The Routledge Companion to Nineteenth Century Philosophy

By Dean Moyar | Go to book overview

27
POST-KANTIAN
LOGICAL RADICALISM

Stephan Käufer


LOGICAL RADICALISM

Canonical histories of logic, such as that of I. Bochenski or William and Martha Kneale, ignore the work of nineteenth-century philosophers working on traditional logic. This disregard is somewhat justified. Mainstream philosophers working on logic in the nineteenth century make no enduring or significant changes to the old scholastic syllogistic logic; and their concerns do not seem to be properly logical at all, but metaphysical, methodological, or epistemological. Kant’s work illustrates this approach to logic. In his logic lectures Kant adheres to the Aristotelian syllogistic and states that “from Aristotle’s time on, logic has not gained much in content, nor can it by its nature do so” (1800: 534). This echoes his assessment of the syllogistic in the Critique of Pure Reason, that logic is correct and complete, and further improvements are neither necessary nor possible (1781: Bviii). At the same time, however, Kant develops his astoundingly complex and innovative “transcendental logic,” which radically changes metaphysics and epistemology, but whose title seems misleading from the point of view of modern logic.

Recently historians of logic and philosophy have begun to re-examine the logical writings of the post-Kantian philosophers. The early and middle decades of the nineteenth century are unprecedented in the intensity and breadth of challenges to precisely the traditional logic that Kant had proclaimed complete. Immediately following Kant’s work, and indeed because of Kant’s work, philosophers call for a complete overthrow of logic. In 1812 Fichte demands that “general logic be destroyed to its very foundation” (Martin 2003: 36). Hegel writes in his Science of Logic that “if logic has not undergone any changes since Aristotle … then we should rather conclude that it requires a total reworking” (1831: 46). With such provocations Fichte and Hegel invigorate contemporaneous logical thought. They initiate a three-way debate between Kantian, Hegelian, and other logicians about what comes to be known as “the logic question,” a debate that dominates the middle decades of the century. In Wayne Martin’s phrase, this is a period of deep and pervasive “logical radicalism,” of attempts to rework the entire edifice of logic from the ground up.

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