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Thursday, 16 February 2012

Logic: the study of nature

Hamilton Grant has that to say that actual things (actual objects, actual events etc) are contingent - that they could be otherwise - is to say that they are natural. Contingency is not the mark of our ignorance nor is it a limit to the principle of sufficient reason but rather it is the mark of nature. The idea would amount simply to take seriously the idea that the a posteriori is (typically) contingent while the necessary a posteriori happens in special cases where we need pegs between us and nature - typically when the issue of measurement is at stake (the metre in Sèvres, Paris etc). To take the idea seriously by understanding that nature itself is the house of contingency, because it is the house of possibilities or virtualities - of potentia. The empirical - the a posteriori - is the natural. What grounds a natural event is the fire of possibilities in nature - a vulcanism about grounding, as nature is the underlying tectonics of the actual. Contingency is grounded in nature - every natural thing has a sufficient reason, that is, the contingent tectonics behind it.

Now, how do we study this vulcanism, this tectonics? Well, in a sense through Naturwissenchaft (and Naturphilosophie). But in another sense, not quite. How do we study what is possible (therefore grounded in nature) and what is not - how do we study, in other words, the structure of contingency? I take this is what logic does. Not only modal logic, but logic in general. A logic draws a line between the possible and the impossible worlds. A classical logic makes it impossible for contradictions to appear. In an anticlassical logic, what is contingent in the classical logic (neither a contradiction - impossible - nor a tautology - necessary) becomes necessary and vice-versa. In paraconsistent logics some contradictions are acceptable. Universal logic tries to consider the relation between the different logics. It seems to me that nature, if we understand it in the way Hamilton Grant has in mind, would not pick a single logic against others. Its stand would rather be one of combination of logics. In any case, maybe logic should consider geological metaphors, as much as it tends to consider (Leibnizian and Kripkean) astrological ones.


  1. Hmmm... I lose you at the whole combination of logics idea. The thing is that if you're going to advocate a sensible logical pluralism in which you think different logics are genuinely expressing different aspects of some underlying structure, rather than simply presenting us with different pragmatic tools to deal with the same subject matter, then you need to have some unifying structure relating your different logics. Your 'combination' can't just be a grab bag of whatever logics nature fancies, but must rather be an 'articulation' of various logics as part of a wider structure.

    I recommend checking out Jaroslav Peregrin's work along these lines, though I think the way he presents of unifying different logics has little to do with Nature and everything to do with a unitary structure of Reason.

    1. Thanks for comment.
      Yes, you're right. Universal logic has developed methods to combine logics - like fusing logics or having products of logics. I think much can be achieved by looking at the space of all logics and its topology.
      I know Peregrin (with his Brandom-looking beard). Any piece of work on unifying different logics you recommend?

  2. I a lot of Peirceans (Charles Sanders Peirce) work on this problem. Answering the question of a "universal logic" becomes establishing a generative logic in which the forms of inference/relationality are born from a few basic presuppositions.

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  4. I wonder what are the different logics you mentioned. Are they all the possible logics that satisfy some very general natural properties (to be described perhaps by Naturphilosophie)? I can see that's not what you mean, but them what should be the criteria with which to build the right set of logics? I can imagine an abstract definition of some special, wide-ranging set of logics and ways of combining them. But then it would remain to show how it is related to a plausible metaphysics of actuality. Another issue: if not metaphysically justified, wouldn't this special criteria for selecting and combining logics be itself necessarily contingent on a particular logic?