the Categories

 

84. Nevertheless, bad as Prantl's history is, it is the best we have, and any person who reads it critically, as every book ought to be read, will easily be able to see that the ancient students of logic, Democritus, Plato, Aristotle, Epicurus, Philoponus, even Chrysippus, were thinkers of the highest order, and that St. Augustine, Abelard, Aquinas, Duns Scotus, Ockham, Paulus Venetus, even Laurentius Valla, were logicians of the most painstaking and subtle types. But when the revival of learning came, the finest minds had their attention turned in quite another direction, and modern mathematics and modern physics drew away still more. The result of all this has been that during the centuries that have elapsed since the appearance of the De Revolutionibus [1543] — and remember, if you please, that the work of Copernicus was the fruit of the scientific nourishment that he had imbibed in Italy in his youth — throughout these ages, the chairs of Logic in the Universities have been turned over to a class of men, of whom we should be speaking far too euphemistically if we were to say that they have in no wise represented the Intellectual Level of their age. No, no; let us speak the plain truth — modern logicians as a class have been distinctly puerile minds, the kind of minds that never mature, and yet never have the élan and originality of youth. First cast your eyes over the pages of a dozen average treatises, dismissing all preconceived estimates of their authors, and see if that is not the impression you derive from them. Why, in the majority of them, the greatest contribution to reasoning that has been generally applied during these centuries — the Calculus of Probabilities — is almost entirely ignored. If it were only the common run of logics that were affected by this state of things, it would not much matter; for if only one per cent of works on the subject were what they should be, we should still be in possession of a splendid and extensive literature. But unfortunately the general standard has been so terribly lowered that even the treatises written by men of real ability have been but half thought out things. Arnauld, for example, was a thinker of considerable force, and yet L'Art de penser, or the Port Royal Logic, is a shameful exhibit of what the two and a half centuries of man's greatest achievements could consider as a good account of how to think. You may retort that the past three centuries seem to have got on nicely without the aid of logic. Yes, I reply, they have, because there is one thing even more vital to science than intelligent methods; and that is, the sincere desire to find out the truth, whatever it may be; and that those centuries have been blessed with. But according to such estimate — not exactly mere guess-work, although rough enough, no doubt — as I have been able to form, if logic during those centuries had been studied with half the zeal and genius that has been bestowed upon mathematics, the twentieth century might have opened with the special sciences generally — particularly such vitally important sciences as molecular physics, chemistry, physiology, psychology, linguistics, and ancient historical criticism — in a decidedly more advanced condition than there is much promise that they will have reached at the end of 1950. I shouldn't say that human lives were the most precious things in the world; but after all they have their value; and only think how many lives might thus have been saved. We can mention individuals who might probably have done more work; say Abel, Steiner, Gaulois, Sadi Carnot. Think of the labor of a generation of Germany being allowed to flow off into Hegelianism! Think of the extravagant admiration that half a generation of English — decidedly the best average reasoners of any modern people, bestowed on that silly thing, Hamilton's New Analytic. Look through Vaihinger's commentary to see what an army of students have been entrapped by Kant's view of the relation between his Analytic and Synthetic Judgments — a view that a study of the logic of relatives would at once have exploded.1)

85. Had logic not been sunk since the time of Copernicus into a condition of semi-idiocy, the Logic of Relatives would by this time have been pursued for three centuries by hundreds of students, among whom there would have been no small number who in this direction or in that would have surpassed in ability any of the poor handful of students who have been at work upon it for the last generation or so. And let me tell you that this study would have completely revolutionized men's most general notions about logic — the very ideas that are today current in the market-place and on the boulevards. One of the early results of such wide study of the logic of relatives must have been to cause the idea of reaction to be solidly fixed in the minds of all men as an irreducible category of Thought2) — whatever place might have been accorded to it in metaphysics as a cosmical category. This I venture to say, notwithstanding that the lamented Schröder did not seem to see it so. Schröder followed Sigwart in his most fundamental ideas of logic. Now I entertain a high respect for Sigwart — the kind of respect that I feel for Rollin as a historian, for Buffon as a zoölogist, for Priestley as a chemist, for Biot as a physicist — a class of men whom {ohi polloi} always place too high, and scientific specialists too low. He is one of the most critical and least inexact of the inexact logicians. Sigwart, like almost all the stronger logicians of today, present company excepted, makes the fundamental mistake of confounding the logical question with the psychological question.3) The psychological question is what processes the mind goes through. But the logical question is whether the conclusion that will be reached, by applying this or that maxim, will or will not accord with the fact. It may be that the mind is so constituted that that which our intellectual instinct approves will be true to the extent to which that instinct approves of it. If so, that is an interesting fact about the human mind; but it has no relevancy for logic whatsoever. Sigwart says that the question of what is good logic and what bad must in the last resort come down to a question of how we feel; it is a matter of Gefühl, that is, a Quality of Feeling. And this he undertakes to demonstrate. For he says if any other criterion be employed, the correctness of this criterion has to be established by reasoning, and in this reasoning antecedent to the establishment of any rational criterion we must rely upon Gefühl; so that Gefühl is that to which any other criterion must ultimately be referred. Good! This is good intelligent work, such as advances philosophy — a good, square, explicit fallacy that can be squarely met and definitively refuted. It is the more valuable because it is a form of argument of very wide applicability. It is precisely analogous to the reasoning by which the hedonist in ethics, the subjectivist in esthetics, the idealist in metaphysics, attacks the category of reaction. You perceive the analogy between their arguments. The hedonist says that the question of what is good morals and what bad must ultimately come down to a question of pleasure. For, he says, suppose we desire anything but our own pleasure. Then whatever it may be that we desire, we take satisfaction in; and if we did not take satisfaction in it we should not desire it. But this satisfaction is that very Quality of Feeling that we call pleasure; and thus the only thing we ever can desire is pleasure, and all deliberate action must be performed for the sake of our own pleasure.

Every idealist, too, begins with an analogous argument, though he very likely may not remain consistently on the ground it leads to, so far as it leads anywhere. He says: When I perceive anything I am conscious; and when I am conscious of anything, I am immediately conscious and aught else I may be conscious of, I am conscious of through that immediate consciousness. Consequently whatever I learn from perception is merely that I have a feeling together with whatever I infer from that immediate consciousness.

 


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