From philosopher Catarina Dutilh Novaes at Aeon:
In the Critique of Pure Reason (1781), Immanuel Kant stated that no progress in logic had been made since Aristotle. He therefore concludes that the logic of his time had reached the point of completion. There was no more work to be done. Two hundred years later, after the astonishing developments in the 19th and 20th centuries, with the mathematisation of logic at the hands of thinkers such as George Boole, Gottlob Frege, Bertrand Russell, Alfred Tarski and Kurt Gödel, it’s clear that Kant was dead wrong. But he was also wrong in thinking that there had been no progress since Aristotle up to his time. According to A History of Formal Logic (1961) by the distinguished J M Bocheński, the golden periods for logic were the ancient Greek period, the medieval scholastic period, and the mathematical period of the 19th and 20th centuries. (Throughout this piece, the focus is on the logical traditions that emerged against the background of ancient Greek logic. So Indian and Chinese logic are not included, but medieval Arabic logic is.)
Up to Descartes’s time, the chief application of logical theories was to teach students to perform well in debates and disputations, and to theorise on the logical properties of what follows from what, insofar as this is an essential component of such argumentative practices. It’s true that not everyone conceived of logic in this way: Thomas Aquinas, for example, held that logic is about ‘second intentions’, roughly what we call second-order concepts, or concepts of concepts. But as late as in the 16th century, the Spanish theologian Domingo de Soto could write with confidence that ‘dialectic is the art or science of disputing’.
o return to Bocheński’s characterisation of the three grand periods in the history of logic, two of them, the ancient period and the medieval scholastic period, were closely connected to the idea that the primary application of logic is for practices of debating such as dialectical disputations. The third of them, in contrast, exemplifies an entirely different rationale for logic, namely as a foundational branch of mathematics, not in any way connected to the ordinary languages in which debates are typically conducted. The hiatus between the second and third periods can be explained by the fall from grace of scholastic disputations, and more generally by the fall of Aristotelianism as a wide-ranging worldview. More.
An interesting essay and a useful backgrounder, to be sure. However, the problems today occur at a much deeper level: We face radical doubt about whether human beings can, or even try to, understand reality, combined with growing conviction that sciences should just grandfather proposition in principle ruling evidence out of the question. For example, we agree (without evidence) that the multiverse exists and therefore any evidence for fine-tuning in the only universe we actually know of can be ruled implicitly irrelevant. Oh, and post-fact science science can still command respect.
That is naturalism’s fatal gift to science.
See also: A scientist on the benefits of post-fact science
The war on falsifiability in science continues
Evolution bred a sense of reality out of us
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