Bulletin of Symbolic Logic 20 (1):131-2 (2014)
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John Corcoran and George Boger. Aristotelian logic and Euclidean geometry. Bulletin of Symbolic Logic. 20 (2014) 131. By an Aristotelian logic we mean any system of direct and indirect deductions, chains of reasoning linking conclusions to premises—complete syllogisms, to use Aristotle’s phrase—1) intended to show that their conclusions follow logically from their respective premises and 2) resembling those in Aristotle’s Prior Analytics. Such systems presuppose existence of cases where it is not obvious that the conclusion follows from the premises: there must be something deductions can show. Corcoran calls a proposition that follows from given premises a hidden consequence of those premises if it is not obvious that the proposition follows from those premises. By a Euclidean geometry we mean an extended discourse beginning with basic premises—axioms, postulates, definitions—1) treating a universe of geometrical figures and 2) resembling Euclid’s Elements. There were Euclidean geometries before Euclid (fl. 300 BCE), even before Aristotle (384–322 BCE). Bochenski, Lukasiewicz, Patzig and others never new this or if they did they found it inconvenient to mention. Euclid shows no awareness of Aristotle. It is obvious today—as it should have been obvious in Euclid’s time, if anyone knew both—that Aristotle’s logic was insufficient for Euclid’s geometry: few if any geometrical theorems can be deduced from Euclid’s premises by means of Aristotle’s deductions. Aristotle’s writings don’t say whether his logic is sufficient for Euclidean geometry. But, there is not even one fully-presented example. However, Aristotle’s writings do make clear that he endorsed the goal of a sufficient system. Nevertheless, incredible as this is today, many logicians after Aristotle claimed that Aristotelian logics are sufficient for Euclidean geometries. This paper reviews and analyses such claims by Mill, Boole, De Morgan, Russell, Poincaré, and others. It also examines early contrary statements by Hintikka, Mueller, Smith, and others. Special attention is given to the argumentations pro or con and especially to their logical, epistemic, and ontological presuppositions. What methodology is necessary or sufficient to show that a given logic is adequate or inadequate to serve as the underlying logi of a given science.



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John Corcoran
PhD: Johns Hopkins University; Last affiliation: University at Buffalo

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