More Thoughts on the Logocentric Predicament

General logic is either pure or applied. In the former we abstract from all empirical conditions under which we exercise our understanding, e.g. from the influence of the sense, the play of the imagination, the laws of memory, the force of habit, inclination, etc., and therefore also from the sources of prejudice, and indeed from all causes that may give rise, or may seem to give rise, to this or that knowledge.

When we speak, do we not suppose that language can communicate statements? Can language not be justified through language without being circular? Obviously, this is a conclusion reached through reasoning and inference, therefore meaning logic is its regulating method. The most extreme form of skepticism is that skepticism that questions logic, reasoning, and inference. Practical contradictions are what the skeptic enjoys most. Practical transcendental arguments are not indicative of anything other than the human subject being bound to a particular set of behaviors. They are not indicative of those behaviors’ status as true, logical, etc. This only causes the nature of theoretical systems to get shaky in that the skeptic can now use notions to defeat themselves. For example, truth: if the skeptic were to find a way to use the notion of truth to show its untenability, what would usually happen is the skeptic being told that they must suppose truth in their argument and therefore they are wrong. This rejoinder is problematic for the reason we have already discussed: practical contradictions are not indicative of anything other than themselves. Therefore, the skeptic could show that truth is a self-defeating notion, and subsequently, truth would be abandoned for it undermines itself. The skeptic can take this to the highest level in, as I said earlier, questioning logic. The skeptic will use logic and reasoning to demonstrate how these notions are self-defeating. That logic must be supposed in any attempt at its justification is exactly what the logocentric predicament is. The logocentric predicament has troubled me for quite some time now. Now, logic is not, and yes this is a logical conclusion, the only way of reasoning in a certain sense. I could say, “X is R, therefore X is P, but R is not P.” Obviously, what I have just said is contradictory and illogical, but again, one must suppose logic for this to be an issue, right? Well, I am here to disagree. What we can first say is contained in the illogical assertion is some form of reasoning, the usage of “therefore” makes that obvious. Now, it is fundamentally illogical reasoning. Nevertheless, reasoning is employed. Again, though, this is a logical conclusion, so we continue to suppose logic, and again we suppose logic here, and so on. Thus, the logocentric predicament demonstrates that there is a certain issue with valuing logic over illogic. Contrary to this, one could say that the very notion of illogical can only be reached through logic, and I would fundamentally agree. That illogic supposes logic is the case. That something is outside of logic is something that is logically concluded, but valid? I’m not so sure. It is hard for us to even think outside of logic, and this is precisely what the logocentric predicament recognizes. To solve the predicament, one must convert the predicament from a critique of logic into a proof of logic. If one is able to do such a thing, then logic will be saved… or will it? That illogical assertions are wrong would only be the case if logic was right, and of course, this is a logical conclusion, and therefore things become clear: we always return to the logocentric predicament when we go down this line of reasoning, therefore, if, as we said before, the logocentric predicament became a proof for logic. The question then becomes, “How do we do such a philosophical operation?” I am here to argue that it has partly already been done by Robert Hanna in his book Cognition, Content, and the A Priori. It is his notion of pure general logic as the theoretical primitive that I think gives us a direction to go in, I believe. The essential justificatory condition of the theoretical primitive is that it is the theoretical primitive, which is to say, that it is always presupposed. Therefore, logic would be proven if it was the theoretical primitive in that analyticity would be proven if it was the case that the theoretical primitive, being presupposed, would be itself. This latter conclusion has led Hanna to conclude that pure general logic is “the paradigm of logical analyticity,” assuming it is the theoretical primitive (Cognition, Content, and the A Priori 255). Essentially, if you are not following the argument, the theoretical primitive turns the logocentric predicament into a proof for logic because for something to be the theoretical primitive it must be that which “every explanation and justification whatsoever, including the explanation and justification of every other logic, both has to presuppose and use [the theoretical primitive], and has to presuppose and use it alone, and also rightly does so” and if these conditions are met by something then it is the theoretical primitive (Cognition, Content, and the A Priori 255). One may ask, “Why does this make the theoretical primitive justified?” Simply, it is because the theoretical primitive is “both adequately explained and justified” precisely when we learn about its conditions (Cognition, Content, and the A Priori 255). Thus, what Hanna is really doing here, is turning a transcendental argument into something that is actually indicative of something other than the bindingness of certain necessary conditions (or in the case of argumentation, necessary behaviors). The explanatory and justificatory conditions of the theoretical primitive are simply that it is universally presupposed. That its universal presupposition is its explanatory condition is clear, and, I would think, unopposed by the skeptic. But, again, one may be skeptical about it being justified through its presupposition. Certainly, the skeptic may say that the latter conclusion is presupposed, and would the answer not be yes? The theoretical primitive is justified by its presupposition because it is justified as the theoretical primitive, i.e., it is proven to be itself. From this analyticity can be deduced and notions of analytic justification can also be deduced. Logic then seems established, one could argue.

In The Cambridge Companion to Kant, Onora O’Neill in her essay “Vindicating reason,” says that the fundamental proposition of anti-rationalists is “failure to vindicate the supposed standards are reason … [means that] the authority of reason is bogus” (“Vindicating reason” 280). Again, reason, and more specifically reasoning, are a part of all theoretical construction and in this sense could be seen as the theoretical primitive in that even illogical constructions go through a process of reasoning, though this process is obviously seen as containing a flaw or flaws. Syllogisms are just formal instantiations of, not logic, but processes of reasoning — they are dynamic reasoning stuck in place, stratified and static. O’Neill picks up on the key thing coming out of what we’ve said so far: it seems reasoning comes before logic. In regards to this, I’d say that it would be hard to say anything that “predates logic” in that to say, for example, truth comes before logic, which is to say, true conclusions take precedence over logical conclusions would be a conclusion reached through a process of reasoning and also through logic. So, truth, and other epistemic and normative standards, cannot be positioned in front of reason and logic without assuming the contrary. Now, this again is a practical contradiction, and so it is not necessarily indicative of the status of logic’s arbitration and where it lies in relation to the arbitration of other things. But, ultimately, if logic was the theoretical primitive then this would all be different and it would be justified, it would have the highest arbitration. Now, another key thought comes out of all of this: is reason(ing) justified as a method? One could not conclude that reasoning is justified without first supposing it to be so, and thus we now have the logocentric predicament again, only this time it is a predicament concerning reason, but arguably also logic. That logic and reason are seemingly indissociable becomes clear the more I think to myself and the more I write out those thoughts. It seems the notion of the theoretical primitive too solves this issue. Nevertheless, one could still be skeptical of the notion of the theoretical primitive and its status as justified. Ultimately, what the skeptic would do, or what I would do at least, is question that anything could be the theoretical primitive. Reason, logic, etc. all have the possibility of being the theoretical primitive, but of course, possibility is a category of modal logic, and, of course, I am reasoning this out. So, it seems that 1. The process of theoretical construction is reasoning and 2. The foundations for the process arising are logic. Logic precedes reasoning then? It is tuff to say because I, even after having written it just seconds ago, am skeptical of the two seemings I have just lined out.

In an email to me, Hanna explained that Minimal Non-Contradiction was entailed if some form of propositional pluralism was not to be the case, i.e., if the idea that any conclusion can follow from every set of premises was not the case. And he is right, but only assuming a form of pragmatism. Essentially, Hanna is arguing that the skeptic must hold Minimal Non-Contradiction “to be true if they’re going to make any sense in conversation.” One could argue though, that the theoretical primitive solves this issue in that all inferences suppose it, thus negating any notion of pluralism.

Ultimately, with the crude and primitive expression of my thoughts I have given thus far relating to the logocentric predicament, I can only say that we are just getting started. A solution to the logocentric predicament is the starting point of positive philosophy, whereas skepticism and its heights are the starting points of negative philosophy. Once a tenable solution has been put forward, things will pick up quickly.

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Evan Jack

Evan Jack

How sweet terror is, not a single line, or a ray of morning sunlight fails to contain the sweetness of anguish. - Georges Bataille