4. Formalism (III); Session Dec. 12, 2014

4.1 Changed plans a bit. We’ll be concerned with the history of syllogism for a few more sessions before we get to logical formalism itself.

4.2 Now to the passage of Aristotle, Prior Analytics 24b18-20 (see 3.9 ff.), and the exercise from the end of last session.

4.2.1 It’s central term is Logos: λόγος (thanks to @cathyby & @SteveCooke for helping me with the inserting of Greek letters on Twitter).

4.2.2 The Greek term λόγος stands for reason/ratio, as well as for ‘word’ and ‘speech.’

4.2.3 So we are back to the relationship between thought and language (cf. 2.1 ff.).

4.2.4 The term ‘thing’ then in the Oxford Translation (3.9.2; 3.10 ff.) must be taken metaphorically for “the subject matter spoken of.”

[Hope my English is correct here, but I think you can gather my point. Generally, I welcome suggestions that make my English more precise].

4.2.5 Accordingly, they have revised the translation in 1995. Now the passage is about statements, as I indicated in last session’s addendum.

4.3. The general problem is that translations influence philosophical scholarship. And they have done so throughout the ages.

4.3.1. In peripatetic scholarship our passage was largely taken as a substantial claim concerning ‘things.’

4.3.2 Or ‘substance.’ The medieval theory of Substantial Forms (later revitalized by Leibniz mainly on theistic grounds) was of this kind.

4.3.3 Substantial forms, however, are spurious. They are neither form, nor substance, but something rather occult.

4.3.4 That’s not something we’re dealing with in logic. Descartes, e.g., saw substantial forms as impositions of mind onto matter.

4.3.5 He vigorously polemicized against “all sorts of strange objects which have no resemblance to what is perceived by the senses such as ‘prime matter,’ ‘substantial forms’ and the whole range of qualities that people […] introduce, all of which are harder to understand than the things they are supposed to explain;”

[Principles of Philosophy, IV § 201; translation John Cottingham et al. (eds.), The Philosophical Writings of Descartes, vol. I, CUP 1985].

4.3.6 There are problems with the invocation of sense perception as the basis of knowledge as well. But this leads us too far afield.

4.3.7 In Leibniz, at any rate, substantial forms reappeared as somewhat the world soul in all matter, grounded—guess what?—in God.

4.3.8 In this respect, Leibniz is a clear regression behind Descartes. It impeded the development of German philosophy for quite a while.

4.3.9 Despite his invention of the infinitesimal calculus which he purportedly developed independently of Sir Isaac Newton.

4.4 Anyhow, we considered these intricacies only to exemplify how translations may influence philosophical scholarship (4.3).

4.4.1 Having ‘things’ for ‘words’ in our Aristotle passage may well have led to what we called the ‘Syllogism of Things’ in 3.10.7.

4.4.2 But we must postpone our inquiry into the Syllogism of Things (3.10.9).

4.4.3 In our next session we continue with the ‘Syllogism of Words’ and finish our introduction of Aristotle.

Addendum. For the Leibnizians among us who insist on Leibniz as the inventor of the Calculus (4.3.9), a good and thorough account gives:

A. Rupert Hall, Philosophers at War: The Quarrel Between Newton and Leibniz, CUP 1980. Hall presents the evidence and lets the reader judge for herself.