Logic on the Track of Social Change

Logic on the Track of Social Change

Logic on the Track of Social Change

Logic on the Track of Social Change

Synopsis

The book sets out a new logic of rules, developed to demonstrate how such a logic can contribute to the clarification of historical questions about social rules. The authors illustrate applications of this new logic in their extensive treatments of a variety of accounts of social changes, analysing in these examples the content of particular social rules and the course of changes in them.

Excerpt

This book began at Dalhousie University as a project of applying deontic logic (the logic of 'ought' and hence at least in part the logic of rules) to historical topics. The idea was to see how far such a logic, by giving a clearer view of what rules amounted to, and how they differed from one another, would serve as a means of getting a clearer view of social change, in particular, of those instances of social change that consist in changes in settled social rules. This application of logic remains a chief ingredient of the book, and to multiple illustrations of it Chapters 5 through 10, the middle chapters, are devoted. However, the project doubled in import in the course of our carrying it out. Dissatisfied with existing versions of deontic logic--not only in regard to their application to social change--we embarked on the development of a new logic of rules. The development of this logic, which has become a second ingredient of the book as substantial as the first, has gone hand in hand with the effort to apply it.

The result is a book that can be looked upon equally well in two ways. First, it is a presentation of a new logic of rules tested for applicability and for what might be called clarificatory capacity by a variety of historical cases and modified in the course of testing as needed to fit the operation of rules in real social life. Second, it is an exhibition, suggestive if short of conclusive, of the advantages that such a logic can bring to social scientists and historians as an additional instrument of enquiry. It is a logic that presses old questions to deeper levels of precision and brings new questions to light. In particular, as a result of one of its novel features, the reduction of all rules to prohibitions, it gives a new view of questions about conflicts between rules. Rockbottom conflicts, for our logic, are not so much contradictions as quandaries, situations in which the rules combine to forbid all available actions.

The applications of the logic that we offer are all applications based on the works of historians, though we think they should be of equal interest to social scientists. They are applications that fall short of carrying to the end all the historical questions that they relate to. We are, after all, not historians, only readers of historians. Yet we believe that--straining to the limit our own competence to deal with historical . . .

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