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ANALYSIS OF THE SCHOLASTIC LOGIC, CONTINUED.-ORDER K. RELATIONS OF SUCCESSION.
IN my last Lecture, Gentlemen, after analysing the process of ratiocination, and explaining the laws, on which the order of its regular series of propositions depends, I proceeded to consider the logic of the schools, as an instrument of reasoning, not on account of any merits, which I supposed it to possess, as an useful instrument for this purpose, but merely from that interest, which even error itself acquires, when it is regarded as the error of all the wise, or of all who were considered as wise, for many ages. The ruins of a mighty intellectual system must surely be viewed by us, with some portion at least of that emotion, which is so readily excited by the decaying monuments, and the mere workmanship of mechanic art, in the ruins of an ancient city, or even of the solitary castle of some distinguished chieftain. It is impossible not to pause on the intellectual ruin, as we would pause on some half worn sculpture, or fallen column,-when the same column or sculpture, if existing entire in any modern edifice, would scarcely attract our regard.
In considering this ancient system, ancient, unfortunately, only if we date it from the period at which it began its destructive reign, and not, if we date it from the period of its decay,-I endeavoured to show you, by a comparison of the process of the syllogistic art with the process, by which, without any such artificial system, we advance from truth to truth, in those progressive feelings of relation, which arise when we are said to reflect or medi. tate on a subject, how much simpler and shorter the natural process of two propositions at every stage, is, than the artificial process of three at every stage; and what inconsistency is implied,
in the very theory of the syllogism, if considered as an art of acquiring truth, and not merely as an art of communicating it; since the very knowledge implied in the major proposition, which, in the syllogism, is the first proposition of the series, supposes the previous feeling of that relation, which is expressed in the conclusion,-for the discovery of which ultimate relation alone, the syllogism is supposed to be invented. If we have previously felt this relation, which the conclusion expresses, we have evidently no need of the syllogism, which is technically to unfold it to us; if we have not previously felt it, we cannot admit the major proposition of the syllogism, which is the first step of the reasoning; and that which teaches us, by a series of propositions, only what we have admitted already, before the first proposition, cannot surely be supposed to add much to our stock of truths.
The natural process of reasoning, by two propositions, instead of the three, which the syllogism would force us to use, has been allowed, indeed, by logicians to have a place in their system; because, with all their fondness for their own technical modes and figures, they had not quite sufficient hardihood to deny, that it is at least possible for us to reason sometimes, as in truth we always reason. Their only resource, therefore, was to reduce this natural process under their own artificial method, and to give it a name, which might imply the necessity of this reduction, before the reasoning itself could be worthy of that honourable title. They supposed, accordingly, the proposition which was technically wanting, to be understood, in the mind of the thinker or hearer, and termed the reasoning, therefore, an enthymeme. It was, they said, a truncated or imperfect syllogism. They would have expressed themselves more accurately, if they had described their own syllogism, as, in its relation to the natural analytic process of our thought, a cumbrous and overloaded enthymeme.
The imperfection of the syllogism, as an instrument of reasoning for the acquisition of knowledge, is strikingly shewn by the very examples, which every writer on the subject employs, to illustrate its power. If all the instances, that have been used for this purpose, in the innumerable works of the schoolmen, were collected together,-though they might make a pretty large volume, they would not communicate to the most ignorant reader a single truth; and can we think, then, that the superior facility,
which it gives for the discovery of truth, is an excellence, to which it may fairly lay claim? If the art could have been made profitable, in any way, for discovery, there can be no doubt, that some zealous admirer of it, in the enthusiasm of his admiration, would have illustrated its power by some applications of it, that were more than verbal trifling. Yet, I may safely venture to say, that a mere perusal of the reasonings, brought forward as illustrative of the power of the syllogism, would be sufficient to convince the reader, if he had any doubt before of the absolute inefficacy of the art, of which he was perusing the shadowy achievements.
It is very justly remarked, by Dr Reid,-in his "Brief Account of Aristotle's Logic," published by Lord Kames, in the last volume of his Sketches," That the defects of this system were less apparent, in the original works of its inventor, than in the works of his commentators,-from this circumstance, that Aristotle, in discussing the legitimate syllogisms, never makes use of real syllogisms, to illustrate his rules, but avails himself of the mere letters of the alphabet, as representative of the subjects and predicates of his propositions."*"The commentators, and systematical writers in logic," says Dr Reid, "have supplied this defect, and given us real examples, of every legitimate mode, in all the figures. We acknowledge this to be charitably done, in order to assist the conception in matters so very abstract; but whether it was prudently done for the honour of the art, may be doubted. I am afraid, this was to uncover the nakedness of the theory; it has undoubtedly contributed to bring it into contempt; for when one considers the silly and uninstructive reasonings, that have been brought forth by this grand organ of science, he can hardly forbear crying out, Parturiunt montes, et nascitur ridiculus mus.' Many of the writers on logic," continues Dr. Reid," are acute and ingenious, and much practised in the syllogistical art; and there must be some reason, why the examples they have given of syllogisms are so lean.”†
The reason of this leanness, of which Dr. Reid speaks, is not very difficult of discovery. It is to be found in the nature of the syllogism itself, which, as I have shewn, assumes, and must assume,
Ch. iv. sect. 3.--The language somewhat varied.
+ Ch. iv. sect. 3.
in every case, as evident, and already felt, in the major proposition, the very truth, which the technical reasoner is afterwards supposed to discover by the aid of the two following propositions. No choice, therefore, was left to the illustrator of the technical process, but of such puerile and profitless examples, as have been uniformly employed for illustration; because any other examples would have shewn the total inapplicability of his boasted art. It is very evident, that the art could not be regarded as of the slightest efficacy, unless the conclusion, which was the important proposition, were to be attended with belief; and since the truth of the conclusion, if felt at all, must, as I have shewn, have been felt, before the major proposition itself could have been admitted, this primary feeling of the truth of the conclusion, before the opening of the argument, necessarily limited the argument itself, to the demonstration of propositions, of which no proof was requisite. Since the major is only another form of expressing the conclusion, it is manifest, that if the syllogism had attempted to add any thing to our knowledge, it must have enunciated something in the major proposition, which was previously unknown,-which, therefore, as unknown, we should have required to be itself proved, and of which the remaining propositions of the syllogism were far from affording any proof. To obtain immediate assent, therefore, for the major, it was absolutely necessary, not to enunciate in it any thing, which was not either self-evident, or previously demonstrated; and the unfortunate logician, if he expected his syllogisms to be credited, was thus obliged to shew the wonders of his art, by proving Peter to be a sinner, because all men are sinners; or demonstrating that a horse has four legs, because it is a quadruped. All quadrupeds have four legs—but a horse is a quadruped-therefore a horse has four legs.
These remarks, though relating chiefly to the influence of this technical process, as a supposed mode of facilitating the acquisition of knowledge in our own meditative reasonings, may have already shewn you, that, if the syllogism was inefficacious, and, I may say, even worse than inefficacious, as a process for discovering truth, it was not less inadequate as an instrument for communicating truth to others; though it is for its supposed advantages in this respect that, of late at least, when we are beginning to recover from our transcendental admiration of it, it has been chief
ly panegyrized or defended. A very little attention to the nature of the different propositions of the syllogism, will be sufficient to shew that the same fundamental error, which renders it useless for discovering truth, renders it equally useless for the developement of it; and that, as our internal reasoning is only a series of enthymemes, it is only by such a series of enthymemes as that by which truth unfolds itself to our own minds, that it can be successfully unfolded to the minds of others.
In the attempt to communicate knowledge by the technical forms of reasoning, the major proposition, as first stated in the argument, must of course have been supposed to be understood and admitted when stated, since, if not admitted by the hearer or reader as soon as stated, it would itself stand in need of proof; and if it was so understood and admitted, of what use would the remaining propositions of the syllogism be, since they could communicate no truth that was not communicated and felt before? There is no absurdity in supposing, that we may admit the conclusion of a syllogism, without admitting the major proposition; since the major, though it involves the conclusion, involves some more general relations. We may admit, for example, that Peter is six feet high, though, if his stature were attempted to be demonstrated to us by the syllogism, all men are six feet high; but Peter is a man, therefore Peter is six feet high,—we 'should certainly object to the major proposition, and form our belief only on particular observation of the individual. But though we may thus admit the proposition which forms the conclusion of a syllogism, without admitting the major proposition, from which it is said to flow, it is absolutely impossible that we should know the meaning of the major, and admit it, without admitting also, tacitly, indeed, but with equal feeling of its truth, the conclusion itself. The whole question, as we have seen, relates to the feeling of the truth of the major proposition; for, if it be true, and felt to be true, all the rest is already allowed; and yet this most important of all propositions, which, if the conclusion be of a kind that demands proof, must itself demand proof still more, is the very proposition which is most preposterously submitted to us in the first place for our assent, without any proof whatever,-the honour of a proof being reserved only for a proposition, which, if the major require no proof, must be itself too clear to stand in need of it. As a mode of communicating