Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Logic, logic everywhere...

I like logic as much as the next guy, but sometimes philosophers and logicians do things that strike me as ridiculous. Sometimes they act as if there was a need to create logics for everything, as if nothing was understood unless we have a formal calculus for it. This is not a complaint against all formal systems. The various forms of counterfactual logics are interesting and worthwhile, although how much light they shed on problems of modality I cannot say for sure. The main offender that springs to mind is from a group of papers, which might be growing, on the logic of fiction. I'm doubtful of its efficacy for two reasons. One, I don't think there is enough of a concensus on how to understand fiction for there to be any sort of enlightening logic thereof. The relatoin of fictional discourse to non-fictional discourse is still a bit shaky. Two, I am doubtful that a logic will shed any sort of light on issues that people interested in literature will care about. The best case scenario that I foresee as a live possibility is that somehow computer scientists or someone working on contradictory independent discourses will use the stuff for some completely unrelataed project. There are more offenders. The best summary of this thought that I have heard was from a linguist, Dan Jurafsky. He said that in graduate school, computer science, they would spend their time coming up with new formal systems and that it ended up being the biggest intellectual morass he had seen.

This may not have been fair to the logic of fiction people, but there are a couple of necessary conditions for creating formal systems that I think were not met. One is a degree of conceptual clarity and another is a clear motivation. I'm not feeling either of them.

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