Computatio, Sive, Logica: Logic

By Thomas Hobbes; Aloysius Martinich et al. | Go to book overview
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Hobbes's place and role in the history of political philosophy is both well established and well known. What is less established and less known are his logic and philosophy of language which, in some respects, are similar to scholastic doctrines about logic and philosophical method, especially those of the nominalists, and, in other respects, to some of the most contemporary theories in the philosophy of language. Thus, in addition to my explanatory remarks on Hobbes's text, I will include in my commentary special references, when appropriate, to such seemingly unrelated philosophers as William of Ockham and Paul Grice.

Aside from the first chapter, which is a short introduction to philosophy in general, and the last chapter, which concerns philosophical method, the structure of Hobbes's Logic is similar to many introductions to logic in both the middle ages and the seventeenth century (see Bochenski, pp. 159-162, for the contents of several medieval logic textbooks). The first three chapters in medieval logics typically deal with the nature of terms, propositions and syllogisms respectively. The medieval logicians have a standard justification for this plan. William of Sherwood said, "Logic is principally concerned with the syllogism, the understanding of which requires an understanding of the proposition; and because every proposition is made up of terms, an understanding of the term is necessary" (p. 21); William of Ockham said, "All those who deal with logic try to establish that arguments are composed of propositions, and proposition of terms" ( Summa logicae, I. 1).

After the introduction to philosophy, we see that Hobbes's Logic follows the same plan. Medieval logic texts might then discuss dialectical reasoning and the properties of terms, e.g.,


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