Where Does Logic (Formal) Come From

Where Does Logic (Formal) Come From

‘Logic’ is a word with more than one meaning; but it, like ‘science’, ‘Kleenex’ etc.,
has become a word with a common usage. In our common mode of speaking ‘logic’ means Aristotelian Formal Logic.

Aristotle said “A definition is a phrase signifying a thing’s essence.” Essence is the collection of characteristics that makes a thing a kind of thing. Such a definition expresses what is called a concept.

Aristotle equates predication (all men are mortal, I am a man) with containment. Predication is containment. To make a predication is to create a ‘container’ that contains the essence of a thing being predicated.

This containment leads us to the obvious logic (formal principles of a branch of knowledge) of containers. If container A is in container C and container B is in A then B is in C. This container schema is where all of these Latin terms, such as Modus Ponens and Modus Tollens, come from. This is the source of all of the principles for syllogisms, I think. In other words just imagine containers and various juxtapositions of these will lead one to the principles of Aristotelian Logic. I suspect many Greeks scratched their heads and wondered “why didn’t I think of that?”

“Aristotle’s founding metaphor was Ideas are Essences. To conceptualize a thing is to categorize it, which is to state its essence, the defining attributes that make it the kind of thing it is. For Aristotle, then, the essences of things in the world, since they are what constitute ideas, can actually be in the mind. And for the essence to be in the mind, it cannot be in the substance or matter of the thing; rather it must be its form: Essences are Forms. So, if our ideas are the form of things, and we reason with the form of things, then logic is purely formal, abstracting away from any content.”

“We reason with the form of things, then logic is purely formal, abstracting away from any content.” This, I guess, was the birth of the pure reason of Descartes, of soul in Christianity, of humans placing themselves just below God and far above animals, and of what is the common attitude of most humans.

My claim is that the ideas generally associated with Idealism (pure reason having access to truth, mind/body dichotomy, and certainty) are unhealthy for us and that such ideas should be discouraged. This bit on Aristotle indicates his thoughts about such things and that he is near the source of such ideas.

Am I wrong? Is my conclusion incorrect? If it is correct is it important? If it is important should we try to correct the common attitude of people? If we do not correct the common attitude of people does it matter? Is anyone curious and does anyone care?

These questions are primarily rhetorical because almost everyone, I guess, would have to think and study about such matters for a long time before they would commit a judgment.

Quotes and many of the ideas from “Philosophy in the Flesh” Lakoff and Johnson

With his “innate ideas”, Plato is at the source of idealism. Aristotle is the father of logic but he considered it to be just a tool. He calls logic “the art of arts”. In fact, metaphysics, the study of being qua being, constitutes the summit of his research. It is true that the neo-scholastics repeat that the object of intelligence is the quiddity (form) of the sensible realities. Yet intelligence is also made for the being, which is not a quiddity of a sensible reality. Logic can say nothing of the being, the verb to be having no formal signification. The being is not conceptualizable. The logical view point is in fact a further hurdle to enter into metaphysics.

Socrates, but I am probably in error. Any ideas all? :smiley:

coberst, hi.

In college, I studied Aristotle’s logic for about a semester and a half. First, I didn’t remember him ever useing the name “container.” (No Venn Diagrams – although I find that thought useful.) Predicate means to say one thing of another. This essence is a species of that essence. Or this essence belongs to that essence. Et cetera.

Isn’t the content of the thought, for Aristotle, in the thing? What do you mean by abstracting away from any content, then? What does “purely formal logic” mean? That’s it’s a purely intellectual exercise? You won’t find that in Aristotle.

Actually these attitudes are found long before Aristotle’s time. In the Psalms it says: “God has created you little less than the angels.” And Hebrew people, yes, ate meat even back then.

I recommend reading the original Organon of Aristotle along with the De Anima (which work goes through how Aristotle thought thinking was actually accomplished). It will clear of your thinking of him as an Idealist. By reading secondary sources, you may not get that the original thinker’s thought – perhaps merely what the secondary thinker thought of him in their own time with their own influences.

As for where logic comes from, I would hazzard to guess that it comes from abstraction and the principle of non-contradiction. (Which Aristotle uses to lay out and prove his syllogistic figures.)

Whence the history of logic? I hazzard to guess it comes through rhetoric by way of Socrates, who used rhetorical arguments to apply to the truth of philosophical/ethical matters, and was concretised for the first time by Aristotle.

Warm regards,




Many years ago while rummaging in a used book store I decided to buy “Human Evolution Coloring Book”, I wanted to learn more about evolution. I learned all about how the hand evolved from the fin—or was it the gills—of fish. I looked in vain for a description of how my reasoning ability evolved from the fish.

“Philosophy in The Flesh” by George Lakoff, linguist, and Mark Johnson, philosopher, that I discovered at my local community college library several months ago finally helped me understand this, which since Darwin must be an obvious connection.

Darwin’s theory declares that human capacity grows out of animal capacity but until I discovered this book PTF no one had given me any idea how this is possible. I studied a little philosophy but it never made much sense to me how pure reason with a dichotomy of mind and body could be inherited from tadpoles.

In the last three decades linguists, neuroscientists, philosophers, and others utilizing the scientific method of empirical study have organized a new cognitive theory that is described in this book. I shall call this Metaphor Theory even though no one in this book gives the theory a name. These ‘cognitive scientists’ from many differing domains of knowledge speak of themselves as experimentalists. And the theory goes unnamed. I call the theory metaphor theory and I think that this theory will one day become the first paradigm of a new cognitive science.

We normally think of metaphors as merely linguistic means to associate an unknown with a known. ‘Understand is grasp’ is one common metaphor ‘more is up’ is another. The woods are full of such common metaphors and these metaphors are much more than meet the uninitiated eye.

Metaphor theory claims that almost all cognitive action takes place unconsciously. Metaphors, as we commonly know them, are conscious phenomena but metaphors are more importantly unconscious happenings in tadpoles and in humans. All creatures with neural capacity categorize, conceptualize, and infer; the principal characteristics of reasoning. Here in metaphors we see how human reason is connected to tadpole existence.

A standard technique for checking out new ideas is to create computer models of the idea and subject that model to simulated conditions to determine if the model behaves as does the reality. Such modeling techniques are used constantly in projecting behavior of meteorological parameters.

Neural computer models have shown that the types of operations required to perceive and move in space require the very same type of capability associated with reasoning. That is, neural models capable of doing all of the things that a body must be able to do when perceiving and moving can also perform the same kinds of actions associated with reasoning, i.e. inferring, categorizing, and conceiving.

Throughout our life we constantly make judgments about such abstract matters as difference, importance, difficulty, and morality, and we have subjective experiences such as affection, desire, love, intimacy and achievement. Cognitive science claims that the manner in which we conceptualize and reason about these matters are determined, to one extinct or another, by sensorimotor domains of experience. CS claims that, in many cases, early experiences of normal mundane manipulations of objects become the prototypes from which these later concrete and abstract judgments are made.

“When we conceptualize understanding an idea (subjective experience) in terms of grasping an object (sensorimotor experience) and failing to understand an idea as having it go right by us or over our heads” we are using a sensorimotor experience as the metaphor for the subjective experience. The metaphor ‘understand is grasp’ results from our conflating a sensorimotor happening with a later subjective experience.

Metaphor is a standard means we have of understanding an unknown by association with a known. When we analyze the metaphor ‘bad is stinky’ we will find: we are making a subjective judgment wherein the olfactory sensation becomes the source of the judgment. ‘This movie stinks’ is a subjective judgment and it is made in this manner because a sensorimotor experience is the structure for making this judgment.

Why is the premise “A straight line is the shortest distance between two points” self-evident. It is because this is one of the first things an infant learns and it is verified and reinforced constantly throughout life by our sensorimotor experiences. The metaphor ‘more is up’ is not so pervasive in our experience but its rationale is similar.

If we recognize metaphor as a means to associate something new with something old, something known with something unknown, we can begin to understand what CS is proposing in this revolutionary theory. CS is presenting a theory based upon empirical evidence gathered by the combined effort of linguists, philosophers, and neural physicists that metaphor is a very necessary element of our ability to reason as we do.

We normally think of metaphor as a tool of language whereby one can enlighten another by making an association of an unknown with a known. CS is making a much more radical use of metaphor.

CS is claiming that the neural structure of sensorimotor experience is mapped onto the mental space for another experience that is not sensorimotor but subjective and that this neural mapping, which is unconscious and automatic, serves as part of the “DNA” of the subjective experience. The sensorimotor experience serves the role of an axiom for the subjective experience.


Metaphor theory as expressed by “Philosophy in the Flesh” seeks to show the underpinning that led various philosophers to their particular ideas. PTF lists the metaphors that each used combined with Folk Theories to reach their conclusions PTF claims that the metaphors are the unconscious basis for what we all think.
Being form without content would signify that anything concerning the biology of humans has nothing to do with our thoughts and cognitive science finds this to be serious mistake.


I think that the reply I made to Harvey is appropriate here also.

Metaphor theory as expressed by “Philosophy in the Flesh” seeks to show the underpinning that led various philosophers to their particular ideas. PTF lists the metaphors that each used combined with Folk Theories to reach their conclusions PTF claims that the metaphors are the unconscious basis for what we all think.
Being form without content would signify that anything concerning the biology of humans has nothing to do with our thoughts and cognitive science finds this to be serious mistake.


When you mention “form without content” (or abstract without concrete), Aristotle indicates that beyond the abstract or second substance (ex: woman) and the concrete or first substance (ex : Grace) there must be something which is common to both but which is necessarily neither one nor the other (there is nothing more opposed than the concrete and the abstract). This something in common and first in relation to both is being qua being.

As far as neurosciences go, it is an enthralling field. These sciences call intelligence what Aristotle (with the limited means at the time) calls imagination. However they deny there is a superior stage. That is where they prove themselves to be tyrannical, not so much by what they affirm than through what they refuse.


“However they deny there is a superior stage. That is where they prove themselves to be tyrannical, not so much by what they affirm than through what they refuse.”

I assume you are speaking of Being and the categories of this hierarchical system. Many people seem to spend their lives searching for God (Being). Cognitive science does not have a place for this Being. Perhaps this is good or bad but it is reality as this science sees it.

Hi Coberst,

When I speak of a superior (higher) stage I mean what is neither concrete nor abstract – not necessarily a first being : being qua being is neither concrete nor abstract. Substance is the answer to the question “what is being qua being” ? For us, our soul is our substance. If biological science attained our soul it would attain substance and being. It would then be qualitative, not quantitative. We will never see a soul with a microscope, or any other type of tool for that matter, for a microscope only enlarges what it knows, that is to say what is dividable, thus matter linked to quantity, ultimately the common sensibles and not the proper sensibles. Proper sensibles, as such, are qualitative and quality cannot be enlarged since it is undividable. All the structure of modern science is in fact founded on quantity. Today we see nothing else in the person than his functions and what can be measured. Yet what is measured is quantity, not quality, and naturally we ask: how much does your soul wheigh? Nothing!? Then it is a religious belief! We have reduced the person to the measure of observable phenomena and links of the type antecedent/consequence. By coming back to experience and asking if there is a distinction between our being and our life, we grasp our being in our life. Matter is radically undetermined (in terms of finality) and says nothing of quality. Science and biology look at matter and quantity, and finality looks at quality. Change is the how and the being is the why. If we do not leave the viewpoint of science and biology we will only analyze and reconstruct by describing, like an archaeologist who digs and uncovers many things, sometimes interesting things … never the soul … On the side of its efficient cause (how) intelligence is linked to the physical world but on the side of its formal cause (why) it goes beyond the physical world. If we do not distinguish between these two causes, we can see no more how intelligence (and not imagination) goes beyond the physical world. I hope that makes a bit of sense.


It may just be an urban legend, but I’ve heard a person at death loses about 8 ounces of unaccountable weight.


I still don’t know what you mean by “form without content”…
For Aristotle, form (rationally speaking) IS the content.

mrn ](*,)

I still don’t know what you mean by “form without content”…
For Aristotle, form (rationally speaking) IS the content.

This is tuff trying to explain something that I see as obvious. I would say a house under construction before people move in might be form without content. An abstract concept might be form without content in a sense. We take all instances of love remove, all content that is contingent, and we have the essence of love that some might call form without content. We can imagine a container in space that I would call form without content. Plato speaks always about form without content. It seems to me that form and substance are two different categories. That which is substance I would call content.

My problem is I may not know Aristotle well enough and thus do not understand the question.

I understood “content” as the singular(s) which lead to an abstraction. Form answers the question “what is it”? What determines this, what is its first principle? A man or woman for example. A form only exists in association with a given matter (contrary to what Plato thinks). In the order of the being, the form is the substance-principle (aka ousia). Thus substance is the source of all determinations and receives no attributes. It is neither blue nor red, concrete or abstract, to the right or to the left, and that’s why one induces it, given that it is impossible to feel or describe. We can only attach auxiliaries to it which are not attributes but sorts of synonyms : beign is something (res), beign is other (aliquid), being is one (unum), bieng is true (verum) and being is good (bonum). Decadent scholastics mistook the subject or first substance (eg Harvey) with the metaphysical substance. The first effort of metaphysics is therefore to distinguish “man” and “Harvey”, then to understand than neither one nor the other are first in the order of the being: the substance-principle unites the first and the second substances under the same reality.


I think harvey is correct, as far as understand him.

As I understand it, the primary meaning of substance is of a category of inmattered form (being consists of form and matter (Aquinas)): substance first meaning “that which is neither said of nor present in another.”

The house being built is not complete until it is able to be dwelt in; and then, it is probably only fully actual when it is being dwelt in. (A bell isn’t a bell until you ring it./A song isn’t a song until you sing it.) That is if by a house you mean a “dwelling”.

I must admit that these matters Harvey is discussing are beyond my level of knowledge. I cannot offer any considered opinion on the matter. Harvey, evidently you know much about such matters.