Lowe, E. J. Forms of Thought: A Study in Philosophical Logic

By Washburn, Phil | The Review of Metaphysics, March 2015 | Go to article overview

Lowe, E. J. Forms of Thought: A Study in Philosophical Logic


Washburn, Phil, The Review of Metaphysics


LOWE, E. J. Forms of Thought: A Study in Philosophical Logic. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013. xii + 213 pp. Cloth, $94.99--Lowe's book is a careful analysis of five central, interrelated notions in philosophical logic: reference, predication, identity, modality, and conditionality. He discusses each of these in turn, explicating them and criticizing views of them that conflict with his own. The book is intended for professional philosophers and graduate students who are familiar with the philosophy of language, logic, and metaphysics.

With regard to reference, Lowe defends what he calls categorialism," which is the claim that a person can single out an object in thought only if he grasps some categorial concept (for example, animal") under which he conceives the object. To support this claim, Lowe first argues that an animal, such as Oscar the cat, is a different object from the hunk of matter of which Oscar is composed and which occupies the same position in space. Oscar and the hunk of matter are ontologically distinct, he says, because they have different persistence conditions. If a hunk of matter loses some of its parts (for example, hair), it is no longer the same hunk of matter. But Oscar is the same animal even if he loses some parts. In order to have a thought about Oscar, as opposed to a thought about the material object, one must categorize Oscar as an animal, at least implicitly if not explicitly.

In his two chapters on predication, Lowe discusses a number of issues, all revolving around his proposal that a version of Aristotle's categories provides a better foundation for ontology than contemporary thinking based on first-order predicate logic. Specifically, he wants to construct a formal language using the notions of primary substance (an object), secondary substance (a kind), attribute (general property), and mode (particular property). Well-formed statements in his language will be necessarily true. They may not mirror natural language exactly, but they will reveal a clearer, more plausible ontology than natural language does.

One of the central notions in philosophical logic is identity, and Lowe (following Frege) says we need criteria of identity in order to be able to think of particular objects. Criteria of identity should have the form if x and y are A, then x is identical with y if and only if Rxy," that is, if and only if x and y are related in the way specified by the criterion. …

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