To this point, the term "reason" has been left undefined. This is not because such a definition is unimportant, but rather because an adequate definition of "reason," as became apparent in the last chapter, poses many problems. Most philosophers seem to agree on the value of reason, but here the agreement ends. When it comes to defining "reason" they go in numerous directions, each definition laying the foundation for a different theory of knowledge. Following these various definitions through in their important implications and comparing them to one another, in order to evaluate them, is an extremely exhaustive business. To avoid this difficult procedure, it is simpler to take the term "reason" and set certain limits on it. In this manner, one restricted use can be examined in detail and then used as a gauge for appraising other definitions.

If the term "reason" is limited only to acts of the mind that involve reasons, reasoning can then be appropriately defined as the ability to use reasons, to search for reasons, to understand reasons, and to apply reasons. In this definition, reasoning implies the ability to use reasons just as swimming implies the ability to move through water. Acts of the mind which involve no reasons would not fall under this definition.

This definition conforms, in many ways, to commonsense. When the term "reason" is used to refer to activities or processes which involve no reasons at all, it does violence to the appropriateness of the word. Thinking or communicating which uses no reasons (ASD) is not reasoning, and those who do not offer reasons for their opinions should not consider themselves as "reasoning." The term "reason," by this definition, is restricted to thinking and communicating that in some manner involves "reasons."

According to this definition, not all thinking is necessarily reasoning. Some thought processes do not involve reasons. A good deal of confusion is eliminated if these processes are called something other than "reasoning."

Not all thinking necessarily involves reasons, but much thinking does. Mental activity, at certain levels, involves multitudes of reasons employed at such a rapid rate that one is almost unconscious of using them. A decision that can be made in a split second can, on analysis, be shown to involve dozens of separate reasoning acts. For example, in an impending auto accident, numerous alternatives can be weighed in a flash and often trouble can be avoided. Many reasons were involved in the decision as well as reflexive response. Reasoning with reasons is an important aspect of human thought.

Reasoning, as defined, comes naturally to people. It is so natural that it is impossible for a normal adult NOT to reason. Reasoning is there but it is not always conspicuous. If reasoning were painful, it would be obvious to all, but instead it is a simple, easy, natural part of the thinking process that demands little attention and so can easily pass unnoticed.

Reasoning is natural, but many question whether reasoning is always adequate. An adequate reason is one that justifies its conclusions. Not all reasons qualify as adequate. Anyone can think up a reason but it does not mean that the reason is okay. A child might insist he was late for dinner because he was shipwrecked on a desert island. Since he was only gone 45 minutes, one might have genuine cause to doubt the sufficiency of this reason, and ask what he was really doing.

The question whether reasons are adequate or inadequate echoes the problem examined by Aristotle when he distinguished between genuine and sham reasoning. He noted that there was a resemblance between fair and unfair reasoning so that the sham could appear as genuine and that the ignorant could thereby easily be deceived. He then made it his business to discover rules and laws that would distinguish sound from unsound reasoning. In the process of doing this he became the first logician, (He did not use the term "logic. Rather he called it "analytics"). Logic is the science which attempts to discover the rules which distinguish adequate reasons from inadequate reasons. Any attempt to learn the difference is, by definition, a study of logic.

However, if logic is to distinguish sufficient from insufficient reasons there must be some way to detect and define "reasons" and here Aristotle made his real discovery. He found that, in the last analysis, reasons provide middle terms of syllogisms and the ability to reason (ASD) is nothing more than the ability to syllogize. This can be proven to be so because whenever a "reason" is explicitly given, for a particular conclusion, a syllogism can always be found. It is not always a valid syllogism, but then reasons are not always sufficient.

The middle term of a syllogism provides the answer to the question: "Why?" When someone asks "Why?" and is answered, "Because…", he is being supplied with a reason, or a middle term of a syllogism. The middle term makes it possible to understand the principle that guide the conclusion or justifies the action intended. To ask "Why?" is to ask for the reason.

A cause is also a middle term or reason. Those who seek causes are actually using syllogisms backwards. They already have the conclusion, and if the middle term (or cause) can be discovered, there is enough information to form a syllogism and thus discover the general principle which governs the conclusion. This principle can then be used to deduce further conclusions and predict future events. Where there is no middle term, there is no cause.

The value of the syllogism is that it shows, in a stylized form, the manner in which people reason. From two propositions, which are known independently of each other, it is possible, if they have a common middle term, to reach a new proposition that was previously unknown. The syllogism provides us with a method of moving from the known to something new. In this manner, humans develop knowledge.

Examining the reasoning process aids in understanding the nature of reason.

Syllogisms come in different figures, moods, and kinds. The variations and inter-relations of these syllogisms become continuously more complex as the subject is pursued. Logic, in this respect, is much like mathematics. Some even maintain that mathematics is a branch of logic. Whether or not such a connection is established, there is still an analogical relation. Both sciences seem to offer limitless possibilities for professionals and yet, in both sciences, the elementary aspects are also important and useful to the average person. In mathematics, addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division are needed for business management. In logic, sound rules of reasoning are needed for the management of everyday living. It is not necessary to go into the vast complications of syllogistics logic in order to learn to reason more validly any more than it is necessary to become adept in Calculus to balance a checkbook.

There is one important difference between math and logic which creates enormous difficulties for anyone writing about logic or about syllogistic thinking. Math is taught to everyone, beginning in the first grade. In writing about mathematics, it can be assumed that educated adults are familiar with and consent to basic mathematical terminology and fundamental principles. In logic, none of these assumptions is possible.

In logic, almost the opposite is true. In writing for educated adults, one can assume that there is no basic terminology that solicits common consent and that there is radical disagreement about fundamental principles. This means that although educated people, because they are educated, are involved with some of the more advanced logical problems, these problems cannot be intelligently discussed until those involved first agree upon some elementary terminology and assent to some basic principles.

The first step in developing profitable knowledge about syllogistic logic is to learn to recognize syllogisms. Little that is relevant about syllogistic logic can be said until people learn to detect the legions of syllogisms that cram the mind.

Although syllogizing comes naturally, recognizing the process must be learned, and to do this, one must take syllogisms one at a time. It should be emphasized, however, that each syllogism is only one in many and when we use syllogisms in our reasoning we use them in sets and multiples of sets.

In learning to recognize syllogisms, it helps to distinguish practical syllogisms from theoretical syllogisms. For example:


            Major Premise: Rattlesnakes are poisonous snakes.

Minor Premise: Poisonous snakes are to be carefully avoided.

Conclusion :Rattlesnakes are to be carefully avoided


Major Premise: Rattlesnakes are to be carefully avoided.

Minor Premise: This snake in my garden is a rattlesnake.

Conclusion: This snake in my garden is to be carefully avoided.

In many ways the practical and theoretical syllogisms are alike. Both have a major premise, minor premise, and a conclusion. Both have three terms, each term being used twice which means that both have a common subject, a common predicate, and a common middle term. In both, the basic rules of validity are, for most purposes, the same. Because of these similarities, many textbooks make no particular effort to distinguish the two. From a real-world point of view this is a mistake because it is through differentiating the practical from the theoretical syllogism that the values and use of syllogistic logic becomes apparent. It also helps in recognizing syllogisms in action.


The distinction between the theoretical and practical syllogism lies in the minor premise. In both cases, the major premise is a generality. In the theoretical syllogism, the minor premise and conclusions are also generalities. In the practical syllogism, the minor premise is a fact and the conclusion is also a fact.

In theoretical reasoning, generalities containing common middle terms are related to each other in such a manner as to obtain new generalities. In the example given, the two premises are two separate bits of knowledge. One might know that all poisonous snakes should be avoided without being aware that rattlers are poisonous. On being informed that rattlesnakes are poisonous, a middle term is supplied and the deduction is quickly made that rattlesnakes should be carefully avoided.

In practical reasoning, a generality is related to a specific object. In the example, the generality just given, the generality deduced theoretically is applied to a specific object, i.e., to the snake in my garden. Here again, two bits of knowledge, known independently, are related by means of a middle term to reach a conclusion. This conclusion, however, is practical rather than theoretical. It applies to a specific snake in a specific garden at a specific time and it warns me, a specific person, to be careful.

From theoretical reasoning, new principles and generalities can be deduced from previously formed generalities, and consistencies and inconsistencies can be detected. From practical reasoning, principles can be applied to specific objects and events, and generalities can be tested for soundness. Both the practical and theoretical work together in the reasoning process. Through one, speculation and new knowledge are possible. Through the other, generalities are applied and tested. Theoretical and practical reasoning complement each other. Any attempt to limit reasoning to one or the other distorts an understanding of syllogistic thinking.

The above two example were expanded into full syllogistic form to make the middle term more recognizable. In everyday thinking, syllogisms are usually condensed into what logicians call enthymemes, and would be stated this way:


            Theoretical Syllogism condensed:

            1. Rattlesnakes are to be carefully avoided because they are poisonous.


Practical Syllogism condensed:

2. This snake in my garden is to be carefully avoided because it is a rattlesnake.


In learning to recognize syllogisms in ordinary language, it is necessary to be able to identify enthymemes, because this is the way syllogisms usually occur. The presence of "because," "for," "therefore," "hence," "since," and "if" are the most obvious indications of enthymemes. There are also more subtle ways of condensing syllogisms. Sometimes there is no indicator at all, but the reasoning is obvious for the context. For example, in the World Book Encyclopedia article on rattlesnakes, it is stated:


"The larger rattlers rank among the most dangerous of snakes. They should be carefully avoided."


This is an enthymeme which could be stated with the reason more clearly indicated, without changing the meaning:


"Larger rattlers should be carefully avoided because they rank among the most dangerous of snakes."


This enthymeme can be expanded into a theoretical syllogism roughly equivalent to the example given previously.


Major Premise: All snakes that rank among the most dangerous of snakes should be avoided.


Minor Premise: Larger rattlers rank among the most dangerous of snakes.


Conclusion: Larger rattlers should be avoided.


These are different ways of saying the same thing. To expand all our reasoning out in full syllogistic form would be time consuming, tiresome, and stilted. However, it is of great advantage to know how to do so, as will be explained in more detail later, because, by expanding syllogisms, inconsistencies and unexpected assumptions can be discovered.

The above examples are simple and obvious. Once these simpler reasonings become familiar, more refined reasoning can be analyzed the same way. Sometimes interesting emphasis can be discovered which could have otherwise passed unnoticed. For example, Alexander Hamilton says,

"The Constitution is the solemn compact between the society at large and each individual. The society, therefore, cannot without breach of faith and injustice refuse to any individual a single advantage which he derives under that compact…"(+2)

There is more than one syllogism here. The main one can be expanded in this manner:


Major Premise: Breaking solemn contacts is unjust.

Minor Premise: Refusing any individual rights which he derives under the Constitution is the breaking of a solemn contract.

Conclusion: Refusing any individual rights which he derives under the Constitution is unjust.


By expanding the syllogism in this manner, Hamilton's argument becomes more clear and can be examined more objectively. He used this argument to defend the right of ex-Tories who were, in several instances, being deprived of due process of law. Even though he disapproved of much change, he defended their rights as citizens once the treaty had been ratified, because to do otherwise would violate the Constitution and would therefore be unjust. In this manner he took the conclusion of the theoretical syllogism above as the major premise of a practical syllogism and proceeded to put his theory into practice.


Major Premise: Refusing any individual rights which he derives under the Constitution is unjust.

Minor Premise: Depriving Waddington of due process of law is refusing an individual rights which he derives under the Constitution.

Conclusion: Depriving Wadding of due process of law is unjust.


Following the above reasoning, Hamilton risked his political future and took on the unpopular task of defending Waddington in the suit under the Trespass Act brought by the widow Rutgers. Here is an example of theoretical and practical reasoning in a genuine historical situation. Hamilton both theorizes and puts his theory into practice. Although, to perform this reasoning, it was not necessary for Hamilton to expand it into a full syllogistic form or even to know that it could be so expanded, he did, in fact, reason syllogistically and through his reasoning was able to put theory into practice.

Many critics say syllogistic logic is too abstract. Those who hold these objections maintain that the syllogism separates thought from action and knowledge from reality. Exactly the opposite is true. It is through syllogisms that abstractions are applied to practical actions and human knowledge is integrated with reality. It is through being able to identify theoretical and practical syllogisms that this integration becomes noticeable.

In the practical syllogism, the major premise is a principle, or generality of some kind. The minor premise is a fact. The syllogism unites the principle and fact, through a middle term, to reach a conclusion that is a fact or specific course of action. In expanding practical syllogisms, it is more enlightening to use the terms "principle" and "fact" than it is to use the terms "major" and "minor" premise.

Down to earth terminology makes it easier to recognize syllogisms in applying our own thoughts to our own actions, e.g.:


Principle: Always drive on the right side of the road.

Fact: This is the right side of the road.

Conclusion: I shall drive on this side of the road.


Principle: Always stop at a red light.

Fact: This is a red light.

Conclusion: I shall stop at this red light.


Principle: Always signal your intention before turning.

Fact: I am getting ready to turn.

Conclusion: I shall signal my intention.


Everyone who is driving a car uses practical syllogisms all the time. Each action that is guided by a principle is a syllogistic act and drivers follow hundred of these principles every time they get behind the wheel.

In the above examples, one is usually aware of the principle, but the fact is so obvious that it is easy to discount its importance. However, if the fact cannot be determined, the conclusion cannot follow. If you cannot tell the right side from the left side, you cannot choose to drive on the right side even though you might wish to follow the principle of "always drive on the right side." It is the same with the red light. If you have no way of telling whether the light is red or not, the principle is of little value. It does little good to know that the speed limit is 60 miles per hour (principle) if your speedometer (minor premise) is broken. The road sign tells the speed limit. The speedometer tells the actual speed you are going. These are your two premises. It is your decision whether you stay within the speed limit or decide to break it. It is because you can syllogize that you are responsible for the conclusion that you reach. To study what would happen if people were unable to formulate the syllogism just given is one method of examining how important practical syllogisms actually are. It is through syllogisms that deliberate thought is translated into deliberate action and it is a serious mistake to reject a study of syllogistic logic on the grounds that it is abstract, useless and impractical.

Each profession has guiding principles that are put into effect through a syllogistic act. The medical profession is a good example.


Principle: Always check to see if a person is allergic to penicillin before giving a penicillin shot.

Fact: I need to give THIS PERSON a penicillin shot

Conclusion: I will first check to see if this person is allergic to penicillin


Principle: Never give penicillin to a person who is allergic to it

Fact: This person is allergic to penicillin.

Conclusion: I shall not give this person penicillin.


Learning any profession means learning a special set of rules and skills. It means also learning to relate all of the information into a hierarchy of knowledge so that it is known when to do what and how much of it to do. This is the syllogistic process in action.

Those who insist that syllogisms are too abstract to be practical simply do not know how to recognize syllogisms. Syllogisms are the essence of practicality. In order to be practical, one must use syllogisms, because through syllogisms one puts knowledge into practice. By examining the syllogistic form the importance of BOTH principle and fact becomes clear. BOTH premises are equally important to the conclusion. The recipe may call for two cups of flour (major premise), but if the cook is unable to distinguish flour from salt (minor premise), the conclusion could be most unappetizing. The fact and the principle are distinct from each other but depend on each other for the conclusion. Through the syllogism abstractions are applied to events and theoretical knowledge is put into practice.


Sometimes it is argued that syllogisms are mere tautologies, i.e., they do not bring new knowledge, but simply go round and round in circles with what is already known. There is a sense in which this criticism has some validity because Truth is presented in an "as if" absolute. In this absolute sense, perhaps it can be argued that all knowledge is tautological. However. In the physical world in which we limited humans live, syllogisms do bring new knowledge to those who are finite. It is for finite humans that reasoning is of value.


For example, say that "J" bought a ticket number 4568 for a new car at a raffle. A few days later, his friend "K" heard over the radio that number 4568 was the winning number. You have here a syllogism:


Major Premise: Ticket 4568 is the winning number.

Minor Premise: "J" has ticket 4568

Therefore: "J" has the winning number.


This major and minor premise are two pieces of information that taken together means that "J" wins the car, but separately neither piece of information is of great value. "K" may know that 4568 is the winning number and "J" may know that he has ticket 4568. Unless they pool their knowledge, there is no middle term and there is no conclusion. If one should mention to the other, a middle term is supplied and a conclusion -- new to them -- suddenly occurs. The conclusion is definitely new to the people involved although the absolute sense it is not new knowledge to one who possesses absolute knowledge.

If we were born with absolute knowledge, there would be no need to reason. It is due to our finite condition that reasoning can advance knowledge and provide new information. To reject the understanding of "reason" that can be gained through studying syllogisms because in an <u>absolute sense</u> reasoning right prove to have a tautological character is foolish for finite beings, the very ones who benefit from reasoning.

Another common objection to study of the syllogism comes from people who maintain that the syllogism is an artificial construction and is not used in actual thinking. This has already, to some extent, been refuted. Syllogisms exist whether they are expanded in full form or not. Expanding a syllogism does not create the syllogism. It is just a means of recognizing it. Syllogism is not a rare case that crops up once or twice in a lifetime. The mind is syllogising all the time and the examples are so profuse that it is difficult to decide which ones to choose best illustrate the profusion.

At all levels of living, people syllogize. Consider shopping. Shopping is a learned skill* and requires much deduction:


Principle: Each pound of apples in the store at this time costs 30 cents.

Fact: I wish to buy this pound of apples in this store at this time

Conclusion: I must pay 30 cents.


Principle: Always buy oranges with bumpy skins.

Fact: This orange has a bumpy skin.

Conclusion: I will buy this orange.


Principle: Always buy bandaids when the supply is low.

Fact: My supply of bandaids is low.

Conclusion: I shall buy bandaids.


Principle: Always buy tennis shoes at XXXX.

Fact: I wish to buy tennis shoes.

Conclusion: I will go to XXXX.


These examples skip a few steps, but close examination will show the necessary middle terms intact. Without the middle term, it would be impossible to shop. We would not know what we needed or have any criterion for choosing one thing over another.

Most work involves the applying of previously learned principles to fresh events (facts). Working out principles that apply to the job at hand is part of learning that job. The skills developed will be in proportion to one's ability to apply the reasoning involved. Skill is reason put to work.


Principle: Leave the house at 7:30 AM.

Fact: It is 7:30 AM.

Conclusion: It is time to leave.


Principle: Answer the phone when it rings.

Fact: The phone is ringing.

Conclusion: I will answer the phone.


Principle: Send Statements Out on Friday.

Fact: It is Friday.

Conclusion: I will send statements out.


Principle: The customer is always right.

Fact: This is a customer.

Conclusion: He is right.


Principle: Coffee Break is at 10:15 AM.

Fact: It is 10:15 AM.

Conclusion: It is time for coffee break.


The number of examples that could be given are endless. Every rule or guide, no matter how insignificant it might seem, requires a syllogism before it can be intelligently applied.

The syllogism is used copiously in actually thinking, but it is usually condenses, as mentioned before, to an enthymeme. It is in this reduced, contracted form that one must learn to recognize syllogisms in conversation, discourse, and practical action. Once the syllogism is spotted, it can be expanded into full syllogistic form. The explicit and exact expanding of an enthymeme requires more knowledge of logic than has been presented to this point, but each enthymeme can be expanded and, rather than distorting the meaning, such expansion, if properly conducted, can be used to clarify understanding of the reasoning involved.

Arguing whether reasoning is or is not syllogistic is a moot question. All reasoning, that involves reason, is by its nature syllogistic. Whenever a reason is given for a conclusion, an enthymeme is automatically formulated which can be expanded, if desired, to a full syllogism.

The advantage of the syllogistic discovery is that syllogisms demonstrate, in a simple manner, the structures of reasoning, thus making it possible to discern from individual, virtually self-evident examples, how the reasoning process works.

Such an examination, if pursued, leads naturally to the next step, because, on experimenting with the syllogistic form, it becomes apparent that some arrangements of the syllogism differ drastically from others. Some are consistently valid and others are consistently invalid. For example:


Example 1

All dogs are animals.

Lassie is a dog;

Therefore, Lassie is an animal. 


Example 2

Some dogs are male.

Lassie is a dog.

Therefore, Lassie is male. 


A person does not need to study logic to know that syllogism 1 is valid and syllogism 2 is invalid. Both syllogisms have a middle term, that is a "reason" is presented. However, one conclusion is justified and the other is not. This leads normally to the decision that some reasoning is adequate and some is inadequate.

At this point a distinction is drawn between "right" and "wrong" reasoning. A syllogistic study becomes a rational ethic.

If there is a "right way" that leads to sound reasoning versus a "wrong way" that leads to "sham" reasoning, then a responsibility arises. Right reasoning should be pursued as the way to truth and wrong reasoning should be avoided as foul fighting. This leads to the third step which is an attempt to discover rules that distinguish adequate reasoning from inadequate. These rules become a normative logic. They specify what a responsible reasoner should and should not do.

Normative rules discovered in this manner can be conveniently classified in four categories*: The first category is symbolism. The syllogistic relation does not exist between words or between emotions and images triggered by the word, but between meanings and the words. The words themselves are only symbols of the meaning. A distinction needs to be drawn between words, image-emotion response, and meaning; if words are to symbolize a genuine syllogistic relation, rather than merely to trigger a reflex.

The second category is closely related to the first and involves the problem of equivocation. Each of the three terms in the categorical syllogism is used twice. For the syllogism to be valid, the meanings must be used unequivocally. Changing meanings in the middle of a reasoning process can destroy the validity of the conclusion. Some method of definition, or coming to terms, is needed to avoid equivocation.

The third category is the form. If the formal conditions of relating the terms are violated, the syllogism is automatically invalid. Over-generalization and arguing beside the point are invalid forms and conclusions reached by this method are unjustified.

The fourth category is "Truth." If a syllogism is to be sound and reasoning useful, the truth value of the premises needs to be known. One cannot expect true conclusions from false premises.

From these four categories, the four basic rules of right reason listed at the end of Chapter Three can be drawn:


Arguing beside the point is wrong;</li>

Equivocation is wrong;</li>

Overgeneralization is wrong;</li>

Lying is wrong.</li></ul>


These rules are the four basic rules of syllogistic logic. Each rule will be examined in more detail in later chapters.

The above explanation of reason, the middle term, the syllogism, and the basic rules of right reason is one interpretation of "syllogistic logic." In the following chapters, this interpretation of logic defined as common-sense syllogistic logic. "Reason," defined as the ability to syllogize by means of a middle term, will be referred to as the common sense understanding of reason.

It must be emphasized that, in the history of Western Philosophy, the above "common sense" rendition of syllogistic logic is ONLY ONE INTERPRETATION AMONG MANY and the above syllogistic definition of reason is ONLY ONE VERSION among numerous theories of rationality and causality that have been presented to mankind over the centuries. Just as there have been different, even diametrically opposed, versions of the term "dialectic," so, too, have there been different, even opposed definitions of "reason" and uses of the term "syllogistic."

To examine and to do justice to all of the various theories of rational thought that have been influential in the forming of the world as it is today would require many volumes. The following comments and examples are given only for the purpose of demonstrating that there have been different theories and that the difference involved have been significant.

Aristotle, as has been mentioned, is usually credited as being the first philosopher to discover the "syllogism", and as such he is usually called the Father of Formal Logic. He defines "reasoning" and "syllogizing" in almost identical terms; eg.:


"Now reasoning is an argument in which certain things being laid down, something other finds these necessarily coming about through them."


"A syllogism is discourse in which, certain things being stated, something other than that what is stated follows of necessity from there being so."


He further makes a distinction between genuine and sham reasoning, and in one way or another, asserts as necessary to sound reasoning each of four basic rules of common sense and fair play as previously defined. To this point his logic can be equated with the common sense syllogistic logic as defined above. However, Aristotle did not consistently apply this definition or always use the basic rules he himself stated. He was a child of his time, as we all are, and he mixed many metaphysical misconceptions of his day with the basic logical rules in such a manner that it is difficult to separate one from the other. Many of his definitions are inappropriate and lead to hopeless confusion if consistently applied to philosophical problems. From the vantage of two thousand years of progress, it is possible to look back on those mistakes and wonder how people failed to notice them, but such has been the story of human development. The fallacies of the past are always easier to detect than the illusions of the present. What is important to recognize now is that Aristotelian logic is a collection of both monumental discoveries and monumental mistakes. As it stands, it can neither be totally accepted nor totally rejected.

So many inconsistencies can be found in Aristotle's writings that a judicious selection of his statements could yield opposed logical theories, one supporting what the other rejected. If so interpreted, the very first anti-Aristotelian logician would have been Aristotle himself.


Some early writers did not appreciate the extent of the inconsistencies within Aristotle's theories and attempted to preserve as sacrosanct everything he said. Others were aware that the Organon needed revision and began the task of reconstructing logic along versions of their own. This reformation was needed if logic was to progress as a science, but, in the early intellectual climate, more heat than light was often generated, and many attempts to refine logic were less, rather than more, enlightened.

As a result, early Dialecticians had no uniform "syllogistic logic" to guide their dialogs. Those who had copies of Aristotle emphasized what seemed to them important at the moment. Others learned by word of mouth. Much of the material discussed under the heading of "logic" would not be considered "logic" at all according to the commonsense approach. Each teacher, each school had its own interpretations, and the fact that the course might have had the same title did not mean that the same subject was being taught.

Material used for teaching "logic" in the past centuries is now, for the most part, extinct. To gather some of the older meanings of syllogistic logic, one has to try and work it out from passing comments of philosophers whose works have been preserved. Most comments along this line reveal enormous misconceptions about syllogistic logic from the "commonsense" point of view. The middle term, the relation of reason to syllogizing, and the elementary rule of fair play were in many instances either ignored or curiously distorted.

Each philosopher's stance in this matter is different, holds its own significance, and needs to be examined in and for itself. At the risk of distorting some of the finer things philosophers were trying to say about reason in general, a few quotes will be given to show some of the strange ideas of reason, logic, and the syllogism that have been more or less assumed traditionally.

Martin Luther, born in 1483, almost 500 years ago, had little regard for rationality in any form. He said Reason is "the devil's greatest whore," [5] "…it is the devil's handmaid and does nothing but blaspheme and dishonor all that God says or does." [6] Luther had little patience with scholastic science or Aristotelian logic. He called Aristotle an "…urchin who must be put in a pig-sty or donkey's stable." [7]

In about the same historical period and riding the tide of anti-scholasticism of the time, Peter Ramus, born in 1515 in Picardy, gained celebrity by defending the daring thesis - - "Everything that Aristotle taught is false." [8] He began publishing logic texts of his own, producing over 59 distinct works. His "anti-Aristotelian logic" became quite popular, particularly in the Scottish universities, and some evidence exists to indicate that Milton's works were influenced by Ramus' method.

A few years later, 1561, Sir Francis Bacon, the philosopher whose "name has become a symbol of the inductive method in science," was born in London. He believed that the logic being taught at the time was of little value. He said:

"The logic now in use serves rather to fix and give stability to the errors which have their foundation in commonly received notions that to help the search after truth. So it does more harm than good."

Rene Descartes, a Frenchman born in 1596, and known in mathematics as the inventor of analytic geometry, is often referred to as the "Father of Modern Philosophy." He published 21 rules of reason, but specifically rejected the "rules" of "percepts" as he called them, of the syllogism. He said,


"It may perhaps strike some with surprise that here, where we are discussing how to improve our power of deducing one truth from another, we have omitted all the precepts of the dialecticians, by which thy think to control the human reason…as we wish to be particularly careful lest our reason go on holiday while we are examining the truth of any matter, we reject those formulae as being opposed to our project, …

"But, to say a few words more, that it may appear still more evident that this style of argument contributes nothing at all to the discovery of the truth, we must note that the Dialecticians are unable to devise any syllogism which has a true conclusion, unless they have first secured the material out of which to construct it, i.e., unless they have already ascertained they very truth which is deduced in that syllogism. Whence it is clear that from a formula of this kind they can gather nothing that is new, and hence the ordinary Dialectic is quite valueless for those who desire to investigate the truth of things. Its only possible use is to serve to explain at times more easily to others the truths we have already ascertained; hence, it should be transferred from philosophy to Rhetoric."


John Locke, the English philosopher of "common sense" and the philosopher often referred to here as the Father of the American Revolution, was born in 1632. He agreed with Descartes that the syllogism was of little value. What he had to say will be quoted at length because he so well expresses the prejudice against syllogistic logic that is still prevalent today, over three hundred years later:


There is one thing more which I shall desire to be considered concerning reason, and that is whether syllogism, as is generally thought, is the proper instrument of it and use the fullest way of exercising this faculty. The causes I have to doubt are these:


First, because syllogism serves our reason but in one only of the fore-mentioned parts of it, and that is to show the connexion of the proofs in any one instance, and no more; but in this it is of no great use, since the mind can perceive such a connexion where it really is as easily, nay, perhaps better, without it.


If we will observe the actings of our own minds, we shall find that we reason best and clearest when we only observe the connexion of the proof, without reducing our thoughts to any rule of syllogism. And therefore we may take notice that there are many men, that reason exceedingly clear and rightly, who now not how to make a a syllogism. He that will look into many parts of Asia and America will find men reason there perhaps as acutely as himself, who yet never heard of syllogism nor can reduce any one argument to those forms; and I believe scarce anyone every makes syllogisms in reasoning within himself. Indeed syllogism is made use of on occasion to discover a fallacy hid in a rhetorical flourish or cunningly wrapped up in a smooth period and stripping and absurdity of the cover of wit and good language, show it in its naked deformity. But the weakness of fallacy of such a loose discourse it shows, by the artificial fort




David Hume, born in 1711, seven years after Locke died, is usually classified with Locke and George Berkley as the famous trio of British Empiricists. In his experimental method of reasoning, Hume specifically denied the value of a middle term in reasoning. He said,


"We can thus form a proposition, which contains only one idea, so we may exert our reason without employing more than two ideas, and without having recourse to a third to serve as a medium betwixt them. We infer a cause immediately from its effect; and this inference is not only a true species of reasoning, but the strongest of all others, and more convincing that when we interpose another idea to connect the two extremes."


These readings reveal that either the writers did not understand syllogistic logic from the common sense point of view (ASD) or else they were taught a decadent rendition of logic in their schools. The men just quoted are rated as some of the most intelligent men of their age. One can assume that if they had been taught the important basics of common sense syllogistic logic in a clear manner with proper emphasis on each of the basic syllogistic rules that they would never have developed the misconceptions displayed in the above quotes. If Luther had been taught that a "reason" is a middle term of a syllogism and then shown by means of the practical syllogism how the precepts of Christ are thus put into action, he would never have defame "reason" as he did. The split between "faith" and "reason" that caused so much agony among Christians in the following centuries would never have become so serious.


If Peter Ramus had been more careful about testing the truth of his premises, he would not have called his logic "anti-Aristotelian." His contribution to logic was to take many of the Aristotelian precepts and state them more clearly. His method was based on clear concepts, sound judgments, valid inference, and conclusive proof. It is indicative of the temper of the time that he could call such an approach to logic "anti-Aristotelian" and claim that "everything Aristotle said was wrong." Many of the points that Ramus identifies as "anti-Aristotelian" are exactly the same points rejected by present day "anti-Aristotelians."


If "logic," as taught to Sir Francis Baco, was used to "fix and give stability to errors" rather than to help the search after truth, then he was right in concluding that it did more harm than good. However, this does not in any manner prove that the type of "logic" taught to him in the school he attended was common sense syllogistic logic as previously defined in this chapter. One is left wondering rather, what kind of "logic" he was taught that actually hindered the search


How was the subject taught.


The quotation from Rene Descarte is even more curious than the logic of Peter Ramus. Descartes said that in improving the power of deducing one truth from another, he motted all the precepts of the dialecticians. He does not say what those "precepts" were so one cannot test what would happen to deduction if they actually were omitted, but from his statement where he "deduced one truth from another" reveals that he does not understand the basic syllogistic structure where two truths (two premises) are required for a deduction.

Furthermore, Descartes obviously did not, in his educational background, have sufficient knowledge of syllogistic reasoning to recognize how a syllogism does bring new knowledge. Whether this was a fault of the Dialecticians of his time who failed to demonstrate how to recognize and use syllogism or the fault orf Descartes who failed to understand how syllogisms actually work, would be difficult to discover at this late date. However, it is clear that Descartes' misconception of the value of the syllogism has had much to do with the neglect of syllogistic logic in the centuries that followed.

The strangest story of all is that of John Locke. He is perhaps o all the popular philosophers the best defender of the four basic rules of syllogistic logic and common sense. He advocated clear ideas, he abhorred equivocation, he insisted on sound reasoning, and he was concerned with the truth of the judgments on which that reasoning was based. How did he ever get such a queer understanding of the syllogism? This must be one of the greatest mysteries of philosophy. His misconceptions of syllogistic logic are so blatant that one is at a loss to know how to explain them. Aristotle never maintained that one had to know he was using a syllogism in order to syllogize any more than a nutritionist insists that a person must know the formula for vitamin C in order to avoid scurvy. People who have never heard the term "syllogism" syllogize all the time and are able, in many respects, to distinguish sufficient from insufficient reasoning. If a study of "logic" does not enhance this ability then something is wrong with the method of teaching, not with the syllogism.

David Hume seems to put the lid on all the above misunderstandings of syllogistic logic when he tries to eliminate the middle term altogether. The comment of his, quoted above, is only a footnote [13], and yet this is the key to understanding his philosophy. He was attempting to build a philosophy of "reason" without a middle term or "reason." Because people of those days were so confused on the relation between syllogizing and reasoning they could not spot the exact trouble, but they knew that David Hume was doing something unsettling. If the logicians of that day had been more aware that a "reason" is the middle term of a syllogism, they would have known better how to answer David Hume, and the history of philosophy would have been much different.

With this background, it is not surprising to find that by the time Hegel became interested in philosophy, he had decide that "logic" needed reconstructing. The condition of "logic" at his time was deplorable. He had two alternatives: One, he could have turned to the basic "common sense logic" (ASD) that was inherent in Arsitotle's Organon and extracted it in a more clear form, or he could do what he actually did, and that wad to continue the tradition, now well established, of rejecting syllogistic logic and "Aristotle," only this time to do a thorough job. Hegel chose the second course. He was like his predecessors in that he said he rejected Aristotle. He was different from those before him in that he actually did build a "logic" that genuinely rejected the basic Aristotelian precepts of common sense and fair play.

Following the impact of Hegel's radical reconstruction of "logic," the history syllogistic logic (ASD) has been wondrous strange. On the one hand, the impact of the scientific method established habits of thinking and methods of research that are definitely syllogistic common sense (ASD). On the other hand, a recognition of the relation between syllogistic logic and scientific method became buried under and avalanche of metaphysical muck. The clear and distinct common sense idea of reason, envisioned for a glorious moment by the Founding Fathers, failed to find the philosophical justification needed to bring their idea into the visible spectrum as a definite philosophy of reason.

The history of syllogistic logic after Hegel's dialectical reconstruction became more confusing, not less. Few books, specifically on syllogistic logic, have been written in the United States. One of them, titled THE SYLLOGISTIC PHILOSOPHY, was published by Francis Ellingwood Abbot in 1906. His object was to establish a scientific philosophy and he sacrificed everything to promote his faith in science. He felt he had built a philosophy superior to Kant or Hegel because it was free of from idealistic suppositions, so he said. He is one example of a "syllogistic philosopher," but, by "syllogistic philosophy," Abbot meant that human knowledge is based on the "threefold Reality of Universals as its Constituent Molecules: 1. Objective Reality in the Real Genus, or Universal of the First Power; 2. Subjective Reality in the Ideal Concept, or Universal of the Second Power; and 3. Objective-Subjective Reality in the Real-Ideal World, or Universal of the Third Power."14

Abbot's definition of "syllogistic philosophy" is clearly different from the common sense definition of syllogistic philosophy formerly established in this chapter. Although the word used is the same, the meaning is drastically different. When theorists indignantly reject "syllogistic philosophy" it is important to know exactly which syllogistic philosophy they have in mind. A rejection of Abbot's "syllogistic philosophy" would be a different thing than a rejection of the "common sense syllogistic" (ASD).

In 1917, James Edwin Creighton, sage professor of Logic and Metaphysics in Cornell University, published an Introductory Logic. He defines logic as, "…the science of thought, or as the science which investigates the process of thinking."15 Logic, he says, "…is the science which treats of the operations of the human mind in its search for truth."16 Although his logic would probably be described as "syllogistic" by present day standards because the bulk of his work is devoted to the syllogistic form and the syllogistic rules, ye he does not recognize these syllogistic rules as a guide to right thinking. He says that "…it is the business of logic to show us the organic structure of thought."17 Consequently, he insists that "…logic can not be regarded as an art, in the sense that it furnishes a definite ser of rules for thinking correctly."18 "…Logic, it seems to me, cannot be regarded as an art like photography or even like medicine; for it is not possible to lay down definite rules for the guidance of thinking in every case."19 He says on the other hand a few pages later, "The business of logic, as we have seen, is to discover the laws of thought and to show the differences which exist between real and imaginary knowledge."20

Creighton, although a professor of logic, seems apologetic about his role. In one breath he lays down the "laws of thought" and "rules of the syllogism" and in another he seems to be saying that it is perfectly all right to violate those laws and still reason correctly. He does not seem to appreciate the contradiction in what he is saying, and does not sufficiently elaborate the point. Is he saying that lying is acceptable to correct reasoning? One can equivocate, argue beside the point, and over-generalize and still be thinking correctly in some cases because thought is organic in structure? If it is all right to do this in some cases, how does one know it is all right for one to lie or when one should tell the truth? These are the questions that are Important and yet they are by-passed as if they were not even there.

Other logicians have attempted to avoid the difficulties Creighton encountered by limiting the definition of logic to questions concerning only the form. Most modern logicians follow this plan. Cohen and Nagel, recognized as the foremost authorities on formal logic, put it this way.


"Logic has sometimes been defined as the normative science which studies the norms distinguishing sound thinking from unsound thinking. The reader is prepared now to appraise such a definition, and consequently to regard such a characterization as inadequate…Because traditional logic has stressed this side of logical forms, it has failed to consider such forms with sufficient generality and has neglected to undertake a study of all possible formal structures." [21]


Logic is the autonomous science of the objective though formal conditions of valid inference. [22]


"An old tradition defines logic as the science of the laws of thought…But at present it is clear that any investigation into the laws or ways in which we actually think belongs to the field of psychology." [23]


Whether "traditional logic" actually has stressed the norms distinguishing sound thinking from unsound thinking is debatable. Evidence has already been presented to place this assertion in question. However, concentrating, as modern logician have done, on the purely formal conditions of valid inference has been exceedingly fruitful in developing the science of mathematical logic and discovering implications of implications. A calculus of classes, a calculus of propositions, truth tables, quantification, set theory, and so forth demonstrates that a purely formal logic has endless possibilities.

However, if logic is limited only to the form, the problem of truth, equivocation, and symbolism are then, it would seem, no longer part of logic. What happens to the science of correct thinking or right reason? Is it no longer a science? What happens to reasoning" What happens to the American experiment based on reason? Is it now an experiment based on psychology? If so, which psychology? Logicians have become so involved with the intricacies of mathematical logic, that they have failed to see the importance of what is not being done and have ignored the basic rules of reasoning applicable to the average voter in a society that is attempting to govern itself through "reason" rather than chance, manipulation or violence.

Formal mathematical logic is important, but what happens when it becomes the only form of logic? How does mathematical logic answer the new dialectical logic of Hegel, or the dialectical materialism of Marx, Engles, Lenin, Stalin, and Mao based on a Hegelian dialectic? Most important of all, how does a mathematical logic define "reason" and how does such a definition fit into the future of America?

Since mathematical logicians are interested only in form they restrict "syllogistic logic" simply to the formal relation between terms in so ar as they can be expressed mathematically. In this narrow, form interpretation of the "syllogistic logic," mathematical logicians acknowledge that the formal rules are valid, but they assign the significance of the syllogism to a minor role. In the Basic Writings, Bertrand Russel, who is known as one of the giants in mathematical logic, said in his chapter on Aristotle, "I conclude that Aristotelian doctrines with which we have been concerned in this chapter are wholly false, with the exception of the formal theory of the syllogism, which is unimportant." [24]

The numerous interpretations and evaluations of logic, both syllogistically and dialectical, explain to some extent the various definition and theories of reason that have been held in the philosophies of mankind. If people are genuinely serious in their efforts to develop rationality, to become more reasonable, to live a life of reason, then these differences need more serious examination. By comparing an assortment of definitions of reason with each other, it becomes clear that people do not always agree on what reasoning is or what it does.

Some identify "reason' with mathematical calculation. For example, Stuart Hampshire says in the Age of Reason "…the 17th century can properly be called in the history of philosophy, the Age of Reason, because all the great philosophers of the period were trying to introduce the rigor of mathematical demonstration into all departments of knowledge, including philosophy itself."25 This runs counter to the Platonic idea of "reason," in which mathematics was of the "understanding" and "reason" was a higher faculty of the soul. In the Republic, Socrates was asked, "For you surely would not regard the skilled mathematician as a dialectician?" and Socrates answers, "Assuredly not,… I have hardly ever known a mathematician who was capable or reasoning." [26]


There are differences. Some consider reasoning a purely physical operation of the brain. Nathan Court, a Professor Emeritus of Mathematics at the University of Oklahoma said in his book "Mathematics in Fun and Earnest," "…to reason is to perform experimental work mentally, the outcome of each step in the chain of experiments being known to the reasoner from previous experience…The steps in the proof are nothing else but physical operations performed mentally, 'in the imagination'…we are able to perform these successive steps because we know the outcomes of each step from previous experience."[27}

Others would agree with Epictetus (a Greek Philosopher) who said, "Rational creatures… are by nature fitted to share in the society of God, being connected with Him by the bond of reason." [28] This view of reason is by no means restricted to the Ancients. Celestine Bittle, a non-conformist contemporary philosopher and logician says, "The rational activities of intellection and volition, being spiritual, proceed from the soul alone, but with an extrinsic dependence on the sense and the nervous system."
Some believe that reason and logic are opposed to freedom. Henri Bergson, an outspoken irrationalist, said, "It is the essence of reasoning to shut us up in the circle of the given."30 D.T. Suzuki, in "Zen Buddhism and Psychoanalysis" says, "Responsibility is logically related to freedom, and in logic there is no freedom, for everything is controlled by rigid rules of syllogism."31 On the other hand, people like Barbara Ward, an English writer on economics and political affairs, believes that freedom and reason are interdependent on each other. She says, "When, however, in history transcends their material drives by reason, by enlightenment and by their search for the idea, the blind necessities are held at bay. The puppets no long jerk and dance. For a time a breath of freedom blows through society." [32]

Some believe that reason opposes religion. In the "Lilies of the Field," William Barrett has the sad-looking restaurant proprietor say to Homer, "Faith. It is a word for what is unreasonable. If a man believes in an unreasonable thing, that is faith." [33] Homer ponders this remark and thinks to himself that "He had a full life. He had many things. He is free like the lilies in the field. It was a strange thing. As this Spanish man said, it wasn't reasonable." [34]

Others believe the opposite, that faith is impossible without reason. Thomas Paine, for example, said, "It is only by the exercise of reason that man can discover God."34 Wesley, the found of Methodism said, "It is a fundamental principle with us that to renounce reason is to renounce religion, that religion and reason go hand in hand, and that all irrational religion is false religion."35


Leo J. Trese, author of "The Faith Explained," says, "But adult faith is based on reason; it is not a frustration of reason…The man who has satisfied himself, by the use of his reason…is not going against reason—on the contrary he is following reason."36


Some believe that reason is an instrument or a tool that man uses to acquire knowledge. Jacque Maritain, a French philosopher and one time ambassador to the Holy See says, "The philosopher's work is to acquire knowledge; his tool, reason. Therefore the philosopher before he begins his work must examine reason to discover the use he should make of it."37 Others believe "reason" is something else. J.B. Baillie, a translator of Hegel's "Phenomonology of Mind," says in his introduction, "Reason is the open secret of the world, because it opens all secrets. It makes the world after its own image, because it finds its own likeness in the face of the world."38 Hegel says that "self-consciousness is reason…"39 and goes further to say, "Reason is the conscious certainty of being all reality This is how Idealism expresses the principle of Reason. Just as consciousness assuming the form of reason immediately and inherently contain that certainty within it, in the same way idealism also directly proclaims and expresses that certainty. I am I in the sense that the I which is object for me is the sole and only object, is all reality and all this is present."40 Herbert Marcuse in "Reason and Revolution" says, "Reason…is but the totality of nature's and man's capacities."41 He says also says "Reason is the veritable form of reality in which all antagonisms of subject and object integrated to form a genuine unity and universality."42 He states in various other places that reason is an "object historical force."43, that "there is only one reason but that different stages occur in its realization"44, and that reason cannot govern reality unless reality has become rational in itself."45


There are a variety of ways of viewing reason and rationality. The renowned psychologist, Carl G. Jung, in <u>Man and His Symbols</u> defines "feeling" as rational rather than emotional. He says, "feeling as I mean it is (like thinking) a <em>rational</em> (i.e., ordering) function, whereas intuition is an <i>irrational</i> (i.e., perceiving) function."46 George Santayana, the American materialistic philosopher who wrote a five volume <u>Life of Reason</u> said, "Religions are many, reason one. Religion consists of conscious ideas, hopes, enthusiasms, and objects of worship; it operates by grace and flourishes by prayer. Reason, on the other hand, is a mere principle or potential order, on which, indeed, we may come to reflect, but which exists in us ideally only, without variation or stress of any kind."47 Eric Fromm, in <i>The Sane Society</i> contrasts reason to intelligence. He says, "Reason is man's faculty for <em>grasping</em> the world by thought, in contradiction to intelligence which is man's ability to <em>manipulate</em> the world with the help of thought. Reason is man's instrument for arriving at the truth, intelligence is man's instrument for manipulating the world more successfully; the former is essentially human, the latter belongs to the animal part of man."48


At the beginning of this chapter, it was shown how a "reason" functions as the middle term of a syllogism and a parallel was drawn between reasoning and syllogizing. The syllogism was show to be a stylized method that is useful because it demonstrates the reasoning process at work and helps illustrate the importance of the basic rules of right reason. This view of reason was defined as the common sense idea of reason and this interpretation of the syllogism was defined as common sense syllogistic logic.


It has also been shown that this common sense interpretation of reason and of syllogistic logic has not been the only interpretation of these terms. Actually in the history of philosophy, at a verbal level, the common sense idea of reason and logic (ASD), if one does by the writings of the major philosophers, has played only a minor role. At a nonverbal level, much common sense has always been apparent, but when philosophers have put their philosophy into words they have continuously presented descriptions of reason and syllogizing that are, in major points, at variance with common sense (ASD).


Many modern writers seem to assume that the common sense syllogistic logic represents the idea of reason that has been held consistently for centuries. They do not take time to study for themselves what really has happened, which is an entirely different story. Those who urge a revolution in logic, a new civilization, a new world based on the rejection of the "old" reason manage to maintain an aura of confidence by simple expedient of remaining ignorant of the history of logic. Every thing they advocate has been tried over and over again. The only thing new they offer are new excuses for avoiding the work required to educate and develop the habit of using the rules of right reason.


Educated common sense syllogistic logic that lays full stress on all four rules of right reason has not often been tried on a large scale. The Founding Fathers of the United States are examples of exceptions to that generality and they were eminently successful. To blame all of the evils of history common sense syllogistic and Aristotle's ethic of right reason can only be accomplished by those who have already given up common sense and right reason or those who prefer their own illusions to the work of genuine scholarship.


The End of Syllogistic Chapter.



Gin note: Kevin copied this [chap V, 1975 version}  into Microsoft Word, finishing  2011jan11. This file is in \\\7GinPrintBasics    \\1975ReasonLogicCommonsense