When we speak of Kant and the justification of logic we are also talking about Kant and the justification of inference. Logic is not to be idealized as this totally encompassing thing because it isn’t, for even logic identifies its limits (illogic, or “all is contradiction”). When we talk about warranting logic, we are talking about using inferences to come to conclusions. The predicament is this: we are trying to come to justified conclusions, do our means to that end also need to be justified? The answer is obviously yes. To say otherwise, would lead to illogic, for if the movement from premises to conclusion didn’t need to be justified, then any premises could lead to any conclusion, which terminates in total contradiction (= illogic, or “all is contradiction”). So, the issue of justifying logic is not an issue of justifying this monstrous and mythical monolith, but rather, it is a seemingly simple task: the justification of inference. That is what we must to do. If we can justify our use of inference (i.e., the method that is inferring from premises to conclusion), then we will have solved the logocentric predicament, because then we can finally infer in a justified manner. So, for me to say,

P1: p → q

P2: p

C1: Therefore, q

would suppose modus ponens to be justified, so if we could justify that inference which itself takes the form of modus ponens (so if we justify modus ponens then the inference is justified), we could say that C1 actually is the case without falling into the logocentric predicament. For, the logocentric predicament is really just an issue of using inference to justify inference, it is an issue of inferring that inference is justified — a seemingly circular operation. Furthermore, we need not even justify the inference rules in themselves, which is to say, we need to even argue that modus ponens, for example, is something justified independent of us, in all cases, etc., etc., blah, blah, blah. We need do no such thing. Rather, all we must do is justify our use of logic. That is the logocentric predicament. It has never been, even in the original Shefferian construction of the predicament, about logic in itself being justified but rather our use of logic being justified, for the issue was that to justify logic, we would have to employ, we would have to use logic to reach that justification; or, in other words, the issue that Sheffer originally lined out in 1926 was that to justify inference we would have to employ inference, use inference, i.e., we would have to infer that inference was justified. Therefore, the circularity that the logocentric predicament implicates is not so solid after all, for our task now is simply to justify our use of logic, as if our use of modus ponens is justified then modus ponens actually being the case independent of our use means nothing, since we do not care for it independent of our use. This is why JohnNeal Foster’s thesis Transcendental Idealism and the Justification of Logic, which I will hopefully get my hands on, seems so promising (from the abstract of the thesis):

Our use of logic has never been given proper justification. Contemporary analytic philosophy has failed in its attempts to avoid problems regarding epistemic justification, when it turned its attention to issues of language and logic. Kant’s methodological criticism, combined with a heavily reconstructed version of his transcendental idealism, provide the only possible coherent explanation of how our possession of valid inference forms is possible.

Simply, then, all we must now do is justify that our use of logic is justified. This seemingly still has this issue of gross (i.e., vicious) circularity, though, in that, we will obviously be using logic to justify the use of logic. Nevertheless, our predicament, our task, and those means to solve it have become more clear.




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

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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

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