Is Aristotle's Syllogistic a Logic?

Much of the last fifty years of scholarship on Aristotle’s syllogistic suggests a conceptual framework under which the syllogistic is a logic, a system of inferential reasoning, only if it is not a theory or formal ontology, a system concerned with general features of the world. In this paper, I will argue that this a misleading interpretative framework. The syllogistic is something sui generis: by our lights, it is neither clearly a logic, nor clearly a theory, but rather exhibits certain characteristic marks of logics and certain characteristic marks of theories. In what follows, I will present a debate between a theoretical and a logical interpretation of the syllogistic. The debate centers on the interpretation of syllogisms as either implications or inferences. But the significance of this question has been taken to concern the nature and subject-matter of the syllogistic, and how it ought to be represented by modern techniques. For one might think that, if syllogisms are implications, propositions with conditional form, then the syllogistic, in so far as it is a systematic taxonomy of syllogisms, is a theory or a body of knowledge concerned with general features of the world. Furthermore, if the syllogistic is a theory, then it ought to be represented by an axiomatic system, a system deriving propositional theorems from axioms. On the other hand, if syllogisms are inferences, then the syllogistic is a logic, a system of inferential reasoning. And furthermore, it ought to be represented as a natural deduction system, a system deriving valid arguments by means of intuitively valid inferences. I will argue that one can disentangle these questions—are syllogisms inferences or implications, is the syllogistic a logic or a theory, is the syllogistic a body of worldly knowledge or a system of inferential reasoning, and ought we to represent the syllogistic as a natural deduction system or an axiomatic system—and that we must if we are to have a historically accurate understanding of Aristotle.
Keywords syllogistic  logic  aristotle
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