Argumentation 30 (4):465-466 (2016)

Michael Shenefelt
Columbia University (PhD)
Professor Girle suggests that the ancient Athenian interest in Aristotle’s syllogistic flowed from a preoccupation with debate in the form of a dialogue game. But other cultures, especially in India, also had a preoccupation with debate that could be characterized in the same way. This kind of explanation seems to us to ignore the elephant in the room: the fact that, in ancient Athens, dialogue and debate were not merely a game. They were the life and death of the state. Many Athenians felt that foolish policies had cost the state dearly, especially during the Peloponnesian War, and many of them blamed those policies on shoddy political reasoning in the Assembly. (Plato hammers at this theme relentlessly.) And tellingly, it is only in the wake of such tragedies that Aristotle’s syllogistic finally emerged. We think that any credible explanation of the ancient Greek interest in formal logic needs to include this grim political reality.
Keywords Aristotle  logic  dialogue game  debate
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Reprint years 2016
DOI 10.1007/s10503-015-9390-2
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