Front Page Titles (by Subject) WHATELY'S ELEMENTS OF LOGIC 1828 - The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XI - Essays on Philosophy and the Classics
Return to Title Page for The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XI - Essays on Philosophy and the Classics
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
WHATELY’S ELEMENTS OF LOGIC 1828 - John Stuart Mill, The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XI - Essays on Philosophy and the Classics 
The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XI - Essays on Philosophy and the Classics, ed. John M. Robson, Introduction by F.E. Sparshott (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1978).
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The online edition of the Collected Works is published under licence from the copyright holder, The University of Toronto Press. ©2006 The University of Toronto Press. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced in any form or medium without the permission of The University of Toronto Press.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
WHATELY’S ELEMENTS OF LOGIC
Westminster Review, IX (Jan., 1828), 137-72, headed: “Art. VII:—1. Elements of Logic. Comprising the Substance of the / Article in the Encyclopædia Metropolitana, with additions, &c. By / Richard Whately, D. D., Principal of St. Alban’s Hall, and late / Fellow of Oriel College, Oxford. London. Mawman. 1826. / 2. The Second Edition of the same. 1827.” Running head: “Whately’s Elements of Logic.” Unsigned. Not republished. Identified in JSM’s bibliography as “A review of Whately’s Elements of Logic, in the 17th number of the Westminister Review” (MacMinn, 9). There is no separate copy of this article in the Somerville College Library.
A significant portion of the text is quoted in JSM’s System of Logic. In the footnoted variants that derive from that quotation, the manuscript of the Logic is indicated by “MS” and its editions by the last two figures of their dates. For comment on the composition of the essay and related matters, see the Introduction and the Textual Introduction, vii-xvii and lxxx above.
Whately’s Elements of Logic
“a very slow progress towards popularity,” says Dr. Whately in his Preface, “is the utmost that can be expected for such a treatise as I have endeavoured to make the present.” [P. xxxvi.] In these times, in which the very thought of writing for posterity seems to be abandoned—in which immediate reputation and immediate profit appear to be the sole ends of authorship, instead of usefulness and permanent fame; this readiness on the part of an author to wait for popularity, is of itself a title to praise.
We believe, however, that even the immediate success of Dr. Whately’s work has exceeded the anticipations which the author, judging from the strong prejudices it had to encounter, deemed himself entitled to form. Nor is this surprising. We have long been convinced, that the time was come when a work containing a clear exposition of the principles of the Syllogistic Logic, and vindicating it against the contemptuous sarcasms of some modern metaphysicians, might make its appearance with almost a certainty of success. The authority of the Scotch philosophers (as Dr. Reid and his followers are termed), whose writings have been for the last fifty years the great stronghold of the enemies of Logic, has been for some time on the decline; and has at last fallen so low, that nothing, save the non-appearance of any worthy antagonist in the field of controversy, enables them to maintain any ground in public estimation. And there are various signs apparent to keen observers, shewing that a reaction has commenced in favour of what is really valuable in the ancient philosophy, and that the time when the whole of it could be dismissed with indiscriminate contempt, is at an end. Logic, as it is by far the most important branch of that philosophy, is accordingly recovering its proper rank the most rapidly; but such a work as that of Dr. Whately was still required, to direct, as well as stimulate, the study of that invaluable science, in the cultivation of which we believe it is very generally felt to have already constituted an æra.
Were we, however, required to state precisely wherein we think that the merit of Dr. Whately more peculiarly consists, we should say of him (what has been said of another writer, and on another subject), that he has rather written excellently concerning logic, than expounded in the best possible manner the science itself. His vindication of the utility of logic is conclusive: his explanation of its distinguishing character and peculiar objects, of the purposes to which it is and is not applicable, and the mode of its application, leave scarcely any thing to be desired: on incidental topics his observations are generally just, and not unfrequently original; but, considering his work as what it professes to be, an exposition of the Elements of Logic, it is impossible not to wish that it had contained a clearer explanation, and a fuller development, of several very important topics. We trust that it may be permitted to us to say thus much, without incurring the imputation of being wanting in deference to an author whom we so highly esteem. The whole tenor of our observations will, we hope, protect us from the suspicion of not setting a sufficiently high value upon this important contribution to philosophy, and will sufficiently distinguish us from those carping critics, who, while they freely allow to an author in generals, all the merit he can claim, shew by their whole tone and manner when they descend to particulars, that the most trifling defect has occupied a larger place in their thoughts than all the excellencies which they have so liberally conceded to him. If we hazard any suggestions for the improvement of the work, they are offered rather to the author himself than to the public. If we make any observations tending to shew what Dr. Whately has failed of doing, they will be such as we cannot expect to be even understood by any who have not gone through all the processes of thought necessary for completely mastering, and perfectly appreciating, the whole of what he has done. If we presume to judge the author’s ideas, we are willing to take him for the judge of ours; and we shall be more than satisfied if he should derive one hundredth part of the instruction from our criticism, which we have received from his work.
Before we enter into a minute examination of Dr. Whately’s book, we shall premise a few remarks on the importance of Logic, and the causes which may account for the little cultivation of that branch of knowledge in modern times. It will be seen, that in these observations we have borrowed largely from our author, although our ideas have not flowed precisely in the same channel with his.
Dr. Whately establishes in his preface the utility of the syllogistic philosophy, by the following argument à priori:
If it were inquired what is to be regarded as the most appropriate intellectual occupation of man,as man, what would be the answer? The statesman is engaged with political affairs; the soldier with military; the mathematician with the properties of numbers and magnitudes; the merchant with commercial concerns, &c.; but in what are all and each of these employed? Evidently in Reasoning. They are all occupied in deducing, well or ill, conclusions from premises, each concerning the subject of his own particular business. If, therefore, it be found that the process going on daily in each of so many different minds is, in any respect, the same, and if the principles on which it is conducted can be reduced to a regular system, and if rules can be deduced from that system for the better conducting of the process, then, it can hardly be denied that such a system and such rules must be especially worthy the attention, not of the members of this or that profession merely, but of every one who is desirous of possessing a cultivated mind. To understand the theory of that which is the appropriate intellectual occupation of man in general, and to learn to do that well, which every one will and must do, whether well or ill, may surely be considered as an essential part of a liberal education.
But, unfortunately for logic, men do not commonly form their opinion of the utility of any branch of knowledge, from such general considerations. They judge of its value chiefly from the need which they find of it, as measured by the disadvantages which they feel themselves to labour under from ignorance of it. But it is a peculiarity of logic, that it is impossible any man should ever discover its utility in this way, since the benefit which it affords consists in being freed from a defect, which no man who possesses it ever knows that he possesses. Every man knows what he loses by being ignorant of astronomy, because he feels his inability to determine a latitude, or foretel an eclipse. Men in general are perfectly well aware that they cannot do these things, and consequently no one ever doubted that there was a science of astronomy; just as no man can possibly doubt the necessity of a rule for extracting the cube-root, because no man can persuade himself that he knows how to extract the cube-root when he does not. But men may easily persuade themselves that they are able to reason although they are not; because the faculty which they want, is that by which alone they could detect the want of it. The proof, à posteriori, of a man’s inability to reason, would be, that he is deceived by inconclusive arguments; and this may be evidence to others that he stands in need of logic, but it can be no evidence to him. Hence it is, that they who are ignorant of logic, never can be made, by any efforts, to comprehend its utility. They either reason correctly without it, or they do not: if they do, they are in no need of it; and as for those who reason incorrectly for want of it, they never find out their deficiency until it is removed.
It is not wonderful, therefore, that the doctrine of the syllogism should number among its detractors all who are ignorant of it. But to these must, we are sorry to say, be added, some who are, and many more who fancy themselves, acquainted with it.
The impugners of the school logic, as they term it, may be divided into two classes. The first class consists of men not untinctured with philosophy, including even some writers of considerable eminence in the science of mind; men who are more or less acquainted with the principles of the system, so far at least as to have a general, though often by no means an accurate, conception of its nature and object. These, being persons of cultivated and inquiring minds, who have known what it is to doubt, and to discover themselves in error, and have learned not to repose an unlimited confidence in the unassisted powers of their own minds, are in general sufficiently impressed with the utility of rules to direct the mind in the investigation of truth. They object to the rules of the syllogistic logic as not effecting that end; they maintain, not that logic is useless, but that the doctrine of the syllogism is not logic; and they talk in high-flown language, not always conveying very precise ideas, of a supposed system of inductive logic, which is to supersede the syllogistic, and really to accomplish still more than the other even attempts.
It is against the objections of these philosophers, that our author’s defence of the Aristotelian logic is mainly directed. We apprehend, however, that they are chiefly formidable, by the countenance which they afford to another and a much larger class of the enemies of the science. This second class consists of those who are entirely ignorant of it, and consequently do not reject it under the idea that the rules which it gives are not the best possible, but that no rules, for any such purpose, are necessary at all. If these persons were to observe carefully, and state candidly, what passes in their minds when they bring in their verdict of inutility against the syllogistic system, their account of their own train of ideas would probably amount to this—that it is impossible a knowledge of logic can be of any use, seeing that they themselves do so well without it; nor could they ever perceive that the men who had studied logic reasoned better than their neighbours:—forgetting, that in the very supposition of the utility of logic it is implied that they themselves, who have not studied it, are not, in all cases, competent judges of good reasoning; forgetting, too, that in nine cases out of ten, the evidence on which they pronounce either a logician or another man guilty of bad reasoning is the nonconformity of his conclusions with theirs; which is, to say the least, just as likely to be the effect of bad reasoning on their side, as on his.
The following excellent passage from Dr. Whately’s preface is addressed particularly to this class of the impugners of logic, and may be read by them with great profit:
Many who allow the use of systematic principles in other things are accustomed to cry up Common-Sense as the sufficient and only safe guide in Reasoning. Now by Common-Sense is meant, I apprehend (when the term is used with any distinct meaning), an exercise of the judgment unaided by any Art or system of rules; such as we must necessarily employ in numberless cases of daily occurrence; in which, having no established principles to guide us, no line of procedure, as it were, distinctly chalked out, we must needs act on the best extemporaneous conjectures we can form. He who is eminently skilful in doing this, is said to possess a superior degree of Common-Sense. But that Common-Sense is only our second-best guide—that the rules of Art, if judiciously framed, are always desirable when they can be had, is an assertion, for the truth of which I may appeal to the testimony of Mankind in general; which is so much the more valuable, inasmuch as it may be accounted the testimony of adversaries. For the generality have a strong predilection in favour of Common-Sense, except in those points in which they respectively possess the knowledge of a system of rules; but in these points they deride any one who trusts to unaided Common-Sense. A sailor, e.g. will perhaps despise the pretensions of medical men, and prefer treating a disease by Common-Sense; but he would ridicule the proposal of navigating a ship by Common-Sense, without regard to the maxims of nautical art. A physician, again, will, perhaps, contemn Systems of Political Economy, of Logic, or Metaphysics, and insist on the superior wisdom of trusting to Common-Sense in such matters; but he never would approve of trusting to Common-Sense in the treatment of diseases. Neither, again, would the architect recommend a reliance on Common-Sense alone in building, nor the musician in music, to the neglect of those systems of rules, which, in their respective arts, have been deduced from scientific reasoning aided by experience. And the Induction might be extended to every department of practice. Since, therefore, each gives the preference to unassisted Common-Sense only in those cases where he himself has nothing else to trust to, and invariably resorts to the rules of art wherever he possesses the knowledge of them, it is plain that mankind universally bear their testimony, though unconsciously and often unwillingly, to the preferableness of systematic knowledge to conjectural judgments.
Upon the other and more philosophical class of objectors, Dr. Whately’s attacks are far more frequent; indeed, a running fire is kept up with them through the whole of the work. We shall indulge ourselves with one quotation, which admits of a more easy separation from the context than any of the numerous other passages of a similar tendency. It occurs near the beginning of the work, and abounds in instructive observations with regard to the nature and objects of the science:
Logic has usually been considered by these objectors as professing to furnish a peculiar method of reasoning, instead of a method of analyzing that mental process which must invariably take place in all correct reasoning: and accordingly they have contrasted the ordinary mode of reasoning with the syllogistic, and have brought forward with an air of triumph the argumentative skill of many who never learned the system; a mistake no less gross than if any one should regard Grammar as a peculiar Language, and should contend against its utility, on the ground that many speak correctly who never studied the principles of Grammar. For Logic, which is, as it were, the Grammar of Reasoning, does not bring forward the regular syllogism as a distinct mode of argumentation, designed to be substituted for any other mode; but as the form to which all correct reasoning may be ultimately reduced; and which, consequently, serves the purpose (when we are employing Logic as an art) of a test to try the validity of any argument; in the same manner as by chemical analysis we develope and submit to a distinct examination the elements of which any compound body is composed, and are thus enabled to detect any latent sophistication and impurity.
Complaints have also been made, that logic leaves untouched the greatest difficulties, and those which are the sources of the chief errors in reasoning; viz. the ambiguity, or indistinctness of Terms, and the doubts respecting the degrees of evidence in various Propositions: an objection which is not to be removed by any such attempt as that of Watts, to lay down “rules for forming clear ideas, and for guiding the judgment;”[*] but by replying that no art is to be censured for not teaching more than falls within its province, and indeed more than can be taught by any conceivable art. Such a system of universal knowledge as should instruct us in the full meaning or meanings of every term, and the truth or falsity—certainty or uncertainty—of every proposition, thus superseding all other studies, it is most unphilosophical to expect, or even to imagine. And to find fault with Logic for not performing this, is as if one should object to the science of Optics for not giving sight to the blind; or as if (like the man of whom Warburton tells a story in his Div. Leg.) one should complain of a reading-glass for being of no service to a person who had never learned to read.[†]
In fact, the difficulties and errors above alluded to are not in the process of Reasoning itself (which alone is the appropriate province of logic) but in the subject-matter about which it is employed. This process will have been correctly conducted if it have conformed to the logical rules, which preclude the possibility of any error creeping in between the principles from which we are arguing, and the conclusions we deduce from them. But still that conclusion may be false, if the principles we start from are so. In like manner, no arithmetical skill will secure a correct result to a calculation, unless the data are correct from which we calculate: nor does any one, on that account, undervalue Arithmetic; and yet the objection against logic rests on no better foundation.
There is, in fact, a striking analogy in this respect between the two sciences. All numbers (which are the subject of arithmetic) must be numbers of some things, whether coins, persons, measures, or any thing else; but to introduce into the science any notice of the things respecting which calculations are made, would be evidently irrelevant, and would destroy its scientific character: we proceed therefore with arbitrary signs respecting numbers in the abstract. So, also, does Logic pronounce on the validity of a regularly-constructed argument, equally well, though arbitrary symbols may have been substituted for the terms; and, consequently, without any regard to the things signified by those terms. And the possibility of doing this (though the employment of such arbitrary symbols has been absurdly objected to, even by writers who understood not only Arithmetic but Algebra) is a proof of the strictly scientific character of the system.
In the second paragraph of this passage, otherwise so remarkable both for precision of thought and felicity of illustration, Dr. Whately hardly does justice to the science of which he has constituted himself the defender. He says, with truth, that it is most unreasonable to quarrel with logic for not instructing us in the meaning of every term, and the truth or falsity, certainty or uncertainty, of every proposition which we have occasion to employ in our reasonings, since this is, in each case, the business of the particular science to which the subject-matter of the argument belongs, and is much more than can possibly be effected by any single science. But this remark, though just, scarcely conveys an adequate idea of the extreme futility of the objection, since the fact is, that the syllogistic logic really does all that can be done by any one science, towards the above end; inasmuch as the analysis, to which it subjects every process of reasoning, affords the readiest and the most certain means by which a latent ambiguity in any of the terms employed, or the tacit assumption of any false or doubtful proposition, can be detected. Common observation verifies this fact; since the appellation of an expert logician seems, by the usage of language, peculiarly appropriated to those who are thought to be eminently skilful in the detection of such fallacies; which seems to shew that mankind in general have observed (what indeed is easy enough of observation), that they who have studied logic, and who are familiar with its practical application, are less liable than other men to be imposed upon by an assumption or an ambiguity.
With regard to those who maintain, that to perform the logical analysis of an argument, in the manner pointed out by the doctrine of the syllogism, is not the best means of discovering whether it contain a flaw; it may fairly be demanded of them, first, whether they imagine, that, when an argument is inconclusive, its inconclusiveness is always apparent at the first glance? When they answer, as they must necessarily do, that it is not (because otherwise people could never be deceived by inconclusive arguments), and that the fallacy is often visible only upon a close inspection, it will be proper to ask them, whether they intend that it should be inspected in the lump, or piecemeal;—all at once, or step by step, beginning with the first step, and proceeding onward to the last? We imagine there is no one who would not reply, that this last mode comes nearest to his idea of a close inspection. It seems then that even according to the objectors, an analysis of the argument is requisite, in order to try its validity; but that for the performance of this analysis, common-sense, as they term it, is sufficient. Let us however press these disputants a step further, and ask them in what manner common-sense proceeds to analyse an argument, in order to form a judgment whether it is sound or fallacious. If they had any distinct ideas on the subject, they would probably answer, that it proceeds by first separating the propositions which contribute to the establishment of the conclusion (in common language, those which are essential to the argument) from all irrelevant propositions with which they may happen to be mixed up; next, by stating in words, and explicitly, all propositions, also essential to the argument, which may have been assumed tacitly, instead of being declared verbally; thirdly, (having thus effected the separation and enumeration of the premises of the argument), by arranging all these propositions in that order, which (so strongly does ordinary language corroborate our view of the case) is termed their logical order; that is to say, by bringing every conclusion, and the premises from which it is deduced, close together, and taking care that the step by which the truth of a proposition is established, shall precede all those in which that proposition is made use of as a premiss for the establishment of other propositions: when all this is done, then, they will tell you, a child could judge of the correctness or fallacy of the argument. Possibly so: but what is all this? It is neither more nor less than to perform the logical analysis of the argument. When all is done which has been here supposed, the argument is actually reduced to a series of syllogisms: so that the all-sufficiency of common-sense amounts only to this, that, if the man of common-sense makes use of the same means which logic supplies, he may attain the same end. This is true, certainly; but will he do so? and, if he should attempt it, which of the two is most likely to perform the analysis correctly—the man who does it by rule, or the man who does it by guess; the man who knows the principle of the operation which he is performing, or the man who trusts to extemporaneous sagacity alone?
Had the philosophers who treated with so much contempt the idea of trying the validity of an argument by resolving it into a series of syllogisms, been aware that there is no other way in which its validity can be tried, and that this, and no other, is the process actually performed, so far as is found necessary for the purpose, whenever a fallacy in argument is discovered and pointed out, they would probably have spared some portion of the ridicule which they have heaped upon the syllogistic theory. We do not, of course, mean to assert, that the analysis is always carried to its utmost limit; that every step in a ratiocination is set forth at full length; every implied assertion laid down, which, if it were untrue, would vitiate the argument; every syllogism formally resolved into its two premises and its conclusion: although some of the impugners of logic have supposed, absurdly enough, that all this would be necessary if the syllogistic theory were true: and, indeed, all this would be necessary, were it not that, in practice, the fallacy almost always becomes manifest long before the analysis has been carried to this ultimate point. As near an approximation to the syllogistic form as is employed in mathematics (which scarcely differs more from a complete series of syllogisms than that abridged form of syllogistic argumentation, known to logicians by the name of a Sorites) is commonly sufficient. But whatever portion of the analysis it is found necessary to perform, is performed upon syllogistic principles; and it would be a singular specimen of argumentation, to contend that the rules of logic do not conduce to the correct performance of a part of the operation, because they conduce also to the performance of the whole. Dr. Whately has aptly compared the logical analysis of a fallacious argument to the chemical analysis of an adulterated mixture [p. 31]:—to pursue this illustration somewhat further;—although the substance under an analysis of the latter description is certainly a compound of some of the primary elements, or simple substances, as oxygen, carbon, &c.; and, although its bad qualities are undoubtedly to be ascribed to the presence, either of a wrong element, or of some element in an improper proportion,—it is seldom necessary, for the purpose of detecting the adulteration, to effect the complete separation of all these primary ingredients, because the undue admixture generally becomes manifest, and the adventitious particles are separated at a much earlier stage of the proceeding. And yet, nobody would pretend that a man unacquainted with the properties of simple substances would be perfectly capable of performing such an analysis, or that the knowledge of the ultimate elements of bodies was of no service to the chemist. The same observations apply, mutato nomine, to the logician, and the syllogism.
Had the considerations which we have now adduced, suggested themselves to Mr. Dugald Stewart and others, those writers would scarcely have thought it a sufficient refutation of the syllogistic theory, to say (what indeed is very true), that if we were habitually to employ, in stating an argument, those forms which are only useful when it is to be scrutinized, the complexity of the expression, by lengthening the process, and distracting the attention, would cause more fallacies than it would prevent.[*] As opposite arguments not unfrequently converge to the same conclusion, other men, or the same men at other times, have pronounced the syllogism useless on the contrary ground, viz. because a fallacious argument, exhibited as logicians exhibit it, in the form of a syllogism, is so palpably fallacious as to deceive nobody. This we may admit: the difficulty is over, when the argument is reduced to that form. But how are we taught to bring it into that form? By logic surely: and what higher compliment can be paid to the doctrine of the syllogism, than to say, that the same fallacy, in the form of a syllogism, deceives nobody, which “may deceive half the world if diluted in a quarto volume.”*
Fallacious reasonings, [says Dr. Whately,] may be compared to a perplexed and entangled mass of accounts, which it requires much sagacity and close attention to clear up, and display in a regular and intelligible form; though when this is once accomplished, the whole appears so perfectly simple, that the unthinking are apt to undervalue the skill and pains which have been employed upon it.
We agree with Dr. Whately in ascribing the little esteem, in which the doctrine of the syllogism has been held by modern metaphysicians, to its being confounded with the absurdities of the schoolmen; who certainly dressed up much elaborate trifling in syllogistic forms, and deduced, by reasoning, and consequently by syllogism, from false premises, many very absurd conclusions. Modern philosophers, perceiving this, fancied that it was produced by the employment of the syllogism in lieu of induction; and concluded that, in order to avoid similar errors, it was necessary to discard the syllogism, which they thought was one method of reasoning, and confine ourselves to induction, which they imagined was another. All this while, the truth was, that the schoolmen not only did not neglect induction, but entertained a far more accurate and certainly a more distinct conception of the difference between its function and that of syllogism, than seems to have been entertained by any philosopher who has succeeded them. They saw clearly that the process of philosophizing consisted of two parts; the ascertainment of premises, and the deduction of conclusions. They knew that the rules of the syllogism concerned only the second part of the business (which alone is properly called Reasoning), and could only prevent them from drawing any conclusions which their premises did not warrant, but could not furnish any test of the truth of those original premises, which are not deductions from any prior truths. The evidence of these, which they termed ἀρχαι, principia, was derived from experience, and the process of the mind in attaining to them was termed induction. Τὰς μὲν ἀρχὰς τὰς περὶ ἔκατον, ἐμπειριας ἐτὶ παραϕου̑ναι, are the words of Aristotle himself:* and both his Analytica Priora and Posteriora[*] are full of proofs, that he considered experience, in other words, induction, to be the ultimate foundation of all knowledge: the ἀρχαι or first principles of every science being ascertained by induction, and all other truths being deduced from them.
That this should have been overlooked by those who style themselves the inductive philosophers of modern times, is the more surprising, inasmuch as it did not escape the observation of their prototype and idol, Lord Bacon. That great writer, whom it is now fashionable to style the founder of the inductive philosophy, a title which he himself would have been the foremost to disclaim, imputes the errors of Aristotle and the schoolmen, not to their neglecting induction,—for he had read them—but to their performing it ill. They knew that all knowledge must be ultimately derived from the observation of nature; but they were bad observers, and had even (as was remarked by lord Bacon)† fundamentally wrong ideas with respect to the proper mode of directing their observations. They consequently generalized on insufficient evidence, and arrived, by an incorrect induction indeed, but yet by induction, at general principles, which were not true, but which, if they had been true, would have warranted all the conclusions which they deduced from them. The merit, therefore, of Bacon, did not consist in teaching mankind to employ induction instead of syllogism, but in pointing out to them the insufficiency of the mode of induction which they had hitherto relied on, and communicating some useful hints for the formation of a better. Since his time, a more efficacious mode of interrogating nature (to borrow a happy expression of his own)[*] has established, that throughout some of the most extensive departments of natural philosophy, there does not exist that sort of connexion between different truths, which would enable us to deduce one of them from another as the schoolmen attempted to do.* We cannot collect the ductility or specific gravity of a body which we have never seen, from the mere knowledge of its chemical composition, as we can deduce all the other properties of a triangle from that of having three sides. But we are not even now entitled to blame the schoolmen, as Dr. Whately himself has done, for “regarding the syllogism as an engine for the investigation of nature,”† in other words, for applying general reasoning to the discovery of physical truth; since this is precisely what we ourselves very properly do, throughout the vast field of astronomy, and of mechanical philosophy. It is unnecessary to remind any one who is acquainted with logic, that since every mathematical demonstration consists of a series of syllogisms, the application of the syllogism must be at least coextensive with that of mathematics. Throughout the extensive sciences just named, modern philosophers have operated (though with more success) in the very same mode which the schoolmen attempted: they have ascertained by induction certain very general facts; the laws of motion, that of gravitation, of the reflection and refraction of light, &c. and have deduced from these, by a series, sometimes a very long series, of syllogisms, innumerable conclusions with respect to past, present, and even future, physical facts. Surely it is time that the practice of reproaching the schoolmen for doing precisely what we do ourselves, should cease. The schoolmen erred, not because they overlooked the necessary limits of that portion of the process of investigating truth, to which the syllogism is subservient, but because they did not perform the other and equally necessary part of that process with the same unrivalled skill, with which, by the aid of logic, they performed that part of it with which alone logic is conversant.
The province of reasoning in the investigation of truth is immense. It comprises the whole of the process of investigating mathematical truths, by far the greater part of the process of investigating the truths of astronomy, and mechanical philosophy in all its branches, a very large part in respect of the truths of morals, politics, and the philosophy of the human mind: to chemistry and physiology alone it has but a limited application. Upon reasoning depends the correctness of our inferences; upon induction, the evidence of those truths from which our inferences are drawn. The philosophers who have spoken in such high terms of the desirableness of an inductive logic, meaning thereby rules for performing induction, have said no more than the truth; but the rules of correct deduction are not less essential, nor is it any objection to the Aristotelian logic that, professing only to give rules for one of these necessary operations, it affords no means of dispensing with the other. An inductive logic would be highly useful as a supplement to the syllogistic logic, not to supersede it. “A plough,” says Dr. Whately, “may be a much more ingenious and valuable instrument than a flail, but it never can be substituted for it” (p. 236). Induction has usually been performed in a manner so empirical, that it is almost surprising that so many useful truths should have been ascertained by means of it; but if our rules of induction were as specific and precise, as all those which we have hitherto possessed are vague and general, they would not contribute, in the slightest degree, to the correctness of our reasoning. The syllogistic logic affords the only rules which can possibly be of any service to that end. It is, to use Dr. Whately’s words, not an art of reasoning, but the art of reasoning; “the logician’s object being, not to lay down principles by which one may reason, but by which all must reason, even though they are not distinctly aware of them:—to furnish rules, not which may be followed with advantage, but which cannot possibly be departed from in sound reasoning” (p. 22). The syllogism is not “a peculiar method of reasoning,” but “a method of unfolding and analyzing our reasoning” (p. 21). Syllogistic reasoning is not a kind of reasoning, for all correct reasoning is syllogistic: and to reason by induction is a recommendation which implies as thorough a misconception of the meaning of the two words, as if the advice were, to observe by syllogism.
We shall now attempt a short summary of the contents of Dr. Whately’s volume, together with such observations as may most effectually display its merits, and at the same time exhibit plainly one or two imperfections which we have already glanced at; and which, though trifling in comparison with the general excellencies of the work, contribute, nevertheless, to render it both a less clear and a less perfect exposition of the syllogistic logic, than it might have been made.
After an Introduction, consisting of a brief history of the science, with some remarks upon its utility, the most interesting portion of which we have already extracted, Dr. Whately prepares the reader for the study of his Compendium of Logic, by what he terms an Analytical Outline of the Science. This appears to us an extremely happy idea. In expounding a science which, like logic, professes to teach what are the parts which go to the composition of any given whole, that may be termed the synthetical mode of teaching, which commences with the separate parts, and, after a sufficient explanation of their nature, proceeds to shew in what manner they must be put together in order to form that whole, which it is the object of the science to analyse: while that method, on the other hand, may properly be termed analytical, which begins at the opposite extreme, examining the whole as it exists in nature, and, by means of observation and experiment, detecting in that whole the several parts; thus teaching the science in the very order in which it must have been originally discovered. The first method, which begins by exhibiting the simple elements, and makes the learner familiar with them in their separate state, before any of their combinations are introduced to his notice, is generally the best adapted for teaching him the science; but the second is better calculated for persuading him to learn: because it commences with what is already familiar to him in actual practice, and, gradually leading him back to first principles, enables him to perceive, at each step in the analysis, the practical tendency and application of that step: whereas in the first mode he is made to go through the whole science before he reaches the point at which it comes into contact with his own practice, and, therefore, often fails of perceiving that it has any practical application at all. We are inclined to ascribe very much of the unpopularity of logic as a science, to the circumstance, that writers on the subject have almost universally employed the synthetical mode of exposition, to the exclusion of the analytical; a practice which can be advantageously adopted, only where there exists, as in the case of geometry, a predisposition in favour of the science proposed to be communicated. So long as the mode in which logic was invariably taught rendered it necessary to have thoroughly mastered the whole science before arriving at the evidence of its practical utility, it was, perhaps, scarcely to be wondered at, that all who did not possess this perfect knowledge of the subject should hold a science to be useless, of the usefulness of which the proof had never reached their minds.
This obstacle to the right appreciation of the importance of logic, Dr. Whately has for ever removed. The masterly sketch which he has given of the whole science, in the analytical form, previously to entering upon a more detailed exposition of it in the synthetical order, constitutes one of the greatest merits of this volume, as an elementary work.
In every instance, [says he,] in which we reason, in the strict sense of the word, i.e. make use of arguments, whether for the sake of refuting an adversary, or of conveying instruction, or of satisfying our own minds on any point, whatever may be the subject we are engaged on, a certain process takes place in the mind, which is one and the same in all cases, provided it be correctly conducted.
On this important psychological or metaphysical fact, depends the whole title of logic to be considered as a science; and our author, accordingly, is at great pains to illustrate it, and to refute the error (fostered by the prevailing language on the subject) of supposing that mathematical reasoning, and theological, and metaphysical, and political, and moral, are so many different kinds of reasoning. Whereas, in reality, what is different in these different cases is not the mode of reasoning, but the nature of the premises, or propositions from which we reason; precisely, as in arithmetic, the process of calculation is the same, whether the numbers, upon which the calculation is performed, be numbers of men, of miles, or of pounds.*
In pursuing the supposed investigation, it will be found, that every conclusion is deduced, in reality, from two other propositions (thence called Premises); for though one of these may be, and commonly is, suppressed, it must nevertheless be understood as admitted, as may easily be made evident by supposing the denial of the suppressed premiss, which will at once invalidate the argument.—An argument thus stated regularly and at full length, is called a Syllogism; which, therefore is evidently not a peculiar kind of argument, but only a peculiar form of expression, in which every argument may be stated.
Having advanced so far in the investigation of the subject, as to ascertain that every conclusion is deduced from two premises, the next step is, to examine, whether the nature of the premises which are required to support a given conclusion is subject to any general law. Pursuing this investigation, Dr. Whately shews, that in one of the premises, something is always affirmed or denied of a class, in which class it is affirmed, in the other premiss, that something else is contained; from which two assertions it is, in every case of correct reasoning, concluded, that what was so affirmed or denied of the class, may be affirmed or denied of that which was stated to be comprehended in the class. As every valid argument may be reduced to this form, the principle upon which the above conclusion is drawn, and which is termed by logicians the dictum de omni et nullo, is the universal principle of all reasoning. It may be stated in the following form, the three propositions of the syllogism being distinguished by figures.
“1. Any thing whatever, predicated of a whole class,
2. Under which class something else is contained,
3. May be predicated of that which is so contained.” (P. 36.)
Every valid argument is a case of this general principle; every fallacy is a case which, while it seems to fall under the principle, really does not.
Having thus analysed every process of reasoning into the propositions of which it is composed, the next step is the analysis of a proposition into its two terms, its subject and predicate. And here, from the inquiry, what predicates are applicable to what subjects, arises the whole theory of classification, and of general and particular names. But having already followed our author sufficiently far in his Analytical Outline, to give an adequate conception of his mode of proceeding, we shall stop here, particularly as we do not think him quite so successful in the latter part of the analysis, as in the earlier.
Having thus analysed the process of ratiocination into its simple and ultimate elements, Dr. Whately commences a fuller exposition of the science in the inverse order; and this, in contradistinction to his Analytical Outline, he terms a Synthetical Compendium.[*]
As every argument consists of propositions, and every proposition of terms, it has been usual with writers on logic, to treat their subject under three heads, namely, Terms, Propositions, and Syllogism. As this principle of distribution arises obviously out of the nature of the subject, Dr. Whately has adopted it; and his Synthetical Compendium consists of three parts. On the third part, which treats of arguments, little need be said, except that it is equal, if not superior, to any other exposition extant, of this branch of the science. The supplementary account of hypothetical arguments deserves higher praise; it is almost entirely new: comparatively little having been done by Aristotle or his followers, either for reducing the theory of that kind of arguments to fixed principles, or for devising rules to ensure correctness in the practice. We do not think by any means so highly of the two introductory parts, on Terms and Propositions. On these important subjects it appears to us that Dr. Whately not only has not improved upon the expositions given in former treatises on logic, but has not even availed himself of all the useful matter which those works afford.
We shall, before we proceed further, endeavour to give a general conception of what was done by the Aristotelian logicians in these two departments of the science.
It is sometimes said, and in a certain sense with truth, that these philosophers considered Propositions and Terms solely with reference to their employment in Reasoning; and treated of them, in their books of logic, no further than was necessary for expounding the doctrine of the Syllogism. But if by this it be meant, that they laid down no doctrines respecting terms and propositions, except what were required to enable them to analyse the process by which conclusions are drawn from premises, and establish rules for performing that process correctly, we believe it will be found that this character applies to a small part only of what is commonly taught in logical treatises under these two heads. For the mere purposes of the syllogism,—for securing that our conclusions shall be such as really follow from our premises,—very little of the theory of terms and propositions is necessary, except the division of terms into General and Individual, of propositions into Universal and Particular, Affirmative and Negative; with the rules which relate to what logicians very inappropriately call the Distribution of Terms;* to which we may, perhaps, add, the Conversion and Æquipollency of propositions. This is all that is strictly necessary by way of introduction to the theory of the syllogism; and it is but just to state that on all these points Dr. Whately’s exposition is completely satisfactory.
But the Aristotelian logicians did not stop here, nor confine within these narrow bounds the dominion of their science. They appear to have included in their idea of logic, not only the principles of reasoning, but all the instructions which philosophy could furnish towards the right employment of words, as an instrument for the investigation of truth. That principles may be laid down and rules devised to that end, sufficient in number and importance to constitute a science, we hold to be indisputable; though we are aware that in this opinion Dr. Whately does not concur. Whether that science should be regarded as a part of logic, is a mere question of nomenclature, and one which common usage has long since decided in the affirmative. But, however we may decide with respect to the names, it is in the first two parts of the treatises of the Aristotelian philosophers on logic, that we find all which they thought it necessary to lay down with reference to the employment of words, generally, as an instrument of thought; and in this there was much, which, however it might conduce to the truth or accurate wording of the premises from which we reason, contributed nothing to the correctness of the ratiocination itself.
The Aristotelians did not carry this department of what they considered as logic, to a degree of perfection approaching to that which the theory of the reasoning process attained in their hands. But they made in it no contemptible proficiency; and notwithstanding all the assistance which might have been derived from the discoveries of Locke and Brown, for the improvement of this branch of philosophy, modern metaphysicians are far from having yet followed out all the important hints, which the so much ridiculed schoolmen afforded. It is true, that their classification of names according to the nature of the things which they signify, has little merit in the outline, though much in some of the details; but their classification of names according to the mode of their signification (of which the doctrine of the Predicables forms a part) when purified from the taint of Realism which adheres to the expression but without infecting the substance, constitutes a prodigious step in the theory of naming; a step which few among their modern successors have known even how to appreciate, far less to surpass. Their classification of the modes of predication, co-ordinate with, and founded on the above classification of terms, and the further division of propositions according to the nature of the evidence on which they rest (for such in reality are the distinctions of essential and accidental, necessary and contingent, propositions) clearly prove them to have seen, not indeed to the bottom of the subject, but deeper into it than the generality of those who have constituted themselves, in modern times, the contemptuous assailants of the school logic. If we add to what has been enumerated, their observations on Definition and Division, which though extremely imperfect, contain the germs of many truths which are still waiting to be developed, we shall have a body of materials, not, indeed, entirely adequate to the purpose contemplated by Watts, and so severely condemned by our author, of laying down “rules for forming clear ideas, and for guiding the judgment,”[*] but containing much which is highly conducive to that end, and which, if expanded, systematized, and in some few points corrected, by a hand competent to the task, would effect nearly all that any body of instructions or system of rules can possibly accomplish, in a direct way, towards the purpose which Watts had in view.
In the Compendium of Aldrich,[*] commonly called the Oxford Logic, the greatest part of this important branch of the Aristotelian philosophy is omitted, and the remainder most lamely, imperfectly, and in some points even incorrectly, given. This Treatise, the whole of which, except the mere technical account of the rules of the syllogism, is utterly contemptible, has been for many years the text book in use at the only academical institution in England at which logic forms any part of the established course of education. The University of Oxford did not always thus confine her alumni to the worse book extant on the science which she still compels them to pretend* to learn; for the very best account which we have ever seen, in a small compass, of the Aristotelian logic (a work written by a Jesuit, Du Trieu, for the use of the college at Douay) was printed at Oxford in 1662.† This circumstance, and the degeneracy which it evinces, form an appropriate comment upon the benefits of richly-endowed seminaries of education, and of institutions generally, in which the quantity of service does not regulate the quantity of reward. But what we would particularly observe is, that this treatise of Aldrich is almost the only work, professing to be an exposition of the Aristotelian logic, with which Dr. Whately appears to be acquainted. He admits himself [p. vii] to have taken more from that treatise than from any other; and we are sorry to say, that nearly the whole of his Synthetical Compendium (the supplement and a few passages excepted) is little more than a paraphrase of Aldrich. The exposition of the syllogism in Aldrich is clear and accurate, and that of our author, accordingly, is entitled to the same praise: but in the remainder, though he has corrected some of the minor oversights of his predecessor, he has in general followed him so closely in his worst parts, that it is almost as impossible to gain from the one, as from the other, a single clear idea.
We cannot select any passage from Dr. Whately’s work, which so forcibly illustrates all that we have advanced, as his account of the Predicables. This, as logicians are aware, is an attempt to classify general terms, i. e. names which, by virtue of their signification, are applicable in one and the same sense to an indefinite number of individuals. In the doctrine of the Predicables, these terms are considered as capable of being predicated, which is as much as to say affirmed, of some individual thing or things. The problem is, how many kinds of general names, all of them differing in their mode of signification, may be predicated of, and may therefore be said to be names of, one and the same set of individual objects. Logicians have determined that five different kinds of general names may be so predicated; and have called them Genus, Species, Differentia, Proprium,* and Accidens. These are called Predicables, and our author, after Aldrich, has defined them as follows:
Whatever term can be affirmed of several things, must express either their whole essence, which is called the Species; or a part of their essence (viz. either the material part, which is called the Genus, or the formal and distinguishing part, which is called Differentia, or in common discourse, characteristic) or something joined to the essence; whether necessarily (i. e. to the whole species, or, in other words, universally, to every individual of it), which is called a Property [Proprium]; or contingently (i. e. to some individuals only of the species), which is an Accident.
To render this intricate and involved sentence less unintelligible, Dr. Whately subjoins [ibid.] a synoptical table of the Predicables, for which we must refer our readers to the work itself.
If it be the object of a definition to render that clear, which was before obscure, our author can scarcely flatter himself that what he has here given, is entitled to the name. If his readers had any thing approaching to a distinct conception of the predicables before (as they probably had of Genus and Species) such an explanation as this would be almost sufficient to throw back the whole subject into inextricable darkness and confusion.
What is meant by the essence of a thing? What by its whole essence? In what sense can the word man, which is the name of a species, be said to express the whole essence of John and Thomas? Dr. Whately admits elsewhere, that classification is arbitrary; we may therefore constitute our species as we will; have we the same arbitrary power over the essences of things? Supposing the essence understood, what are we to understand by the material part, what by the formal or distinguishing part of the essence? and what is meant by something joined to the essence?* The reader will probably imagine that Dr. Whately cannot have employed so many unusual expressions, without somewhere explaining their meaning; but no explanation is attempted; it is throughout assumed that the reader perfectly understands all these phrases, most of which he probably now hears of for the first time. The only part of this account of the predicables which is intelligible, is incorrect: we mean the distinction drawn between Proprium and Accidens, which conveys ideas totally different from those which logicians have always attached to the terms, nor is it true that they, or, indeed, any other philosophers or writers whatsoever, have used the word necessary as it is here employed, synonymously with universal. That crows are black, is a universal proposition, and a true proposition, but did any person ever before dream of calling it a necessary one? Black, as applied to a crow, is the very word most commonly given by logicians as an example of an inseparable accident; yet our author classes it as a Proprium, without seeming to be aware that he is altering the established classification.
All this while, if Dr. Whately had looked into any of the more celebrated treatises on the Aristotelian logic, he would have there found the doctrine of the predicables placed upon a perfectly distinct and intelligible foundation, and the materials so well prepared for a thoroughly philosophical explanation of general terms, that, with all the aids which modern discoveries afford, and with the power of original thinking which he has elsewhere displayed, he might have had the merit of carrying this important branch of the philosophy of the human mind almost to perfection.
But we are not entitled to find fault with Dr. Whately’s explanation of the Predicables as insufficient, without showing, by an experiment of our own, that a better explanation might be made. We shall therefore make the attempt, giving due notice to those who may think the following dissertation too dry, that if they please they may pass it over.
With respect to Genus and Species, we shall drop the unmeaning phrases copied by our author from Aldrich,[*] and which do not bear the remotest analogy to any thing in Aristotle, or Porphyry, or any of the more distinguished of their followers, and shall content ourselves with saying that any class, considered as comprehended in a larger class, is a species; and vice versâ, the larger class, considered as comprehending the smaller, is a genus. This we take to be the ordinary and received meaning of the terms, and it accords with the sense in which the Aristotelian logicians used them. There was, indeed, one sort of species which they held to be the species κατ’ ἐξοχὴν, more peculiarly a species than any other, species specialissima as they termed it, and that was, the lowest species in any given classification; a species which they fancied could not be any further subdivided into species, but only into individuals. This notion was evidently a result of the fundamental error of the Aristotelian philosophers, which consisted in not perceiving that classification is arbitrary. They did not consider, that we may erect any set of individual things into a species, which have any quality in common among themselves, distinguishing them from others; they did not see that it depends upon our choice what shall be the lowest species, but fancied, that, when they had proceeded to a certain length in the division, they reached the lowest species, and that there, by the necessity of nature, they were compelled to stop. This was their error; from which it is difficult to suppose, that the inventor of the maxim that the species expresses the whole essence of a thing, could be altogether free.
When this appendage is detached from it, the distinction between Genus and Species is nothing more than the difference between a larger class and a smaller. There is a broader line of distinction between these two predicables and the other three, Differentia, Proprium, and Accidens; between such words as animal, or man, and such words as white, carnivorous, or rational.
All nomenclature is connected with some classification: and in all classification there are two ideas involved, that of the properties or attributes which form the basis of the classification, and that of the things which compose the classes themselves. Thus, when animals are divided into birds, beasts, fishes, and so forth, we are to consider, with regard to the word fish for example, first, the things comprised in the class (which are sharks, lampreys, eels, salmon, &c.), and next, the qualities common to all these things (that of being cold-blooded, breathing by gills, living in the water, &c.), on account of which they are erected into a class, and which are implied in the name of the class, since any animal, or other object, not possessing all these qualities, would not be termed a fish. The Aristotelian logicians did not overlook this important distinction between the two constituent parts which make up the signification of a name, the things which it is imposed upon, and the properties on account of which it is imposed. They called the former the significatum materiale of the term, the latter its significatum formale; and they sometimes said that it denoted the one, and connoted the other. The word man denotes John, Thomas, and all other men; it connotes rationality, the human form, and whatever other may be the qualities which the name imports, and in the absence of which it would be withheld. The word white connotes the property of whiteness; it denotes snow, silver, milk, and all other things which, in consequence of their possessing that property, we term white.
Now, although all names which denote classes of things (and such are all the predicables) signify both the class itself, and the attributes which constitute it a class; or, to speak technically, denote the class, and connote the attributes;—there is this difference, that in the case of Genus and Species the idea of the class itself is the leading idea; in the other three predicables, it is the idea of the attribute. When we hear the word man, our attention is directed, first to the object, and from that to the qualities which are implied in the name, and but for which it would not have received the name; when, on the contrary, we hear the words rational, or white, the quality of rationality or whiteness is the first idea which is suggested to the imagination, and the idea of the white or rational thing is merely secondary. So perfectly is the idea of the quality here the leading idea, that adjectives are frequently described to be the names of qualities, which, in reality, they are not; all names of qualities, as goodness for example, being substantives. Adjectives are names of things, considered as having qualities; but in which, the quality being fixed, and the things variable, the idea of the quality predominates over that of the thing.
It remains to show in what manner the three adjective predicables, Differentia, Proprium, and Accidens, are distinguished from one another; how we are to decide whether any name, in which the idea connoted, that of the attribute, is the principal idea, should be considered as a Differentia, a Proprium, or an Accidens, of a given class. We say a class, because we do not consider the first two of these terms to be applicable to an individual.
Now here, as it appears to us, the definitions of the schoolmen are precise, and their classification perfect. The attributes, according to them, might be either
1. Essential, and then the term connoting it was a Differentia; 2. Accidental, but necessary, and then the term connoting it was a Proprium; or 3. Accidental and not necessary, and then the term connoting it was an Accidens.
To render this classification intelligible, it is necessary that we should explain what was here meant by essential and accidental, necessary and contingent.
1. By the essence, and the essential properties, of a class, were meant the properties which, as we have already explained, are implied in its name, or, to use the technical expression, connoted by it. The essence of the class man consists, according to this definition, of life, the power of voluntary motion, rationality, and the human form. There are many other properties which are both common to all mankind, and peculiar to them, but they are not essential, because, if a race were discovered destitute of these properties, they would yet, according to the established meaning of the word man, be called men, if they possessed the other attributes which we have named. All this is plainly implied, though not clearly expressed, in the scholastic definition of essence. All properties, says the definition, are of the essence of man, without which man can neither be, nor be conceived to be; that is, without which, an object, whatever may be its other properties, will not be called man.
It is obvious, that, as classification is arbitrary, and nomenclature equally so, the word man might, if we had so chosen, have implied any other properties, instead of these. What should or should not be essential properties of man, depended upon the will of those who framed the class, and imposed the name. But the convenience of framing such a class, and giving it a common name, has been so obvious, that all mankind have concurred in the classification; and so long as we profess to adhere to the established nomenclature, it does not depend upon us what shall be the essential properties of the class, because it does not belong to us, but to the usage of language, to fix what is implied in the name.
Every property which was of the essence of a species, every property implied in the name of a species, might be termed, according to the schoolmen, a Differentia of that species. But there was this further distinction, that, as some of the properties which were common to the species, and implied in its name, might also be common to some larger class or Genus, including the species, and might be implied in the name of that likewise, these properties were said to constitute a Generic Difference, with respect to the species, while the remainder of its essential properties, which were implied in the name of the species but not implied in that of the genus, and which served consequently to distinguish the given species from other species of the same genus, were termed its Specific Difference. Of the four properties above enumerated as essential to the class man,—life, and the power of voluntary motion, are implied, not only in the name of that class, but in the name of the superior genus, animal, and are therefore termed the Differentia Generica of man, while rationality and the human figure, not being implied in the word animal, serve to distinguish the species man from the other species of that genus, and are called its Differentia Specifica.
2. All properties or attributes which were possessed by the thing, but not implied in the name, and were therefore excluded from the rank of essential properties, were called accidental properties of the class, and were said to be predicated of it by accident, κατα συμβεβηκὸς, because it was only by accident that they were true of the whole class, not having been in any degree taken into account when the class was framed, and the objects which were to be comprised in it parcelled out.
Accidental properties were further subdivided into those which were necessary and those which were not necessary; which were, as it is otherwise expressed, contingent. The first kind of property (or rather the name which connotes it) was called Proprium, the second Accidens. We shall endeavour to explain this remaining distinction without reference to our author’s strange misunderstanding of the meaning of the word necessary, as applied to a property or a proposition.
Of the properties of a class, there are some which, as we have before seen, are implied in its name, and these are called its essential properties; but there are some also, which, although not implied in the name of the species, are capable of being demonstratively deduced from those which are: and these were the properties to which the followers of Aristotle applied the name Proprium. Thus the property of being bounded by three straight lines is implied in the name of the class Triangle, and is one of its essential properties: the property of having the sum of its angles equal to two right angles may be shown, by demonstration, to follow from this essential property, but is not itself an essential property, not being implied in the name; for, if we were to discover that Euclid’s demonstration is incorrect, and that the two properties are not co-extensive, the name would certainly follow the former property, not the latter. Being an accidental property, therefore, and yet a necessary property, because the supposition of its being taken away, while the essential properties of a triangle remain, “implicat manifestam contradictionem,”* it is termed a Proprium. All other accidental properties are called simply by the name of Accidens.
All the five Predicables, with their distinguishing characteristics, may be exhibited in a Synoptic Table of the following form:
When thus expressed, the Aristotelian classification of general terms has, at least, the advantage of being intelligible.* It is also evident, that the classification is complete; that it comprehends every thing which can be truly predicated of a class. It does not belong to this place to afford any illustrations or proofs of its vast utility, especially in all questions relating to the original foundation of human knowledge, and the different kinds of evidence on which it rests. But we may have occasion hereafter, in touching upon that more extensive subject, to follow out some of the above observations to their ulterior consequences: and, in the mean time, it may be sufficient, as a protection against the accusation of elaborate trifling, to observe, that to point out, and make plain and intelligible, distinctions which really exist, whether it be attended with immediate practical consequences or not, at least conduces always to the clearness of our ideas.
We shall not here set forth the manner in which the unfortunate confusion, in our author’s mind, between the words necessary and universal, has vitiated a great part of what he has said on the subject of Propositions. But there is one point remaining—a point of very great importance—on which we think that Dr. Whately has profited little by the discoveries of modern metaphysicians; it is the subject of Definition.
A Nominal Definition, [says he,] (such as are those usually found in a dictionary of one’s own language) explains only the meaning of the term, by giving some equivalent expression, which may happen to be better known. Thus you might define a “Term,” that which forms one of the extremes or boundaries of a proposition; and a “Predicable,” that which may be predicated; “decalogue,” ten commandments; “telescope,” an instrument for viewing distant objects, &c. A Real Definition is one which explains and unfolds the nature of the thing; and each of these kinds of definition is either accidental or essential. An essential Definition assigns (or lays down) the constituent parts of the essence (or nature). An accidental definition (which is commonly called a description) assigns the circumstances belonging to the essence, viz. Properties and Accidents (e.g. causes, effects, &c.) thus, “man” may be described as “an animal that uses fire to dress his food, &c.”
We do not intend to comment upon the obscurity and confusion of the latter part of this passage, occasioned by the unhappy imperfection of our author’s explanation of the predicables; but to observe, thatabtheb distinction between nominal and real definitions, between definitions of words and what are called definitions of things, although conformable to the ideas of most of the Aristotelian logicians, cannot, as it appears to us, be maintained. We apprehend that no definition is ever intended to “explain and unfold the nature ofcthec thing.” It is some confirmation of our opinion, that none of those writers who have thought that there were definitions of things, have ever succeeded in discovering any criterion by which the definition of a thing can be distinguished from any other proposition relating to the thing. The definition, they say, unfolds the nature of the thing: but no definition can unfold its whole nature; and every proposition in which any quality whatever is predicated of the thing, unfolds some part of its nature. The true state of the case we take to be this:—All definitions are of names, and of names only: but, in some definitions, it is clearly apparent, that nothing is intended except to explain the meaning of the word; while, in others, besides explaining the meaning of the word, it is intended to be implied that there exists a thing corresponding to the word. Whether this be or be not implied in any given case, cannot be collected from the mere form of the expression. “A centaur is an animal with the upper parts of a man and the lower parts of a horse;” and “A triangle is a rectilineal figure with three sides,” are, in form, expressions precisely similar; although in the former it is not implied that any thing, conformable to the term, really exists, while in the latter it is; as may be seen by substituting, in both definitions, the word means for is. In the first expression, “a centaur means an animal,” &c., the sense would remain unchanged: in the second, “a triangle means,” &c. the meaning would be altered, since it would be obviously impossible to deduce any of the truths of geometry from a proposition expressive only of the manner in which we intend to employ a particular sign.
There are, therefore, expressions, commonly passing for definitions, which include in themselves more than the mere explanation of the meaning of a term. But it is not correct to call an expression of this sort a peculiar kind of definition. Its difference from the other kind consists in this, that it is not a definition, but a definition and something more. The definition above given of a triangle, obviously comprises, not one, but two propositions, perfectly distinguishable: the one is, “There may exist a figure bounded by three straight lines:” the other, “and this figure may be termed a triangle.” The former of these propositions is not a definition at all; the latter is a mere nominal definition, or explanation of the use and application of a term. The first is susceptible of truth or falsehood, and may therefore be made the foundation of a train of reasoning: the latter can neither be true nor false; the only character it is susceptible of is that of conformity or disconformity to the ordinary usage of language.a
We have much to say, likewise, on Dr. Whately’s Essential and Accidental Definitions, his Separable and Inseparable Accidents, &c. But we have said enough, perhaps more than enough, in the tone of criticism, upon his Synthetical Compendium. In our examination of the remainder of his work, we shall have the less invidious office of displaying merits rather than of detecting faults.
The latter half of the volume consists of a Treatise on Fallacies, and a Dissertation on the Province of Reasoning.
The subject of Fallacies has not been disregarded by logical writers. In most treatises of logic, a chapter has been devoted to the enumeration and classification of them. But logicians have not, hitherto, elicited much that is recondite or valuable on this subject. They seem to have exhausted the whole vigour of their intellects in laying down principles and rules, by the application of which a fallacy, if any exist in an argument, may be detected; and to have expended little philosophy in devising the means of distinguishing what kind of fallacy it was, in what cases such a fallacy was most to be apprehended, and by what previous habits the mind might be, with the greatest probable efficacy, protected against its approach. Perceiving clearly, in this division of the subject, the ineptitude of Aldrich, whose deficiencies, however, in this instance are no greater than those of much abler writers, Dr. Whately has left the beaten track of his predecessors, and applied his own powers of thought to the task of describing, characterizing, and classing, fallacies.
The reader who should expect to find, in this excellent dissertation, a dry catalogue of names or a string of technical definitions, would be most agreeably disappointed in its perusal. It abounds with apt examples and illustrations drawn from almost all the most interesting subjects in the range of human knowledge, and is interspersed with many just and acute observations on the errors of controversialists, the mental habits by which the liability to be deceived by fallacies is heightened or decreased, and the general regulation of the intellectual faculties.
From the examples here given of fallacious arguments, much instruction may be derived of a nature not strictly logical; since the refutation of a sophism, be it in what science it may, is in itself a good, independently of its use as an exercise, to fit the mind for detecting and avoiding others. In the Preface to his Elements of Rhetoric, lately published, Dr. Whately complains [pp. viii-x] that some have blamed him for availing himself of these examples as a vehicle for opinions of his own, in which the persons by whom he is thus criticized do not concur. We know not who are the persons thus alluded to, but the objection, by whomsoever made, is (as it seems to us) extremely unreasonable. If logic be of use for the establishment of any truths, they must be truths which need establishment—truths which there is at least a chance that some of those to whom they are presented may not immediately admit. For the settlement of a dispute, it is a necessary condition that the dispute should exist, or at least be capable of existing. There is little use in trying an argument by logical rules when it is sufficiently clear already whether it be valid: and, in point of fact, we are firmly persuaded, that the extremely familiar and obvious arguments by which logical writers have in general illustrated the doctrine of the syllogism, have contributed not a little to the low estimation in which the science is commonly held by superficial persons, who, finding that from the beginning to the end of a work professing to deliver the Art of Reasoning, that art is never once employed to establish a single truth of which any man could doubt, or refute one sophism by which he could for an instant be deceived, had some colour for representing logic as a mere nomenclature, and applying to it what was wittily said of a sister science, that
In adopting, however, the more judicious course, of illustrating the principles of logic by means of arguments of which the soundness or fallacy could not so readily be perceived without the aid of those principles, the teacher of that science exposes himself to another danger, from which we cannot say that, in our opinion, Dr. Whately has always been quite successful in guarding himself. It has been already remarked, that the most unerring skill in the application of logical rules will not protect the reasoner from false conclusions if his premises are unsound. Now, although his error, when it proceeds from such a cause, is in no wise imputable to logic, its apparent absurdity is not a little heightened by the scientific apparatus with which he has so cautiously protected himself from falling into any conclusion but that to which his false premises legitimately lead. So likewise if, in order to refute opponents, a logician permits himself to fill up a suppressed link of their argument with a proposition which they allow to be false, when one which they affirm to be true would equally have sufficed to support their conclusion, and by this method gains an easy victory over an argument which was never maintained—the adversary, being perhaps ignorant of logic, and thinking himself logically confuted when his reason tells him that he is not substantially so, is likely enough to conclude that the rules of logic afford no criterion whatever of the validity of an argument. Thus Dr. Whately says,
If a man expatiates on the distress of the country, and thence argues that the government is tyrannical, we must suppose him to assume either that “every distressed country is under a tyranny,” which is a manifest falsehood, or merely that “every country under a tyranny is distressed,” which, however true, proves nothing, the middle term being undistributed.
With submission, we would observe, that the supposed reasoner need not maintain either the false proposition, or that which does not prove the conclusion: he might assume, not that “every distressed country is under a tyranny,” but that every country which is blessed with a fertile soil, rich mineral productions, a situation highly favourable to commerce, and an orderly, intelligent, and industrious, population, may, if it be distressed, impute its miseries to the tyranny, or, at least, to the vices, of its government. And it might be, that the circumstances of the country in question were in accordance with the above hypothesis. Dr. Whately has therefore, with much ostentation of logic, failed in his attempt to refute this argument: which, indeed, like many other arguments in which the premises only are disputable, and not the justness of the illation, may or may not be a sophism according to circumstances, and consequently does not admit of any general refutation. We are sure that our author cannot justly impute so flagrant an abuse of logical principles to Mr. Bentham, upon whose Book of Fallacies[*] he is somewhat unnecessarily severe (p. 194n). We mention these things merely because we think it right to shew that they have not escaped our observation. We should deserve contempt if such faults as these, in matters only incidental to the main subject, could affect our estimation of the work as a scientific treatise, or even materially alter our feelings towards the author. For the man who labours, whether from superstition or self-interest, to keep back the progress of the human mind, we reckon it no apology that the evil which he does he is besotted enough to mistake for good: but every one who is really and efficiently engaged in enlightening mankind, we regard, howsoever we may dissent from some of his views, as a confederate and brother in arms, a fellow labourer in the same great cause with ourselves. If our advances are not met with equal cordiality, that does not affect our duty; the admirable purpose of this volume, and the immense good which it is effecting, would be a sufficient atonement for twenty times the number of trespasses against candour and the rules of fair and honourable controversy, which can be discovered in it. The number of bigots and knaves in the world is not so small, nor the friends of improvement so numerous, that any portion of the indignation due to the first can, with any justice, be diverted to the second.
The Dissertation on the Province of Reasoning exhibits a greater reach of thought, and power of original investigation, than is shewn in any other part of the volume. It is divided into five chapters. 1st, On Induction. 2nd, On the Discovery of Truth. 3rd, On Inference and Proof. 4th, On Verbal and Real Questions. 5th, On Realism.
In the chapter on Induction, it is the chief object of our author to prove that induction is not, as it seems to be generally considered, a distinct kind of argument from the syllogism.
This mistake, [he observes,] seems chiefly to have arisen from a vagueness in the use of the word induction, which is sometimes employed to designate the process of investigation, and of collecting facts; sometimes the deducing an inference from those facts. The former of these processes (i.e. that of observation and experiment) is undoubtedly distinct from that which takes place in the Syllogism; but then it is not a process of argument; the latter, again, is an argumentative process; but then it is, like all other arguments, capable of being Syllogistically expressed. (P. 208.)
In the process of reasoning, [he continues,] by which we deduce, from our observation of certain known cases, an inference with respect to unknown ones, we are employing a syllogism in Barbara with the major* Premiss suppressed; that being always substantially the same, as it asserts, that “what belongs to the individual or individuals we have examined, belongs to the whole class under which they come;” e.g. from an examination of the history of several tyrannies, and finding that each of them was of short duration, we conclude, that “the same is likely to be the case with all tyrannies;” the suppressed major Premiss being easily supplied by the hearer; viz. “that what belongs to the tyrannies in question is likely to belong to all.”
This is a just, and, so far as we are aware, an original remark; and its consequences are extremely important. Deliberate consideration does not indeed shew it to be so complete an answer as it at first appears, to those writers who set up Induction in opposition to Syllogism; for if this were the only reply that could be made to them, they might with justice allege, that although, in the inductive process, the only part which can be correctly termed reasoning is syllogistic, that part is, however, extremely simple and obvious, the inductive syllogism being one and the same in all cases; and that in a case of vitious induction, it is not in this step of the process that the mistake ever lies. The importance, therefore, of Dr. Whately’s observation consists rather in the more clear conception which it gives of the nature of Induction itself: in confirmation of which, it may be stated, that this one remark would have sufficed to correct the erroneous notion which the ancients had of induction, and to which Lord Bacon justly ascribes the gross errors they committed in the investigation of nature. They in fact mistook altogether the inductive syllogism, completing it by the addition of a minor, instead of a major; as is shown by Dr. Whately in the note to the above passage.
The object of the next chapter, on the Discovery of Truth, is to inquire, how far reasoning, that is, syllogism, affords the means by which any new truths are brought to light. The author was incited to this inquiry by the frequency of the accusation against logic, that it is wholly unserviceable in the investigation of truth: he refutes this imputation most triumphantly, and his ideas on the entire subject are philosophical and just. He says, that it is true, reasoning does not enable us to discover truths which were not implied and contained in any thing previously known; but that many truths, virtually involved in propositions which we have already assented to, might practically, unless elicited by a process of reasoning, have remained for ever as completely unknown, as if they did not result from the knowledge we previously possessed. Of this fact, the whole science of mathematics is a perpetual proof. All geometry is in reality implied in the axioms and definitions, and all mechanics in the three laws of motion, and that of the composition and resolution of forces; but if it had not been for the ratiocinative process by which we compel these elementary truths to bring forth the fruit which is in them, they would have remained for ever barren; mankind would, it is true, in a certain sense, have possessed these magnificent sciences, but no otherwise than as the ore in an undiscovered mine is possessed by the owner of the ground wherein it lies.
Metaphysicians have found it a very difficult problem, to explain on philosophical principles this seeming paradox; to prove that possible, which experience certifies to be true; that mankind may correctly apprehend and fully assent to a general proposition, yet remain for ages ignorant of myriads of truths which are embodied in it, and which, in fact, are but so many particular cases of that which, as a general truth, they have long known. We do not think that our author has advanced much nearer than his predecessors to the solution of the mystery: but he has illustrated the fact itself most elegantly and instructively; and that person must be far advanced in this kind of knowledge, who can read the chapter without deriving from it an important addition to his stock of valuable ideas.
The same remark applies, though in a less degree, to the two succeeding chapters, on “Inference and Proof,” and on “Verbal and Real Questions.” In the first of these, our author points out the distinction between the function of the philosopher, and that of the advocate; of him who combines together premises with no other view than that of arriving by means of them at some new and useful conclusion, and him whose conclusion is given, and who has to seek for premises, by the combination of which, he may be enabled to demonstrate that particular conclusion and no other. In the next chapter, Dr. Whately defines more clearly and in more precise and logical language than former writers, the distinction between what are called Verbal, and Real, questions. His remarks on this subject, when once stated, appear almost too simple to require statement; but the frequency with which differences affecting merely the application of a word, are mistaken for real diversities of opinion respecting matters of fact, and the latter in their turn (for this too is no unfrequent case) stigmatized, from a misapprehension of the point at issue, as merely verbal disputes, renders the clear statement of the distinction, however obvious it may appear, no unimportant service.
Lastly, Dr. Whately enters into an examination of the notion of the Realists, that genera and species are real things, having an independent existence; that to every general name there corresponds an actually existing thing, distinct as well from the individuals contained in the class, as from the qualities belonging to these individuals, which were the occasion of their being formed into a class. Dr. Whately observes, and his experience is borne out by our own, that although few persons, if any, in the present day, avow and maintain this doctrine, those who are not especially on their guard are perpetually sliding into it unawares; and he proceeds with much acuteness to set forth several circumstances not previously noticed, which have contributed in no trifling degree to the prevalence of this error.
We have now brought our critical observations on Dr. Whately’s work to a close. But we cannot dismiss the subject, without expressing a hope that the powers of philosophizing, of which he has afforded an earnest in this work, may not lie idle, nor be diverted to any other subject, until he has accomplished some part of what is still wanting to the elucidation of this. A large portion of the philosophy of General Terms still remains undiscovered; the philosophical analysis of Predication, the explanation of what is the immediate object of belief when we assent to a proposition, is yet to be performed: and though the important assistance rendered by general language, not only in what are termed the exact sciences, but even in the discovery of physical facts, is known and admitted, the nature of the means by which it performs this service is a problem still to a great extent unsolved. Let Dr. Whately carry to the investigation of these subjects, the knowledge he possesses of the science which he has so usefully expounded, together with the acquaintance, which he either possesses or might acquire, with the discoveries of modern metaphysicians in this field of inquiry, and we feel confident that he would produce a work which would contribute even more to the advancement of knowledge, and entitle him to still higher permanent fame, than the excellent Treatise, of which we here close our examination.
[[*] ]Isaac Watts, Logick: Or, the Right Use of Reason in the Enquiry after Truth (London: Clark and Hett, et al., 1725); see, e.g., pp. 124 ff., 365 ff.
[[†] ]William Warburton, The Divine Legation of Moses, in Works, 7 vols. (London: Cadell, 1788), Vol. III, pp. 468-9 (Bk. VI, §6).
[[*] ]See Dugald Stewart, Elements of the Philosophy of the Human Mind, 3 vols. (London: Strahan and Cadell, et al.; Edinburgh: Creech, et al., 1792, 1814, 1827), Vol. II, pp. 244 ff. (Chap. iii, esp. §2).
[* ]Whately, p. 151.
[* ]Analytica Priora, [in The Categories, On Interpretation, Prior Analytics (Greek and English), trans. Harold P. Cooke and Hugh Tredennick (London: Heinemann; Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1938), p. 356 (46a),] Lib. I, Cap. xxx.
[[*] ]Aristotle, Analytica Posteriora, in Posterior Analytics, Topica (Greek and English), trans. Hugh Tredennick and E. S. Forster (London: Heinemann; Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1960).
[† ]Siquidem ex nudâ enumeratione particularium (ut Dialectici solent) ubi non invenitur instantia contradictoria, vitiose concluditur, neque aliquid aliud hujusmodi Inductio producit quam conjecturam probabilem. Quis enim in se recipiet, cum particularia, quæ quis novit, aut quorum meminit, ex unâ tantum parte compareant; non delitescere aliquid, quod omnino repugnet? Perinde ac si Samuel acquievisset in illis Isai filiis quos coram adductos videbat in domo, et minime quæsivisset Davidem qui in agro aberat. (Bacon, De Augmentis Scientiarum, [in Works, ed. James Spedding, Robert Leslie Ellis, and Douglas Denon Heath, 14 vols. (London: Longman, 1857-74), Vol. I, p. 620], Lib. V, Cap. ii. [The Biblical reference is to I Samuel, 16.])
[[*] ]Ibid., p. 635.
[* ]There is, however, a philosopher of our times, who holds this error in common with the schoolmen, and (strange to say), he is the Coryphæus of their modern antagonists. Dr. Reid imagined, that all physical facts were in their nature capable of being demonstrated; in other words, capable of being proved by syllogism. Misled, like the schoolmen, by geometrical analogies, he supposed that there is, corresponding to every physical object, an essence, which we do not know indeed, and which our faculties probably are not capable of being cognizant of; but which, nevertheless, is the cause of all the sensible properties of the object, and from which, if we did know it, those sensible properties might all of them be deduced.
[† ]P. 7.
[* ]P. 21.
[[*] ]The title of Chap. ii (pp. 54-130).
[* ]The name of a class, otherwise called a general term, is taken, according to circumstances, either to denote any individual whatever of the whole class, or only any individual whatever of some part of it. In the first case the term is said to be distributed, or taken distributively, in the other, not. Thus in the proposition, man is mortal, in which the terms man and mortal are respectively names of classes, the word man stands for any and every man, and is therefore distributed; but the word mortal is not distributed, being taken for a part only of its class; for although the proposition affirms that every man is mortal, it does not affirm that every man is every mortal, many objects being mortal which are not men.
[[*] ]See pp. 7-8 above.
[[*] ]Henry Aldrich, Artis logicæ compendium (Oxford: Sheldonian Theatre, 1691).
[* ]We use this strong expression upon no less an authority than that of Dr. Whately himself. The words are ours; but the facts, which more than bear them out, may be learned from his preface. [See esp. pp. xlv ff.]
[† ]This excellent treatise has recently been re-printed by a subscription, among several students of logic, for the convenience of use. [Philippus Du Trieu, Manuductio ad logicam (Oxford: Oxlad and Pocock, 1662; reprinted, London: printed by McMillan, 1826).]
[* ]We have chosen to retain the latin word proprium, instead of rendering it (with our author) by the English word property. Our reason is, that by the usage of the English language, property includes not only Proprium, but Differentia and Accidens. When the properties of a thing are spoken of, the whole of its attributes are generally meant.
[* ]In one place, instead of the essence, simply, Dr. Whately speaks of the essence, or nature; but this, besides that it is only interpreting one unintelligible word by another, is an interpretation which, surely, on reflection, Dr. Whately will not abide by. He says, that the species expresses the whole essence of a thing; now he can scarcely mean to affirm, that it expresses the whole nature. Horse does not surely express the whole nature of Eclipse, or Bucephalus. [See Whately, p. 71; cf. p.28 below.]
[[*] ]See Whately, p. 62; Aldrich, pp. 24 ff.
[* ][Richard] Crackanthorp, [Logicæ libri quinque (London: Teage, 1622), p. 29,] Lib. I, Cap. vi.
[* ]The above account of the last three Predicables has been chiefly drawn from Du Trieu, Crackanthorp, Burgersdicius, and other eminent expounders of the Aristotelian logic. There is not one thought in the text which was not adopted, with or without additional development, from those excellent writers, except the definition which has been given of essences and essential properties. And although, on this point, their definition is not the same with that in the text, it manifestly leads to it. [The reference is to Du Trieu, Manuductio ad logicam, Crakanthorp, Logicæ libri quinque, and Francis Burgersdyk, Institutionam logicarum libri duo (Cambridge: Field, 1660).]
[a-a][quoted in A System of Logic, Collected Works, Vol. VII, pp. 143-4]
[b-b]MS, 43, 46, 51, 56, 62, 65, 68, 72 The
[c-c]56, 62, 65, 68, 72 a
[[*] ]Samuel Butler, Hudibras, ed. Zachary Grey, 2 vols. (London: Vernor and Hood, 1801), Vol. I, p. 13 (Part I, Canto I, 89-90).
[[*] ]London: Hunt, 1824.
[* ]“Not the minor, as Aldrich [p. 23] represents it. The instance he gives will sufficiently prove this—‘This, and that, and the other magnet attract iron; therefore so do all.’ If this were, as he asserts, an enthymeme whose minor is suppressed, the only premiss which we could supply to fill it up would be, ‘All magnets are this, that, and the other,’ which is manifestly false.” (Author’s [i.e., Whately’s] Note [p. 209n].)