Monday, April 16, 2012

On the great usefulness of logic

The Maverick fires off a broadside today against the usefulness of logic.
If by 'pulling in our horns' and confining ourselves to problems of language and logic we were able to attain sure and incontrovertible results, then there might well be justification for setting metaphysics aside and working on problems amenable to solution. But if it turns out that logical, linguistic, phenomenological, epistemological and all other such preliminary inquiries arrive at results that are also widely and vigorously contested, then the advantage of 'pulling in our horns' is lost and we may as well concentrate on the questions that really matter, which are most assuredly not questions of logic and language — fascinating as these may be.
Against, I cite the venerable Ockham in his prologue to the Summa , as well as my humbly intended summary of the Summa. As Ockham, following the blessed Augustine, rightly asserts, the study of logic (and semantics) "resolves all doubts, dissolves and penetrates all the difficulties of Scripture, as the distinguished teacher Augustine testifies". "The gateway to wisdom is open to no one not educated in logic". For
It often happens that younger students of theology and other faculties overlay their study with subtleties, before they have much experience in logic, and through this fall into difficulties that are inexplicable to them - difficulties which are nonetheless little or nothing to others - and slip into manifold errors…
So if Maverick has a pipe, as I believe he does, he knows what to put in it.


khadimir said...


William M. Connolley said...

No one else has bitten, so I will:

> As Ockham, following the blessed Augustine, rightly asserts, the study of logic (and semantics) "resolves all doubts, dissolves and penetrates all the difficulties of Scripture..."

Can that be considered plausible? Unresolved arguments over scripture continue to this day.

Edward Ockham said...

Maverick has today claimed that this is a misunderstanding of his post. I don't think so, at least regarding the quoted passage. Bill is saying that since logical, linguistic and other preliminary enquiries are widely and vigorously contested, the advantage of 'pulling in our horns' is lost. But as Ockham says, correct understanding and application of logic resolves all doubts, and dissolves and penetrates all difficulties. If his results are 'widely and vigorously contested', then the fault is correct understanding.

Edward Ockham said...

>>Unresolved arguments over scripture continue to this day.

See my comment above. Proper understanding is the problem.

Schimpfinator said...

There is a difference between studying logic to get a grip on its tools and applications, and the proverbial sharpening of logics many knives without ever cutting into anything substantial. Sommers has avoided the deep questions of philosophy, playing it safe with comforting "certainty" (which he actually failed to obtain, as Bill rightly observed), to avoid the challenges of metaphysical heavy lifting.

If you read his publications (or a good number of his posts) it becomes obvious that Bill is well versed in the subtles of logic, and has a keen appreciation for its study.

Schimpfinator said...

More to the point, the reason to devote oneself to logic instead of metaphysics, on Sommers view, would be to work in a feild tht settles disputes. But the war wages on between the new predicate logic and the older aristotelian varities, and I've yet to see any substantial revision of logic curriculums in analytic philosohpy departments. Ergo, Sommers reason for abandoning metaphysics looks lame in retrospect - and had Sommers studied the history of philosophy a bit closer in the first place, he could have predicated the outcome.