Tag Archives: validity of syllogisms

Sayers’ Helpful Summary of Logic

Sayers’ Vision for Logic

In her seminal essay “The Lost Tools of Learning,” the author Dorothy Sayers describes her understanding of the medieval scheme of education, specifically the Trivium — the three liberal arts of grammar, logic, and rhetoric. She argues that students in the Middle Ages were taught the proper use of the tools of learning by means of these arts. Of logic she says,

dorothy[1]“Second, he learned how to use language; how to define his terms and make accurate statements; how to construct an argument and how to detect fallacies in argument.”

As I have taught logic in the classroom, written logic texts (and blog posts), and spoken on logic and classical education around the world, I have regularly returned to this quote. It is for me perhaps the most useful sentence (of the 238 sentences) in the essay.

A Proper Pedagogical Progression

In this sentence Sayers explains what logic is for: logic teaches us how to use language. This reminds us that the liberal arts of the Trivium are language arts (whereas the Quadrivium are mathematical arts). Specifically, logic teaches us how to use the language of reasoning, of disputation and proof.

This sentence also describes a proper pedagogical progression of logic:

  1. We must start with terms: how to define them, relate them, and work with them, including understanding the value of defining terms.
  2. Terms are related in statements (categorical statements connect subject terms with the predicate terms). Logic teaches us “how to make accurate statements”; that is, how to make statements that are true and applicable, as well as understanding how we know that they are true, and how they relate to each other. It teaches how to do this with many different types of statements: simple and compound, categorical and hypothetical, immediate inferences, and so on. Terms are the building blocks of statements.
  3. Statements are the building blocks of arguments, as we connect premises together to draw conclusions. So logic teaches us “how to construct an argument”; that is, how to write a valid argument to establish a desired conclusion.  It teaches how to do this with many types of arguments: categorical and propositional, conditional and disjunctive, symbolic arguments and arguments in normal English.
  4. Finally, logic teaches us “how to detect fallacies in argument,” both the formal fallacies from the rules of validity for categorical syllogisms and propositional arguments, and the informal fallacies of ordinary discourse, like circular reasoning and ad hominem. Logic teaches us not only to detect them, but to name them, and to expose them by means of counterexamples to those untrained in logic.

Were I to add one element to Sayers’ list, it would be “to construct a proof in a step-by-step, justified manner.” With this addition, every page, every concept of both Introductory and Intermediate Logic is covered in Sayers’ helpful description of what is encompassed in learning logic.

A Brief History of Validity #2

The 19 Traditional Forms

In the first post in this series, we saw that Aristotle identified 16 valid forms of categorical syllogisms (though he formally acknowledged only the first three figures). Some thirteenth-century logicians such as William of Sherwood and Peter of Spain recognized nineteen valid forms, giving them Latin names as a mnemonic device for ease of memorizing:

Barbara, Celarent, Darii, Ferioque prioris.
Cesare, Camestres, Festino, Baroco secundae.
Tertia Darapti, Disamis, Datisi, Felapton, Bocardo, Ferison habet.
Quarta insuper addit Bramantip, Camenes, Dimaris, Fesapo, Fresison.

The vowels in each name correspond with the mood, such that “Barbara” is AAA-1, “Cesare” is EAE-2, and so on. Thus the medievals recognized these valid forms:

Figure 1: AAA, EAE, AII, EIO
Figure 2: EAE, AEE, EIO, AOO
Figure 3: AAI, IAI, AII, EAO, OAO, EIO
Figure 4: AAI, AEE, IAI, EAO, EIO

The five forms not included in this list are AAI-1, EAO-1, EAO-2, AEO-2, and AEO-4. Why were these five not included? They are the forms in which the conclusion is the subimplication of moods with all universal statements, namely AAA-1, EAE-1, EAE-2, AEE-2,  and AEE-4. Thus they were seen as “weaker” forms of the syllogisms (why bother concluding the particular “Some S is not P”when you can conclude the universal “No S is P”?).

Defending the Missing Five

Interestingly, these five omitted forms can readily be shown to be equivalent to Bramantip (AAI-4) using immediate inferences, as follows:

AAI-4 (given)
All P is M
All M is S

∴ Some S is P

AAI-1 (taking the converse of the conclusion, correcting the premise order)
All M is S
All P is M

∴ Some P is S

EAO-1 (taking the obverse of the major premise and conclusion of the AAI-1)
No M is non-S
All P is M

∴ Some P is not non-S

EAO-2 (taking the converse of the major premise of the EAO-1)
No non-S is M
All P is M

∴ Some P is not non-S

AEO-2 (From the AAI-1, take the contrapositive of the major premise, obverse of the minor premise and conclusion)
All non-S is non-M
No P is non-M

∴ Some P is not non-S

AEO-4 (From the AEO-2, take the converse of the minor premise)
All non-S is non-M
No non-M is P

∴ Some P is not non-S.

This is one practical application of the immediate inferences learned in Lesson 27 of Introductory Logic.

A Brief History of Validity #1

Which forms of categorical syllogisms are valid? Logicians have disputed the answer for centuries, a dispute that can give us insight into the meaning of validity, the central concept of formal logic. This will be the first of a few posts in which I will briefly discuss the history of syllogistic validity.

Aristotle’s 16

It all started with Aristotle, who in his Prior Analytics, Book I, chapters 4-7, detailed sixteen valid forms:

Figure 1: AAA, EAE, AII, EIO
Figure 2: EAE, AEE, EIO, AOO
Figure 3: AAI, EAO, IAI, AII, OAO, EIO
Figure 4: EAO, EIO

If you read Prior Analytics (which is no trivial task), Aristotle presents only the first three figures as figures, omitting any mention of a fourth figure. But in chapter 7 he admits in passing the forms of EAO-4 and EIO-4 as valid, saying,

If A belongs to all or some B, and B belongs to no C … it is necessary that C does not belong to some A.

It is not difficult to see why Aristotle omits AAI-1, EAO-1, AEO-2, and EAO-2. These four forms are his AAA-1, EAE-1, AEE-2, and EAE-2 with the subimplication of the conclusion. Aristotle apparently saw no need to include syllogism forms with particular conclusions when the premises could imply the universal.

Aristotle and Figure 4

It is rather more difficult to understand why Aristotle does not admit the fourth figure, though logicians have argued that it has to do with how he defines a syllogism. We learn from Bertrand Russell, in his Cambridge Essays, that

The fourth figure…was added by Aristotle’s pupil Theophrastus and does not occur in Aristotle’s work, although there is evidence that Aristotle knew of fourth-figure syllogisms.

Theophrastus apparently recognized three more valid forms of figure 4: AAI, AEE, and IAI, bringing the total to 19. These were given Latin names by medieval scholars, but that will be the topic for my next post.

Logic with James B Nance

Introductory Logic Prerequisite for Intermediate Logic?

It is certainly possible for a student who has not taken (or not completed) Introductory Logic to take and successfully complete Intermediate Logic. Though the Intermediate Logic text is designed as a continuation to Introductory Logic, it does not assume a mastery of the concepts in it. Almost all of the concepts from Introductory Logic that are essential for Intermediate Logic are re-taught (the only exceptions being the definitions of logical argument, premise, and conclusion; definitions assumed in Intermediate Logic, Lesson 7, but taught explicitly in Introductory Logic, Lesson 19).

That being said, a new Intermediate Logic student who is familiar with Introductory Logic will have an advantage over a student who is not. The following concepts from Introductory Logic are repeated and re-taught in Intermediate Logic (the concepts are first taught in the respective given lesson numbers): Continue reading Introductory Logic Prerequisite for Intermediate Logic?

Gospel Enthymemes

Arguments in which one statement is left assumed are called enthymemes. Most logical arguments encountered in daily life are enthymemes. We can use the tools of logic to determine the assumption being made in an enthymeme.

Let’s examine three enthymemes in the Bible, all on the topic of Gospel salvation. Continue reading Gospel Enthymemes

Alternate Answers for Exercise 27

I have received several inquiries regarding other possible solutions to the syllogism translations in Introductory Logic Exercise 27. Though the Teacher’s Edition offers only one solution per problem, there are in fact many possible correct answers to each question.

Here is one more reasonable possibility for each: Continue reading Alternate Answers for Exercise 27

Caught by my students: Errors in my fallacies!

While teaching through Exercise 25, I was challenging my students on problem 3 to identify every possible syllogism making the fallacies of Two negative premises, and negative premise and affirmative conclusion, and no other fallacies.  I had original concluded that there were 32 such forms: EEA, EEI, EOA, EOI, OEA, OEI, OOA, OOI — all four figures of each.

Suddenly one of my students said, “But don’t some of those forms make others fallacies as well?” I realized he was right, and together we followed this rabbit trail, carefully working through the question to determine that, in fact, six of these forms do make additional fallacies: EOA-1, 2 and OOA-1, 2 have an Illicit Minor, and OOA-3, OOI-3 have an Undistributed Middle. Consequently, I have corrected my previous post on this topic.

I have some truly impressive logic students!

More Answers for Exercise 25

One of the difficulties in writing a textbook like Introductory Logic is that, for most of the questions, there are often several possible correct answers. Rather than writing “Answers may vary” every time, I elected in the answer key to give a typical correct answer to each question that could have more than one possible answer.

But all the possible correct answers for Exercise 25 are worth a little more thought. In this exercise, I ask students to write schemas of syllogisms that have a given set of fallacies. If for each problem I only allow those fallacies and no others, there are a reasonably small number of identifiable answers for each problem. Here they are (for the sake of space, I gave the answers as mood & figure, rather than schema): Continue reading More Answers for Exercise 25

Common errors to avoid: Don’t sweat Lesson 23!

Introductory Logic Lesson 23 introduces the concepts of validity and soundness. The lesson says that a syllogism is valid if and only if the premises imply the conclusion. If a syllogism can have true premises and a false conclusion, the argument is invalid. A sound argument is a valid argument with all true statements.

The only purpose of Lesson 23 is to introduce the concepts of validity and soundness. This lesson does not explain how to determine validity. So if after studying this lesson you have trouble knowing whether a given syllogism is valid or invalid, don’t worry about it. You will learn how to do that in the next three lessons. Lessons 24-26 are dedicated to teaching the methods for determining the validity of a syllogism.