Friday, December 14, 2012

Epistemology, Logic, and their self-limitations (Part Two)

       Logic is not for Aristotle, as it is for the Stoics, a science, an ἐπιστήμη λογική. In fact, the very word for the discipline of logic, λογική, does not appear once in the entirety of Aristotle's corpus. What Alexander of Aphrodisias would later, while commenting on the Prior Analytics, refer to as λογική, is for Aristotle the Ὄργανον --the organ or instrument. As such its employment is not an ἐπιστήμη --rather, it is a τεχνή, an art. But it is not only an art. Logic enjoys, according to the tradition, the esteem of being called the art of arts, a title it shares with only one other art, namely, the art of the ordering of the πόλις, politics. For indeed, if all arts are learned, they are a kind of knowledge and are therefore ultimately acquired and perfected under the direction of reason, but the art of logic is most exceptional in this respect; it is an art not only directed by, but directing of, reason. If, then, we envision reason, or more precisely λόγος, as the director of all the arts, logic must be considered the director of the director. But once we characterize logic in this twofold sense of being most generally, an art and, more specifically, an art of arts, we are confronted with an inherent problem in the determination of this peculiar art.
        The initial glimpse of this problem may be had by simply comparing logic's status as an art to its epistemic role as a propadeutic. Logic can not be science because it does not know the cause of its subject matter. The question that seems to press forward is: how can Aristotle allow his entire edifice of epistemic pursuit to be built on a cornerstone that is not epistemic and ignorant of its causes? After all, Physics, for example, may be based on something entirely lower than science, namely ἐμπειρία, or the knowledge that something happens under certain conditions, but Physics also grounds this basis, since it is knowledge of why these same things happen. Logic, however, is art, and is therefore beneath ἐπιστήμη. How can the former be something upon which the latter is dependent? But this question already contains its own answer. Art is neither knowledge-that nor knowledge-why, but knowledge-how. As an art, logic shows us how to reason, but it does not show us why this is the case. Thus the logic is, like experience of nature, a basis which  is grounded by that for which it is a basis; the categories are metaphysical before they are logical, the principle of non-contradiction is a principle of Being before it is a principle of the truth of predication. Thus the initial glimpse of the problem turns out to be only a glimpse of a pseudo problem; even the discovery of logic is no real mystery: its principles come to light merely as the principles of how we think, just as the builder's knowledge of angles is merely the knowledge of how to build stable structures. And if the causes of the builder's art are known by the physicist and geometer, the causes of the logicians art are known by the metaphysician --but this does not in any way alter the truth of what the builder or logician know; the rules of building or thinking remain the same despite the state of our knowledge of their causes. Hegel's objection made against a critical or preliminary epistemology that is motivated by practical concerns for the securing of scientific success seems to have lost all its footing if it is made to stand against the division of Aristotelian logic.
          And yet despite the tidiness of this reasonable resolution, there remains something problematic: 'rules' are known in a very different way then they are appropriated. One may know the rules of an art through and through and yet fail as an artisan. When one is apprentice to a master, presumably he does not simply learn the rules of a craft, and indeed, he may not ever learn them as rules at all. But the good apprentice must reside in the locale of his master and keep an intimate proximity to him. He is not told what the master knows, but must rather discover for himself what the master has discovered for himself --and for this reason the apprentice must enter into the region and the 'workshop' of another and make it his own. This appropriation happens not as a focusing on the master, but as a focusing upon what he is focusing on. Such a thing may later be talked about with varying degrees of accuracy, but it is only encountered for the artisan in the not yet articulate world of his craft; in the smithy of the blacksmith, the kitchen of the chef, the studio of the painter, the stable and fields of the horseback rider. It is only from this inarticulate domain of appropriation that rules are later derived. In each case the art is appropriated, but it is known in terms of rules in a much different manner --and for reasons other than for simply performing the art.
         Here, however, we return to a new dimension of the problem. If logic is an art then its discovery is subject to the distinction between appropriation from out of a domain of mastery and rule-formulation. But logic is, as has been said, not just an art. It is the art of arts. Where is its smithy, kitchen, studio, or stable? Each domain belongs to a single art, but logic is art which directs that very thing (λόγος) which directs these arts. How then is logic appropriated? Can its appropriation take place apart from a discourse of its rules? 


  1. The place for the practice of an art seems to be defined by the equipment. And the proximity of apprentice to master is defined by the common accessibility of that equipment. Is not conversation the equipment of the logician? Then the "thinkshop" as it were is just the conditions under which it is possible for the apprentice to engage with his master's questionings and deductions, or even just to observe them and think them through himself. It is a gathering of friends, or a book, or a blog even.

    I suppose the upshot is that the concepts of "place" and "proximity" encompass more than abstract spatial relations.

    Just a historical note:

    I usually hear that the title "Organon" is an invention of later Peripatetics, not Aristotle's own designation (e.g., the SEP,

  2. Thanks for the good historical note. Its always better to speak more precisely whenever that does not obscure the truth. In the case of the post, it is surely a welcome correction, even though the point at stake remains in tact --namely, that, following Hegel's claim about the presuppositions of modern critical treatments of knowledge, the demand for a critical epistemology comes out of a tradition rooted in the thinking of Aristotle --at least insofar as they share an instrumental understanding of knowledge. That Aristotle holds his logic to be an art at the service of scientific demonstration is something that, though brought out explicitly by his disciples in the name Organon, seems in my estimation evident from the overall epistemically-oriented approach of Aristotle's corpus and especially his interest in and grounding of propositional discourse as precisely suited to these ambitions.

    It's an interesting point you raise I think. Is "the place for the practice of an art defined by the equipment" or the reverse? Does the place for the practice of art define the equipment? This reversal would require, in order to be cogent and not just a semantical turn of phrase, that we think about place in a way very different from the one we are accustomed to --though perhaps not different from what we indeed really do experience. An intial foray into this is found SZ's concept of regionality and its exposition of bedeutsamkeit I will say more in the next comment...

  3. "the 'thinkshop' as it were is just the conditions under which it is possible for the apprentice to engage with his master's questionings and deductions, or even just to observe them and think them through himself. It is a gathering of friends, or a book, or a blog even."

    I'm not sure this does put us in the thinkshop...everyday conversation, poetic productions, or even argument does not seem to put us in the arena of a logical workshop --though it certainly furnishes us with the the raw material of logic. If I am speaking with a friend about his family, if I am speaking of the god's glow at sunset, or even if I am arguing over a fair price for meat at the market, I am not necessarily any 'closer' to the actual art of logic than if I were sound asleep in the midst of deep dreaming. At most, I have before me raw material, of varying degrees disposed to yield to the art of logic, to be sure, but none yet the subject of logic.