Monday, 7 August 2017

Logic as a Human Instrument

Logic as a Human Instrument by Francis H. Parker and Henry B. Veatch is an excellent book which leaves the reader with a good understanding of some of the most important concepts and methods in logic. Here are some useful definitions that I picked up from the book’s Chapter One, “What is Logic?”:

Study of logic
[The study of logic] will be concerned not with the psychological acts and operations of human thinking as such but with the methods and techniques and instruments which must be employed in thinking, if such thinking is ever to lead to knowledge. Or looked at a little differently, logic itself is the means or the technique which, when we observe it and use it, insures that our thinking will be correct and valid and, so far as possible, even true. Thus it was that the title which eventually came to be given to the logical writings of Aristotle, who first systematically formulated what we now know as logic, was the Greek word organon, which means literally “tool” or “instrument.” Thus it is too that, defined in terms of purpose, logic is simply the tool or instrument of knowledge.

The three W’s
[The] three questions—“What?” “Why” and “Whether?”—are natural and inescapable for us; one could hardly imagine a day passing without their being asked in some form or other. That they seek three kinds of object—a characteristic, a reason, and a fact—is also clear and natural, though perhaps somewhat less explicit. When we express the situation in ontological terms and say that the mind intends three aspects of reality—essence, cause, and existence—you are likely to say , like Monsieur Jourdain, “Is that what I am seeking to know?” “But still,” you will add, “I see the connection.”

…[The] three W’s as we have called them, are precisely correlated with and actually determine the character of the three different logical tools.” …The tool for knowing a “what” or essence is a term or concept… The tool for knowing a “whether” or existence is a proposition… The tool for knowing a “why” or cause is an argument or demonstration.

Intentionality of knowledge
The most fundamental feature of knowledge—and indeed of all awareness—is that it is always of or about something other than itself. We have an experience of war, a feeling of pain, a concept of a triangle. We make propositions about bodies gravitating, and arguments about the interior angles of a triangle equalling two right angles. All awareness, all consciousness, all knowledge, is about something other than itself. It tends into, or intends, something distinct from itself. For this reason this most fundamental trait of knowledge is called its “intentionality.” All knowledge is “intentional”; every piece of knowledge is an “intention.”

… The most basic trait of knowledge is its intentionality—the fact that it is always of or about something other than itself. And this trait sharply distinguishes instances of knowledge from other things. Your concept of a triangle, or your proposition about its interior angles, is of or about the triangle; but the triangle isn't of or about anything—it is just itself. So intentionality is the distinguishing feature of all items of consciousness, and the most basic general characteristic of knowledge.

What is a sign? 
The instruments involved in knowledge must also be intentional. Our knowing tools, like knowing itself, must be revelatory, disclosive, meaningful. That is to say, the instruments by which we know reality must be significant of reality. In brief, then, all cognitive instruments are signs. But what is a sign? This question belongs specifically to the science of semantics (from the Greek sema, “sign”), but an understanding and use of logic requires knowledge of the nature of signs. What, then, is a sign?

…Every sign is representative, and representative of something other than itself… For every relation of a sign to its signatum there is another relation which underlies and justifies the particular relation of significance in question. This justifying relation we shall call the foundation-relation.

What is a word?
In forming words, therefore, we are attempting to reduce to a minimum the multiplicity of traits which characterizes natural sensory images.  In short, a word is an ideal sensory image. It is a natural sensory image artificially idealized and purified of all accidental accretions and thereby qualified to convey or signify a single abstract trait.

A word, nevertheless, still signifies only materially; it is still only a material sign since it is a mark or sound in its own right with certain properties of its own which are quite different from the properties of its meaning or signatum. In spite of the purity or singles of its significance, it is still not pure and single in the way in which an idea or formal sign is, for the latter is nothing but significant of its signatum… Moreover, the word is also an artificial sign since its significance depends essentially on an arbitrary human act. And since this is so, its significance will vary in place and time.

The second intentions
Our minds in knowing are first directed toward the world of real, independent beings, and we are not aware of the instruments and operations in which that knowing consists. Real beings, then, as objects of knowledge are our primary objects of attention and intention; they are first intentions, and all of their real properties are called first intention properties. But when in reflection we turn to the instruments involved in this primary intention, we make them objects of a second intention, they are thus second intentions, and all of their peculiar properties are known as second intention properties. This is true of all those features which things come to have just in so far as they are known—such properties as being a concept or a subject or a predicate. That is, the properties belonging to the cognitive status of things, to the status of things as formal signs, are second intentions. This, of course, is not true of material signs like words, since they are real beings with real properties of their own in addition to being signs. Like a pair of glasses, formal signs, though they are involved in our knowledge of reality, are themselves objects only of second intention. Logical instruments, then, are not only beings of reason; they are also second intentions.

The practical point of this second intentional status of logical instruments is to realize that increased proficiency in knowing the real world requires a temporary withdrawal from the real world… to those instruments and techniques without which no knowledge of the real world is possible. This is the job of logic as a study. But logicians, like Plato’s philosopher-kings, must then return to the “cave” of the real simply because the very meaning of the things which concern them in their withdrawal is to signify or reveal the real.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Can a chimera, while ruminating in a void, devour a second intention?