Graham Priest at Logic & Metaphysics Workshop on Łukasiewicz Oct 20

Graham Priest at Logic & Metaphysics Workshop on Łukasiewicz Oct 20

The first meeting of the Workshop will be next Monday,  October 20, 4.15-6.15, Room 4419, Graduate Center, CUNY. Details:

Torn by Reason: Łukasiewicz on the Principle of Contradiction

Graham Priest

In 1910, the young Jan Łukasiewicz published his ground-breaking On the Principle of Contradiction in Aristotle. About two and a half millennia earlier, Aristotle had launched an attack on those who would violate the Principle of Non-Contradiction (PNC). That attack established the principle as orthodox in Western Philosophy—in a way that perhaps no other philosophical claim has ever been so entrenched. The only Western philosopher who balked seriously was Hegel (and perhaps some of his intellectual descendants). Łukasiewicz subjected the Aristotelian arguments to a detailed, penetrating attack, and put the question of the cogency of the PNC on the table for 20th Century philosophy.

In the same year in which he published the book, Łukasiewicz published a paper in German, `Über den Satz von Widerspruch bei Aristoteles’, summarising the first half of his book. It is in this half that Aristotle is clinically dissected. The paper was—somewhat belatedly—translated into English after some 60 years; and its contents are now well appreciated by English-speaking philosophers. The book itself has not been translated into English until recently. The present talk is an analysis of the contents of its second half.

In this part of the book we find Łukasiewicz giving his own views on the PNC. He is, in fact, badly torn on the validity of the Principle. It is true that he comes down on the side of the PNC eventually, but the journey is a tortured one, and the conclusion disappointingly lame. The material, however, shows us an acute mind wrestling with a principle it would really like to believe, in despite of the considerations it marshals. It also presents a fascinating window on a period in the history of logic, a century yore, when the new symbolic logic, the logical paradoxes, the thought of Meinong, and the thought of Hegel, delivered a heady and stimulating cocktail.

Image: Malopolski