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Who started logic?

  1. Oct 28, 2008 #1
    Was it Plato or Aristotle?

    I don't need to be told that logic was an evolution that was merely advanced by these two Greeks. But who really gave us the rules of the game?

    I've read some of Plato. Not much, but from his dialogues I gather more ethics and "what does what mean" sort of games rather than any formal system of logic. Aristotle explicity gives us rules and methodoloy. So my primtive answer is that Aristotle "invented" logic, Plato was merely an expert in applying it.

    This being a philosophy forum... I don't want things getting side tracked hehe. So lets assume Socrates and all the pre-Socratic philosophers contributions were minimal as they left little written work. I repeat, lets assume.
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 29, 2008 #2
    Tsk, tsk, do you really think you're going to get away with that, "let's assume"?

    In the Majjhima Nikâya of the Pâli Canon this is attributed to the Buddha:
    This logical proposition, that there are four possible cases for the validity of any statement:
    • p (affirmation)
    • ¬p (negation)
    • p ∧ ¬p (both)
    • ¬(p ∨ ¬p) (neither)
    Were later codified by Nâgârjuna into the catuṣkoṭi or tetralemma. Aristotle undoubtedly encountered this along with other philosophical principles while he was tromping around Asia with Alexander.

    Ergo, the Buddha invented logic.
  4. Oct 29, 2008 #3
    The Buddha made a significant pre-Aristotelian contribution to what would become logic, but just as I would say that the study of what is now called physics began with Newton and Liebniz, I think it would also be proper to say that the study of logic began with Aristotle.
  5. Oct 29, 2008 #4
    I agree. I think Aristotle started it. That info on the Buddha is informative, though.

    Didn't Bertrand Russell raise some hard semantic questions about the validity of Aristotelian logic, though? I don't think it was logic without error.
  6. Oct 29, 2008 #5
    These fellas did: http://www.defence.gov.au/news/armynews/editions/1074/images/cavemen2.jpg [Broken]
    Last edited by a moderator: May 3, 2017
  7. Oct 30, 2008 #6
    Bah! Even in the case of Aristotle in Greece he was preceded by the Sophists, who were formulating a science of discourse a century before him.

    And who knows which bits of his work that were passed down to us were even really written by him? It's scholarly consensus that Ethics, at least, was probably written by Nicomachus. What appears to be a fully-formed system of analysis might well be something that began just as sketchily as the writings of the other philosophers of that era and was continually refined by admirers in subsequent centuries.

    Take a contemporary example, the Chinese philosopher Hu Shi (惠施) who is classified in Chinese annals as a member of the School of Names philosophers (名家, often translated as "the Logicians" or "the Dialecticians") - here are a couple of arguments attributed to him, via the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: (a dan is a musical instrument, I think.)
    We don't have anything directly written by Hu Shi due to the "burning of books and burying of scholars" period in the Qin dynasty, where all viewpoints other than the official state philosophy of Legalism were suppressed. But he may well have laid out analyses as sagacious as what is attributed to Aristotle.

    Or consider the Persian and Mesopotamian civilizations of that time, who were some of the most ancient in the world and to whom the Greeks were mere barbarians of the hinterlands until Alexander came through kicking a▒▒ and taking names (or giving names, really, since he renamed all of the capital cities after himself.) The only stuff we have left from them in that era is what they decided to carve into stone or clay tablets, there very well could have been much more than what is extant.

    I just find it suspicious that while all of this thought was fermenting across the Old World, from the Mediterranean through to China, Aristotle who happens to have tagged along with Alexander across the Levant, Egypt, Mesopotamia, Persia, and northern India came up with the single authoritative analysis of logic. Could've happened, nothing is impossible, but it doesn't seem entirely consistent with some of the wacky and not especially brilliant stuff I've seen attributed to him. I think it might be the result of scholars wanting to have an authority to appeal to and textbooks wanting to have a simple story to tell.
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