The word ‘logic’ as used today is commonly taken to refer to a formal discipline, as indeed it was almost universally from the time of ARISTOTLE until at least the sixteenth century. But the writings of Descartes and his followers (notably Malebranche and the authors of the Port Royal Logic, Arnauld and Nicole) undermined this understanding of the word, preparing the ground for LOCKE to reinterpret it most influentially in his Essay Concerning Human Understanding. Locke adopted from the Cartesians a contempt for the alleged barrenness of Aristotelian syllogistic theory, and aspired to replace it with a discipline focused not on the formal relations of words, but instead on the powers of the human mind and the improvement of our cognitive faculties. It is this kind of informal discipline, therefore, which is most commonly referred to as “logic” by the empiricist authors from Locke to MILL, and indeed their understanding of the logical enterprise persisted until the turn of the twentieth century, when FREGE and RUSSELL firmly reestablished the discipline of formal logic in a new, more powerful, and non-Aristotelian guise.
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