[Unfinished DRAFT] A Solution to the Logocentric Predicament?

The logocentric predicament has haunted philosophy since its inception, and even though logic had not been formulated, reasoning and inference were utilized. Since thinking started, the logocentric predicament haunted it. But what is the logocentric predicament? Simply, the logocentric predicament is that one must presuppose logic in the attempt to justify it, therefore making it viciously circular.

In Rationality and Logic, Robert Hanna recognizes that there are two forms of circularity: the vicious circularity of begging the question and then a presuppositional argument that is not viciously circular. By presuppositional argument, Hanna means transcendental argument. Let me give you an example of a transcendental argument: my little brother is throwing a tantrum then the presupposition, i.e., those necessary conditions of the latter proposition, is that I have a little brother. Hanna concludes from this that “presuppositional arguments are epistemically circular only to the minimal extent that they introduce no new truth-conditional information into the argument over and above that which is already contained in the premise” (Rationality and Logic 73). The reason the circularity of presuppositional arguments is not vicious is that it is only making that knowledge implicitly contained within a proposition explicit. Let’s return to my earlier example, that I have a little brother is not explicitly stated in the form “I have a little brother” rather it is the necessary condition for the proposition “my little brother is throwing a tantrum.” But, obviously, that I have a little brother is not viciously circular in that “the conclusion of the argument is not to be found among its premises” (Rationality and Logic 73). Let’s see this syllogistically:

P1: My little brother is throwing a tantrum.

P2: For my little brother to throw a tantrum, I must have a little brother.

C1: I have a little brother.

Obviously, the conclusion is something that I can derive from the first premise, but it itself is not contained in the first premise explicitly. Hanna says it perfectly: “The conclusion of a presuppositional argument thus partially or completely unpacks truth-conditional information implicitly contained in the premise” (Rationality and Logic 73). This is the first thing we must understand to understand Hanna’s argument for solving the logocentric predicament. Before we continue, do note that Hanna’s usage of “presuppositional argument” and my usage of “transcendental argument” are interchangeable.

In Rationality and Logic, Hanna makes an argument relating to what he calls the logic faculty thesis which is a part of his logical cognitivism. Now, logical cognitivism is something that will not be analyzed here because Hanna has a much stronger argument that he explicates in his paper “Kant, Wittgenstein, and Transcendental Philosophy” and in his book Cognition, Content, and the A Priori. His argument has one supposition:

Suppose that pure general logic really does capture the a priori essence of logic just because, insofar as it contains first-order monadic, and also falls under The Minimal Logical Meta-Principle of Non-Contradiction, it thereby adequately captures all The Logical Perfection — truthful consistency, soundness, completeness, decidability, and above all, analyticity — and it is also The Universal Natural Logic. Then since all rational theorizing, explanation, and justification whatsoever presuppose logic, it follows that pure general logic must also be the a priori essence of all rational theorizing, explanation, and justification whatsoever. (“Kant, Wittgenstein, and Transcendental Philosophy” 102)

Essentially, if pure general logic captures the a priori essence of logic, and we will go over how it does, then we can say that it solves the logocentric predicament because it is “the explanatory and justificatory unique categorically normative theoretical primitive” (“Kant, Wittgenstein, and Transcendental Philosophy” 102). The reason this allows pure general logic to get around the logocentric predicament is that it would mean

Pure general logic is then both adequately explained and justified when we learn that every explanation and justification whatsoever, including the explanation and justification of every other logic, both has to presuppose and use pure general logic, and has to presuppose and use it alone, and also rightly does so. (“Kant, Wittgenstein, and Transcendental Philosophy” 102)

In other words, if pure general logic captures the a priori essence of logic and is, therefore, the theoretical primitive in regards to explanation and justification, then pure general logic would be explained and justified by the logocentric predicament as the conditions for its justification and explanation are that it is presupposed. Thus, the logocentric predicament becomes the proof of pure general logic’s justification. Following this, Hanna says,

The Logocentric Predicament, the Tortoise regress problem, and the problem of justifying deduction are just ways of showing us pure general logic’s primitive and unique a priori status in any cognitive, scientific, or more generally theoretical constructive activity or product, and in particular its absolutely unique a priori categorically normative status in all constructive theoretical explanation and justification whatsoever, including any attempt to construct theoretically an explanation or justification of logic itself … Otherwise put, pure general logic must be presupposed and used in every constructive theoretical explanation and justification whatsoever. And that is why logic must be presupposed and used in any attempt to justify or explain logic. (“Kant, Wittgenstein, and Transcendental Philosophy” 103)

Thus, all we must prove is that pure general logic captures that a priori essence of logic, and we will then have caused the logocentric predicament to no longer be a predicament but rather a proof, and specifically a proof of pure general logic’s a priori status. In this sense, though, the argument being made by Hanna here is that pure general logic is presuppositional/transcendental in the sense presuppositional and transcendental were used earlier in this essay.

P1: The logocentric predicament shows that logic must be presupposed to justify itself.

P2: Pure general logic captures the a priori essence of logic, which means that its “nature,” and therefore conditions of explanation and justification, is that it is presupposed, that it is the theoretical primitive.

C1: Pure general logic is therefore justified in that it is presupposed.

P1 is obviously accepted and what we are trying to explain and or refute. P2 is what we must explain and prove. And C1 is the solution to the logocentric predicament. One may argue that this supposes logic, and that is exactly the point. Obviously, the logocentric predicament is raised through logic. But, we can therefore argue that we can prove logic through logic as well, but only if we explain and justify our proof, i.e., show that our proof is actually a proof. Again, the only reason the logocentric predicament is a predicament is because, first, it can show how logic undermines itself, i.e., is self-defeating, and, second, presuppositional/transcendental arguments don’t necessarily mean that something is justified but rather that there are particular forms of thought that we engage in. So, pure general logic is then that one thing which actually is explained and justified by a presuppositional/transcendental argument because its conditions of justification and explanation is that it is presupposed. So, how do we go about proving P2?

Hanna argues for P2 succinctly,

Pure general logic inherently contains first-order monadic logic, and also satisfied logic’s Low-Bar rational normative standard, Minimal Non-Contradiciton. Pure general logic thereby adequately captures all The Logical Perfections: truthful consistency, soundness, completeness, decidability, and above all, analyticity. And pure general logic is also the Universal Natural Logic. Hence, pure general logic also satisfied logic’s High-Bar rational normative standard. For all these reasons, pure general logic really does capture the a priori essence of logic … Pure general logic is, then, both adequately explained and justified when we learn that every explanation and justification whatsoever, including the explanation and justification of every other logic, both has to presuppose and use pure general logic, and has to presuppose and use it alone, and also rightly does so. (Cognition, Content, and the A Priori 254–255)

Therefore, we must prove that pure general logic, first, inherently contains first-order monadic logic, and, second, satisfies logic’s Low-Bar rational normative standard also called Minimal Non-Contradiction. We can conclude from the latter two things that pure general logic is the Universal Nature Logic, because it contains first-order monadic logic. and that it satisfies logic’s High-Bar rational normative standard, because it satisfies logic’s Low-Bar rational normative standard. And once we have proved these latter two things, we will have proven that pure general logic captures the a priori essence of logic. To prove that pure general logic does the latter two things we are to turn to Hanna’s book Cognition, Content, and the A Priori, and specifically chapter five “The Morality of Logic” as well as Hanna’s essay “Kant, Wittgenstein, and Transcendental Philosophy,” and specifically section four “How and Why Logic is Transcendental.”

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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