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364 HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY Fallacies. By C. L. Hamblin. (London: Methuen, 1970. Pp. 326. $8.75) One of the most unsatisfactory parts of contemporary logic is the theory of fallacies. Many books avoid the topic altogether--in some cases not before having lingered somewhat in the practice of fallacy--by presenting the argument that a special theory of incorrect reasoning is superfluous since it is implicitly included in the theory of correct reasoning, to which they will therefore limit themselves. The books that do discuss fallacies usually contain a confused and inconsistent mixture of four elements: a definition of the concept of fallacy, descriptions of various practices categorized as fallacies, a classification of fallacies into various groups, and illustrations of the descriptions of fallacies with examples. The main problem is that whereas a fallacy is usually defined as a type of common but logically incorrect argument, almost all practices so categorized are either not common, or not logically incorrect, or not arguments; moreover, the examples presented are usually trivial and artificial. The situation is so frustrating that it offers a golden opportunity for the historian to enter the picture, tell us how this lamentable state came into being, and see what theoretical lessons can be learned from the historical investigation. The present book can be regarded as a brilliant example of this type of synthesis of history and theory (advocated in general and practiced in other fields by, among others, Benedetto Croce). It consists for about two thirds of its length of a historical account of theories of fallacies from Aristotle to the present, and for the last third, of an attempt to formulate an adequate theory. Hamblin's main thesis is that the various theories of fallacies that one finds in the history of the subject were groping toward something he calls "formal dialectic," somewhat in the same way that Aristotle's Topics was groping toward formal logic; however, though Aristotle himself superannuated the Topics with his invention of formal logic, no one, let alone Aristotle, has yet devised a science which would replace the unsystematic study of fallacies. Hamblin then sketches such a science in the theoretical part of his book. Besides being valuable for the intrinsic interest of its main thesis and, historiographically, as an exemplary synthesis of philosophical history and theory, the book also contains a wealth of historical information about fallacies. For Hamblin, the history of fallacies is a succession of alternating periods of interest and of neglect. First there is Aristotle's work, which occurs in three stages, found respectively in Sophistical Refutation, Prior Analytics, and Rhetoric (p. 52). This is followed by about fourteen centuries of neglect until the twelfth century, which begins another period of interest lasting about two centuries, during which the Aristotelian tradition is deepened. Subsequently, Hamblin finds ~'a series of waves of anti-Aristotelian attempts to get rid of the subject altogether, followed at regular intervals by the reinstatement of the old doctrine in ever new revised forms" (p. 136). Opposed to or uninterested in fallacies were Agricola, Ramus, Locke and the empiricists, Leibniz and the rationalists, Boole, Frege, and Russell; whereas Fraunce, Buscher, Bacon, Arnauld, Whately, J. S. Mill, De Morgan, and contemporary American logicians exhibit concern with fallacies. In addition to such historical information, the historical part of the book is full of suggestive ideas and interesting problems. As an example of the former is the suggestion (pp. 133-134) that one of the greatest thought-experiments in the history of science--Galileo's reductio ad absurdum in the Two New Sciences of Aristotle's thesis that the speed of fall depends on weight--is an unmistakably medieval piece of argumentation, though admittedly Galileo had no high regard for medieval logic and though the style of his language is that of a Socratic dialogue. An interesting problem, which Hamblin raises but does not solve, is how and why the concept of ad hominem argument changed. Originally it meant a type of argument in which one derives a consequence not acceptable to an opponent from premises accepted by him although not necessarily by the arguer (pp. 160-162); whereas flow it means the fallacy of arguing an issue...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1538-4586
Print ISSN
0022-5053
Pages
p. 364
Launched on MUSE
2008-01-01
Open Access
No
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