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philosophandi rationi congruentissima." It is a theory, indeed, much more congenial to the spirit of the eighteenth than of the eleventh century; nor must it be forgotten, that it was proposed and maintained at a period when the algebraical art (or to express myself more precisely, universal arithmetic,) from which we now borrow our best illustrations in explaining and defending it, was entirely unknown.
II.- Continuation of the Subject.— Of Language considered as an
Instrument of Thought.
IIaving been led in defence of some of my own opinions, to introduce a few additional remarks on the controversy with respect to the theory of general reasoning, I shall avail myself of this opportunity to illustrate a little farther another topic, (intimately connected with the foregoing argument) on which the current doctrines of modern logicians seem to require a good deal more of explanation and restriction than has been commonly apprehended. Upon this subject I enter the more willingly, that in my first volume, I have alluded to these doctrines in a manner which may convey to some of my readers, the idea of a more complete acquiescence, on my part, in their truth, than I am disposed to acknowledge.
In treating of abstraction, I endeavored to show that we think, as well as speak, by means of words, and that, without the use of language, our reasoning faculty, if it could have been at all exercised, must necessarily have been limited to particular conclusions alone. The effects, therefore, of ambiguous and indefinite terms are not confined to our communications with others, but extend to our private and solitary speculations. Dr. Campbell, in bis Philosophy of Rhetoric, has made some judicious and important observations on this subject; and, at a much earlier period, it drew the attention of Des Cartes; who, in the course of a very valuable discussion with respect to the sources of our errors, has laid particular stress on those to which we are exposed from the employment of language as an instrument of thought. “ And, lastly, in consequence of the habitual use of speech, all our ideas become associated with the words in which we express them ; nor do we ever commit these ideas to memory, without their accustomed signs. Hence it is, that there is hardly any one subject, of which we have so distinct a notion as to be able to think of it abstracted from all use of language ; and, indeed, as we remember words more easily than things, our thoughts are much more conversant with the former than with the latter. Hence, too, it is, that we often yield our assent to propositions, the meaning of which we do not understand; imagining that we have either examined formerly the import of all the terms involved in them, or that we have adopted these terms on the authority of others upon whose judgment we can rely."'*
To these important considerations, it may be worth while to add, that whatever improvements may yet be made in language by philosophers, they never can relieve the student from the indispensable task of analyzing with accuracy the complex ideas he annexes to the terms employed in his reasonings. The use of general terms, as Locke has remarked, is learned, in many cases, before it is possible for us to comprehend their meaning ; and the greater part of mankind continue to use them through life, without ever being at the trouble to examine accurately the notions they convey. This is a study which every individual must carry on for himself; and of which no rules of logic (how useful soever they may be in directing our labors) can supersede the necessity.
*“ Et denique, propter loquelæ usum, conceptos omnes nostros verbis, quibus eos exprimimus, alligamus, nec eos, nisi simul cum istis verbis, memoriæ mandamus. Cumqué facilius postea verborum quam rerum recordemur, vix unquam ullius rei conceptum habemus tam distinctum, ut illum ab omni verborum conceptu separemus ; cogitationes que hominum fere omnium, circa verba magis quam circa res versantur; adeo ut persæpe vocibus non intellectis præbeant assensum, quia putant se illos olim intellexisse, vel ab aliis qui eas recte intelligebant, accepisse.”—Princ. Phil. Pars Prima, lxxiv.
I have quoted a very curious passage, nearly to the same purpose, "from Leibnitz, in a note annexed to my First Part (p. 128.) I was not then aware of the previous attention which had been give to this source of error by Des Cartes ; nor did I expect to find so explicit an allusion to it in the writings of Aristotle, as I have since observed in the following paragraph :
Διο και των παρα την λεξιν ουτος ο τροπος θετεος: πρώτον μεν, ότι μαλλον η απατη γινεται μετ' αλλων σκοπούμενους η καθ' εαυτους: η μεν γαρ μετ' αλλων σκεψις δια λογου· η δε καθ' αυτους, ουχ ήττον δι' αυτου του πραγματος" ειτα, και καθ' αυτους απατασθαι συμβαινει, όταν επι του λογου ποιηται την σκεψιν ετι, η μεν απατη εκ της ομοιοτητος: η δε όμοιοτης, εκ της λεξεως.-De Sophist. Elenchis, Lib. i.
« Quocirca inter eos (Paralogismos) qui in dictione consistunt, hic fallendi modus est ponendus. Primum, quia magis decipimur considerantes cum aliis, quàm apud nosmetipsos ; nam consideratio cum aliis per sermonem instituitur; apud nosmetipsos autem non minus fit per rem ipsam. Deinde et per nosmetipsos ut fallamur accidit, cum in rebus considerandis sermo adhibetur : Præterea deceptio est ex similitudine: similitudo autem ex dictione."-Edit. Du Val. Vol. i. p. 289,
Lest it should be concluded, however, from this detached remark, that Aristotle had completely anticipated Locke and Condillac in their speculations with respect to language, considered as an instrument of thought, I must beg of my readers to compare it with the previous enumeration given by the same author, of those paralogisms or fallacies which lie in the diction, (De Sophist. Elenchis, Lib. i. cap. 4;)-recommending to them, at the same time, as a useful comment on the original, the twentieth chapter of the third book of a work entitled Institutio Logica, by the learned and justly celebrated Dr. Wallis of Oxford. I select this work in preference to any other modern one on the same subject, as it has been lately pronounced, by an authority for which I entertain a sincere respect, to be “a complete and accurate treatise of logic, strictly according to the Aristotliean meth od;", and as we are farther told that it is still used by many in the University to which Wallis belonged, as the lecture-book in that department of study;", I intend to quote part of this chapter on another occasion. At present, I shall only observe, that it does not contain the slightest reference to the passage which has led me to introduce these observations; and which, I believe, will be now very generally allowed to be of greater value than all those peurile distinctions put together, which Dr. Wallis has been at so much pains to illustrate and to exemplify.
of the essential utility of a cautious employment of words, both as a medium of communication and as an instrument of thought, many striking illustrations might be produced from the history of science during the time that the scholastic jargon was current among the learned; a technical phraseology, which was not only ill-calculated for the discovery of truth, but which was dexterously contrived for the propagation of error; and which gave to those who were habituated to the use of it, great advantages in controversy, at least in the judgment of the multitude, over their more enlightened and candid opponents.
“A blind wrestler, by fighting in a dark chamber,” to adopt an allusion of Des Cartes, “may not only conceal his defect, but may enjoy some advantages over those who see.
It is the light of day only that can discover his inferiority.” The imperfections of this philosophy, accordingly, have been exposed by Des Cartes and his followers, less by the force of their reasonings, than by their teaching men to make use of their own faculties, instead of groping in the artificial darkness of the schools: and to perceive the folly of expecting to advance science by ringing changes on words to which they annexed no clear or precise ideas.
In consequence of the influence of these views, the attention of our soundest philosophers was more and more turned, during the course of the last century, to the cultivation of that branch of logic wbich relates to the use of words. Mr. Locke's observations on this subject form, perhaps, the most valuable part of his writings ; and, since his time, much additional light has been thrown upon it by Condillac and his successors.
Iinportant, however, as this branch of logic is in its practical applications; and highly interesting, from its intimate connection with the theory of the human mind, there is a possibility of pushing, to an erroneous and dangerous extreme, the conclusions to which it has led. Condillac himself falls, in no inconsiderable a degree, under this censure ; having, upon more than one occasion, expressed himself as if he conceived it to be possible, by means of precise and definite terms, to reduce reasoning in all the sciences, to a sort of mechanical operation, analogous, in its nature, to those which are practised by the algebraist, on letters of the alphabet. “ The art of reasoning (he repeats over and over) is nothing more than a language well arranged.”_"L'art de raisonner se réduit à une langue bien faite."
One of the first persons, as far as I know, who objected to the vagueness and incorrectness of this proposition, was M. de Gerando; to whom we are farther indebted for a clear and satisfactory exposition of the very important fact to which it relates. To this fact Condillac approximates nearly in various parts of his works ; but never, perhaps, without some degree of indistinctness and of exaggeration. The point of view in which it is placed by his ingenious successor, strikes me as so just and happy, that I cannot deny myself the pleasure of enriching my book with a few of his observations.
“ It is the distinguishing characteristic of a lively and vigorous conception, to push its speculative conclusions somewhat beyond their just limits. Hence, in the logical discussions of this estimable writer, these maxims (stated without any explanation or restriction), That the study of a science is nothing more than the acquisition of a language;" and, “ that a science properly treated is only a language well contrived.” Hence the rash assertion, That mathematics possess no advantage over other sciences, but what they derive from a better phraseology; and that all of these night attain to the same characters of simplicity and of certainty, if we knew how to give them signs equally perfect.” (Des Signes et de l’Art de Penser, &c. Introd. pp. xx. xxi.
“ The same task which must have been executed by those who contributed to the first formation of a language, and which is executed by every child when he learns to speak it, is repeated over in the mind of every adult when he makes use of his mother tongue; for it is only by the decomposition of his thoughts that he can learn to select the signs which he ought to employ, and to dispose them in a suitable order. Accordingly, those external actions which we call speaking or writing, are always accompanied with a philosophical process of the understanding, unless we content ourselves, as too often happens, with repeating over mechanically what has been said by others. It is in this respect that languages, with their forms and rules, conducting (so to speak) those who use them, into the path of a regular analysis ; tracing out to them, in a well-ordered discourse, the model of a persect decomposition, may be regarded in a certain sense, as analytical methods.—But I stop short; Condillac to whom this idea belongs, has developed it too well to leave any hope of improving upon his statement."
In a note upon this passage, however, M. De Gerando has certainly improved not a little on the statement of Condillac. “In asserting," says he, “that languages may be regarded as analytical methods, I have added the qualifying phrase, in a certain sense, for the word method cannot be employed here with exact propriety. Languages furnish the occasions and the means of analysis ; that is to say, they afford us assistance in following that method ; but they are not the method itself. They resemble signals or finger-posts placed on a road to enable us to discover our way; and if they help us to analyse, it is because they are themselves the results, and, as it were, the monuments of an analysis which has been previously made ; nor do they contribute to keep us in the right path, but in proportion to the degree of judgment with wbich that analysis has been conducted.” (Ibid. pp. 158, 159, Tom. i.)
I was the more solicitous to introduce these excellent remarks, as I suspect that I have myself indirectly contributed to propagate in this country the erroneous opinion which it is their object to
correct. By some of our later writers it has not only been implicitly adopted, but has been regarded as a conclusion of too great value to be suffered to remain in the quiet possession of the mod
“Aristotle,” says the author of a very valuable analysis of his works, “well knew that our knowledge of things chiefly depending on the proper application of language as an instrument of thought, the true art of reasoning is nothing but a language accurately defined and skilfully arranged; an opinion which, after many idle declamations against his barren generalities and verbal trifling, philosophers have begun very generally to adopt.
After this strong and explicit assertion of the priority of Aristotle's claim to the opinion which we are here told“ philosophers begin very generally to adopt," it is to be hoped that M. De Gerando will be in future allowed to enjoy the undisputed honor of having seen a little farther into this fundamental article of logic than the Stagirite himself.
III.— Continuation of the Subject.–Visionary Theories of some Logicians, occasioned by their inattention to the Essential Distinction between Mathematics and other Sciences.
In a passage already quoted from De Gerando, he takes notice of what he justly calls a rash assertion of Condillac,
Aristotle's Ethics, &c. by Dr. Gillies, Vol. i. p. 94, 2nd edit. + The passage in my First Part, to which I suspect an allusion is here made, is as follows:
“The technical terms, in the different sciences, render the appropriate language of philosophy a still more convenient instrument of thought, than those languages which have originated from popular use; and in proportion as these technical terms improve in point of precision and of comprehensiveness, they will contribute to render our intellectual progress more certain and more rapid. While en. gaged,' says M. Lavoisier," in the composition of my Elements of Chemistry, I perceived better than I had ever done before, the truth of an observation of Condillac, that we think only through the medium of words, and that languages are true analytical methods. Algebra, which, of all our modes of expression, is the inost simple, the most exact, and the best adapted to its purpose, is, at the same time, a language and an analytical method. The art of reasoning is nothing more than a language well arranged.' The influence, I have added, which these very enlightened and philosophical views have already had on the doctrines of chemistry, cannot fail to be known to most of my readers."
When this paragraph was first written, I was fully aware of the looseness and indistinctness of Lavoisier's expressions ; but as my only object in introducing the quotation was to illustrate the influence of general logical principles on the progress of particular sciences, I did not think it necessary, in the introduction to my work, to point out in what manner Condillac's propositions were to be limited and corrected. I am truly happy, for the sake of M. De Gerando, that I happen. ed to transcribe them in the same vague and very exceptionable terms in which I found them sanctioned by the names of Condillac, and one of the most illustrious of bis disciples.
It will not, I hope, be considered as altogether foreign to the design of this note, if I remark further, how easy it is for a translator of Aristotle, in consequence of the unparalleled brevity which he sometimes affects, to accommodate the sense of the original, by the help of paraphrastical clauses, expressed in the phraseology of modern science, to every progressive step in the history of human knowledge. In truth, there is not one philosopher of antiquity, whose opinions, when they are stated in any terms but his own, are to be received with so great distrust.