I’ve learned much about logic in the week and a half since my previous post here. In that little missive, I wrote about a Peter Kreeft essay that I had trouble making sense of. Kreeft argued that symbolic logic “has serious social, moral, and even sexual implications, and it is one of the unrecognized indirect causes of ‘the culture of death’,” but I hardly recognized in his description the logic I used in undergraduate studies and in work with computers.
After some correspondence with philosophically educated friends, I can say that the first question that would pop into a mathematician’s mind — why not simply symbolize Aristotelian logic in a modern form? — is beside the point. The issue is the difference between the interpretations that tend to accompany the systems. They metaphysical concerns of logicians in the time of Aquinas were indeed different from those of many modern logicians, just as Kreeft says. And at a certain level, this is very important. I’m just not convinced that this level is the level of everyday use, or, if it is, then I suspect the effects are so diffuse that we should counteract them, not by rejecting a useful tool, but rather by robust metaphysical arguments and a sort of logical multilingualism.
But enough rehashing of my own position. What I’d really like to do is point readers to some resources I’ve had recommended to me and found helpful:
- The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy’s article on Aristotelian logic is fairly friendly to non-philosophers. (“It is hard to capture in modern English the underlying metaphysical force in Aristotle’s categorical statements.”)
- Reader “HT,” along with another friend, recommended an essay by Peter Geach called “A History of the Corruptions of Logic,” which is a rollicking good read.
- Martin Cothran is offering a more in-depth defense of traditional logic in a series of blog posts.
- There’s an example-laden defense of term logic in Fred Sommers’s introduction to George Englebretsen’s Something to Reckon With, though I’ve only been able to get my hands on an excerpt.
I’d like to close by recommending that any reader not acquainted with one or both of the logics try them out. In addition to the general benefits of logical thinking, symbolic logic will improve your SQL, and Aristotelian logic will unlock a wealth of Celarant- and Darii-based humor in old books and poems.