§3. Logical Goodness

 

144. In order to answer that question it is necessary to recognize three radically different kinds of arguments which I signalized in 18671) and which had been recognized by the logicians of the eighteenth century, although [those] logicians quite pardonably failed to recognize the inferential character of one of them. Indeed, I suppose that the three were given by Aristotle in the Prior Analytics, although the unfortunate illegibility of a single word in his MS. and its replacement by a wrong word by his first editor, the stupid [Apellicon], has completely altered the sense of the chapter on Abduction.1) At any rate, even if my conjecture is wrong, and the text must stand as it is, still Aristotle, in that chapter on Abduction, was even in that case evidently groping for that mode of inference which I call by the otherwise quite useless name of Abduction — a word which is only employed in logic to translate the [{apagoge}] of that chapter.

145. These three kinds of reasoning are Abduction, Induction, and Deduction. Deduction is the only necessary reasoning. It is the reasoning of mathematics. It starts from a hypothesis, the truth or falsity of which has nothing to do with the reasoning; and of course its conclusions are equally ideal. The ordinary use of the doctrine of chances is necessary reasoning, although it is reasoning concerning probabilities.

Induction is the experimental testing of a theory. The justification of it is that, although the conclusion at any stage of the investigation may be more or less erroneous, yet the further application of the same method must correct the error. The only thing that induction accomplishes is to determine the value of a quantity. It sets out with a theory and it measures the degree of concordance of that theory with fact. It never can originate any idea whatever. No more can deduction. All the ideas of science come to it by the way of Abduction. Abduction consists in studying facts and devising a theory to explain them. Its only justification is that if we are ever to understand things at all, it must be in that way.

146. Concerning the relations of these three modes of inference to the categories and concerning certain other details, my opinions, I confess, have wavered. These points are of such a nature that only the closest students of what I have written would remark the discrepancies. Such a student might infer that I have been given to expressing myself without due consideration; but in fact I have never, in any philosophical writing — barring anonymous contributions to newspapers — made any statement which was not based on at least half a dozen attempts, in writing, to subject the whole question to a very far more minute and critical examination than could be attempted in print, these attempts being made quite independently of one another, at intervals of many months, but subsequently compared together with the most careful criticism, and being themselves based upon at least two briefs of the state of the question, covering its whole literature, as far as known to me, and carrying the criticism in the strictest logical form to its extreme beginnings, without leaving any loopholes that I was able to discern with my utmost pains, these two briefs being made at an interval of a year or more and as independently as possible, although they were subsequently minutely compared, amended, and reduced to one. My waverings, therefore, have never been due to haste. They may argue stupidity. But I can at least claim that they prove one quality in my favor. That is that so far from my being wedded to opinions as being my own, I have shown rather a decided distrust of any opinion of which I have been an advocate. This perhaps ought to give a slight additional weight to those opinions in which I have never wavered — although I need not say that the notion of any weight of authority being attached to opinions in philosophy or in science is utterly illogical and unscientific. Among these opinions which I have constantly maintained is this, that while Abductive and Inductive reasoning are utterly irreducible, either to the other or to Deduction, or Deduction to either of them, yet the only rationale of these methods is essentially Deductive or Necessary. If then we can state wherein the validity of Deductive reasoning lies, we shall have defined the foundation of logical goodness of whatever kind.

147. Now all necessary reasoning, whether it be good or bad, is of the nature of mathematical reasoning. The philosophers are fond of boasting of the pure conceptual character of their reasoning. The more conceptual it is, the nearer it approaches to verbiage. I am not speaking from surmise. My analyses of reasoning surpass in thoroughness all that has ever been done in print, whether in words or in symbols — all that DeMorgan, Dedekind, Schröder, Peano, Russell, and others have ever done — to such a degree as to remind one of the difference between a pencil sketch of a scene and a photograph of it. To say that I analyze the passage from the premisses to the conclusion of a syllogism in Barbara into seven or eight distinct inferential steps gives but a very inadequate idea of the thoroughness of my analysis.1) Let any responsible person pledge himself to go through the matter and dig it out, point by point, and he shall receive the manuscript.

148. It is on the basis of such analysis that I declare that all necessary reasoning, be it the merest verbiage of the theologians, so far as there is any semblance of necessity in it, is mathematical reasoning. Now mathematical reasoning is diagrammatic. This is as true of algebra as of geometry. But in order to discern the features of diagrammatic reasoning, it is requisite to begin with examples that are not too simple. In simple cases, the essential features are so nearly obliterated that they can only be discerned when one knows what to look for. But beginning with suitable examples and thence proceeding to others, one finds that the diagram itself, in its individuality, is not what the reasoning is concerned with. I will take an example which recommends itself only by its consideration requiring but a moment. A line abuts upon an ordinary point of another line forming two angles. The sum of these angles is proved by Legendre to be equal to the sum of two right angles by erecting a perpendicular to the second line in the plane of the two and through the point of abuttal. This perpendicular must lie in the one angle or the other. The pupil is supposed to see that. He sees it only in a special case, but he is supposed to perceive that it will be so in any case. The more careful logician may demonstrate that it must fall in one angle or the other; but this demonstration will only consist in substituting a different diagram in place of Legendre's figure. But in any case, either in the new diagram or else, and more usually, in passing from one diagram to the other, the interpreter of the argumentation will be supposed to see something, which will present this little difficulty for the theory of vision, that it is of a general nature.

149. Mr. Mill's disciples will say that this proves that geometrical reasoning is inductive. I do not wish to speak disparagingly of Mill's treatment 2) of the Pons Asinorum because it penetrates further into the logic of the subject than anybody had penetrated before. Only it does not quite touch bottom. As for such general perceptions being inductive, I might treat the question from a technical standpoint and show that the essential characters of induction are wanting. But besides the interminable length, such a way of dealing with the matter would hardly meet the point. It is better to remark that the »uniformity of nature« is not in question, and that there is no way of applying that principle to supporting the mathematical reasoning that will not enable me to give a precisely analogous instance in every essential particular, except that it will be a fallacy that no good mathematician could overlook. If you admit the principle that logic stops where self-control stops, you will find yourself obliged to admit that a perceptual fact, a logical origin, may involve generality. This can be shown for ordinary generality. But if you have already convinced yourself that continuity is generality, it will be somewhat easier to show that a perceptual fact may involve continuity than that it can involve non-relative generality.

150. If you object that there can be no immediate consciousness of generality, I grant that. If you add that one can have no direct experience of the general, I grant that as well. Generality, Thirdness, pours in upon us in our very perceptual judgments, and all reasoning, so far as it depends on necessary reasoning, that is to say, mathematical reasoning, turns upon the perception of generality and continuity at every step.

 


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