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Mathematics, Statistics, and Computer Science


Richard Whately, syllogism, mathematics, Elements of Logic


Richard Whately's Elements of Logic in 1826 marked the end of a dismal era in the history of British logic. His work sparked a revival in Britain, culminating in several distinct developments, none of which, however, Whately contributed to. Yet his work laid the foundation for them by providing a spirited defense of the syllogism and of deductive reasoning generally.

The first chapter begins with a systematic synopsis of the criticisms and responses which were made from the seventeenth to the early nineteenth century. These related primarily to the nature of logic and the epistemic utility of syllogistic reasoning, but also to the axiomatic treatment given logic in the most important textbooks of the time. Following this, a historical survey of the ideas of the relevant seventeenth and eighteenth century critics is presented. The topics discussed here are: Bacon's inductive logic; Descartes' method of analysis; the Port-Royal logic; Locke's criticisms; eighteenth century British textbooks in logic (Aldrich, Watts, and Duncan); the inductivist attack on logic (Reid, Kames, and Campbell); some minor works (Tatham, Beattie, Scott, and Barron); and Stewart's inductive logic.

The second chapter considers the various defenses of traditional logic made in Britain before 1823. It treats developments in Scotland (Monboddo, Gillies, and Jardine); Ireland (Murray's logic with Walker's commentary and Kirwan's logic); and England (logic at Oxford, Copleston's defense against Kett's text and against the criticisms of Playfair and Drummond, Lyall's defense against Stewart, and Hill's commentary on Aldrich).

Chapter three looks at Whately's defense of syllogistic logic. The genesis of Whately's work is analyzed and the publication date for the first edition is settled as mid-1823. A detailed description of Whately's justification of syllogistic logic is then given, including the reactions of his contemporaries. Finally, Whately's place in the history of British logic is assessed. Taking into account the findings of chapters one and two as well as previous assessments of Whately's significance, our evaluation shows that and in what sense Whately is entitled to be considered the reviver of logic in Great Britain.


  • A thesis submitted in conformity with the requirements for the degree of DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY in the University of Toronto
  • © 1982 Calvin Jongsma

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