Monday, April 04, 2011

Traditional logic at the Mises Institute

"Jake" writes to me at the Logic Museum saying that David Gordon at the Mises Institute recently held an online logic course in which he used Joyce's Principles of Logic as the class's primary text. "Very intriguing and delightful to see that text being used for a 250-plus-person class in 2011". I doubted Jake for a second, but it seems absolutely genuine. Why would anyone teach a subject that appears outdated and outmoded ever since the famous developments of Frege and Russell and Godel and all the rest? Perhaps the key is Gordon's remark that "The course will emphasize ordinary language reasoning rather than mathematical logic". And he writes
It was not always this way. Logic used to be a key component [of] liberal education: it was part of the classic “trivium”. Being able to masterfully wield logic in debate enabled Peter Abelard to advance medieval philosophy past the Neoplatonic rut it was mired in, and made him the closest thing in his day to a rock star. The School of Salamanca used scholastic logic to give birth to economic theory. Even after scholasticism was unfairly discredited, logic was still widely studied by schoolboys throughout the west. The Austrian School used logic to rigorize and advance economic science. However, the rise of positivism rang the death knell for the widespread study of logic.
And rightly so. While mathematical logic is excellent mathematics, it doesn't capture everything about human reasoning using ordinary language. In particular, as I have emphasised repeatedly here, it captures hardly anything of the interesting and difficult bits. Thank you Dr Gordon.

Some of Joyce's Logic is available at the Logic Museum here.

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