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Article VIII.—PRESIDENT McCOSH'S LOGIC.
The Laws of Discursive Thought; being a text-book of Formal Logic. By James Mccosh, LL. D., President of New Jersey College, Princeton; formerly Professor of Logic and Metaphysics, Queen's College, Belfast. New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1870. 12mo. pp. xix. 212.
It Is well remarked by Dr. McCosh in the preface to his work that " the lingering life maintained by that old Aristotelian and scholastic logic, in spite of the ridicule poured upon it by nearly all the fresh thinkers of Europe for two or three centuries after the revival of letters, is an extraordinary fact in the history of philosophy." We think that the fact can be partially accounted for, as he says, "by supposing that the syllogism is substantially the correct analysis of the process which passes through the mind in reasoning." But beyond this, we think it can hardly be questioned that this remarkable pertinacity of life in logic is owing mainly to the instinctive demands of the human mind, when once it has awaked to the desire of knowledge, that there be given to-it a knowledge of itself, so far at least as concerns the properties and laws of its own action. If we can know what thought is; if we can in any way learn what are the marks of legitimate and valid thought, how it can be recognized, how empty pretensions to knowledge can be detected and exposed, how the steps to knowledge can be guided and facilitated, how attained knowledge can be tested and assured, certainly it is a most desirable knowledge, and the fact that the science which professes to be the revealer of this knowledge has survived the assaults of the bitterest hostility raises a fair presumption that this knowledge is attainable as no one can question that it is desirable. An instinct so strong has the Creator's warrant to seek with the sure confidence of finding. The search may be long, but it shall triumph.
Who has a right to question the possibility and worth of such science? Not the lover of science, certainly; for what rational ground has he for seeking knowledge if he cannot know whether he knows? He may reasonably reject arrogant pretensions to a science of thought. He may reject erroneous or imperfect expositions of the nature and laws of thought. But to ridicule an honest effort to investigate what true knowledge and worthy thought are, or to ridicule a science of thought as in itself unworthy, savors of an arrogance, and presumption, and narrowness, that is itself most ridiculous. Men may, in overweening estimate of the higher importance and dignity of their own pursuits, underrate any other science or calling and be pardoned in the interest of human weakness. But it is too late in the age of the world and of human progress to decry science in any department of knowledge on any other ground than that of imperfection. We have had much of this in the recent times. Men in every department of human pursuit, from the agriculturist up to the orator, critic, and poet, have scouted scientific expositions of the principles of art. Instinct, genius, tact, with the casual crumbs of intelligence that can be picked up under the tables of orderly spread science, are enough for them; systematic knowledge only cumbers and hampers. But reason and common sense have succeeded in most quarters in exposing this shallowness and narrowness. The grand truth is that all human culture, as all rational activity, must proceed in intelligence; and the more full and perfect that intelligence, the higher and more perfect will be the attainment. We have only to place side by side with this fundamental principle another truth equally undeniable, that all art, all eminence in human effort, is as dependent on practice as upon knowledge. The acquisition of intelligence must not displace active endeavor, but ever guide and foster it.
Logic professes to be a science of thought. It claims that there are principles which underlie all thought, to which thought must conform or be abortive. It claims that these principles may be ascertained and scientifically unfolded. It claims that a practical knowledge of these principles is as eesential to the perfection of the thinker as a practical knowledge of the principles of music to eminent musical skill, as a practical knowledge of the processes in any art to any great success in that art; that although a great mind may achieve great results in thought without systematic training in the processes of thought, just as great musicians have appeared who have never opened a musical primer, in this ago of the world it is as preposterous to expect high intellectual skill or in fact high intellectual culture generally, without some practical acquaintance with the nature of thought as the product of the intelligence, as to expect a Mozart or a Beethoven with no systematic training in the principles of music. If logic can make its claims to appear valid, if it can show that a science of human thought can be constructed which shall so exhibit its nature, its laws, its forms, that it may surely be known what is sound and legitimate thought, and that practical thinking may proceed intelligently and surely, it is a science worthy to be honored and also worthy to be studied in all intellectual culture.
The present is an age of unwonted intellectual activity. It is characterized by being specialized to a wide diversity of pursuit. A natural conseqnence is that science at this time is characteristically isolated and exclusive; that it is arrogant and pretentious in respect of its own field and work, and disdainful and contemptuous in respect of others. This great evil to scientific culture generally is to be attributed mainly, we believe, to the general exclusion of logical studies from our seats of education and means of intellectual training. A true science of thought is the one adequate bond of the sciences. It is the indispensable condition of the harmonizing of the divers sciences, as it is the condition of that cordial respect and courtesy which ought to reign between all classes of true thinkers and scholars, and which will bring them together in helpful intercourse and sympathy.
Particularly is the present age of science characterized by a predominance of observation over reflection. One would think from the general tendency in this direction that science was little else than gathering of facts. So it has come to pass that a fresh discovery gives warrant for any inference,—for any theory. In truth, the theory is held of little account; it is only valuable for the sake of facts, as helping to further discoveries or to easier recollection. That facts should be valued mainly for the principles they reveal, modern scientism conld hardly understand, much less believe. The cause of this most unscientific tendency is to be found, we believe, mainly in the fact that the attention has been turned away from all criteria of valid thinking, indeed from all inquiry as to what constitutes true thought and makes it valid and valuable. The most superficial glance over the divers fields of recent science, so called, while it discovers marvelous activity and keenness in observing, discovers also the wildest theorizing, the widest contradictions in results, and at the same time the most contemptuous indifference for these contradictory results in other fields. Assuredly the times call for an exposition of the nature and principles of true thought, of worthy science. We are in danger from the want of this of running off into the wildest skepticism and the most superficial yet most arrogant scientism.
We rejoice, therefore, in the assurance which Dr. McCosh gives us, that for a time back "Logic has had a greater amount of interest collected around it in Great Britain than any other mental science, and has become incorporated with the freshest and brightest thought of the country." We rejoice in this contribution which he himself has made to the study of the science; and we avail ourselves of the occasion which its publication gives of making it, so far as we can, serviceable to the interests of the science of which he has in this volume testified his high appreciation. He will welcome, in this regard for the science, any suggestions which the perusal of his volume may prompt, looking towards a farther advancement of the science, even although he may not be able to yield ! is unqualified assent and approval to their soundness and correctness.
We propose to demonstrate, and chiefly from admissions and teachings which Dr. McCosh has actually incorporated into his volume in accordance with the best logical authorities, that there is a true science of logic attainable, and that we have now the materials and conditions generally for such a science; that a true science of logic must be one that will expound the nature, the laws, the forms of all valid thought; and that such a science must by every thinker be recognized as of sovereign absolute authority thoughout the whole domain of thought; that hence it is an indispensable condition of any assured scientific progress as it is an indispensable instrument of any complete intellectual culture. We shall in this indicate wherein this volume, as well as other logical contributions to AngloBritish literature, are chiefly defective. It is proper to remark here that Dr. McCosh formally avows that he is not sufficiently acquainted with logical treatises in Anglo-American literature to undertake a criticism of them. It is proper to add to this remark, that Anglo-American logical literature presents three dominant tendencies and characteristics. We have, first, treatises of the general Anglo-British a posteriori type; we have also the proper Hegelian logic; and we have, thirdly, the a priori treatment of the science. Our American literature has abounded with recent offerings in this department of science. The fact as concurrent with the vigorous revival of the Btudy in Great Britain, we notice as of significant and happy augury.
"Logic," says Dr. McCosh, " may be defined as the Science of the Laws of Discursive Thought." This definition does not differ materially from the definitions given by the other British logicians. Thompson, in his " Laws of Thought," defines pure logic to be "a science of the necessary laws of thought." Dr. Mansel, in his "Prolegomena Logica," follows Kant in treating logic as " the science of the laws of formal thinking." Sir William Hamilton defines logic as " the science of the laws of thought as thought." All agree in defining the immediate object-matter of the logic to be laws. The questions at once arise: what is meant by laws? Whence are these laws derived to the science? What must be the method of a science which proposes laws for its immediate object-matter?
The term laws, as here used, obviously suggests the idea of arbitrary prescription as dominant over thought only in a remote and indirect way. It does not compel us to imagine that the sovereign of all thinking natures has drawn up a code
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