Editor's note: After blind peer review, this paper was selected for reading at the University of Dayton's 10th annual Philosophy Colloquium, held Feb. 27-28, 1981.
In his works on the history of logic, I.M. Bochenski passes rather harsh judgment on Plato's practical competence in logic. His earlier Ancient Formal Logic claims that the dialogues are so full of "elementary blunders" that "the reading of them is almost intolerable to a logician." Some of the harshest censure has been removed from the later History of Formal Logic, but Bochenski still regards Plato as struggling inordinately hard to " solve logical problems which we find quite elementary." Despite this, he regards Plato as having been the first thinker in history to formulate a clear idea of logic. Now, I think Bochenski is wrong on both counts. More precisely, I think his diagnoses of "logical blunders" in Plato will not stand up to close analysis: not because Plato is a better "logician" than Bochenski thinks — although a little can be said for that — but because the whole notion of a peculiarly "logical" blunder is simply not usable to any great extent in criticizing an author who lacked a clear-cut notion of logical truth. This, of course, suggests my second point: I do not think that Plato actually formulated a clear conception of logic, at least in any terms recognizable by Bochenski himself or most any other contemporary logician. Thus, I do not believe that Plato had the conceptual means available to distinguish logical truths from physical or (if the expression is not too troublesome) metaphysical truths of great generality. In defending my second claim, I shall appeal to a particular interpretation of Aristotle's doctrine concerning the "peculiarity" (oikeiotes) of scientific principles. If, as is plausible, we suppose that one of Aristotle's purposes in presenting this doctrine is to combat a certain Platonic picture of science or philosophy, we may gain some insight into the views of both men.
"Logical Truth in Plato,"
University of Dayton Review: Vol. 16:
1, Article 15.
Available at: https://ecommons.udayton.edu/udr/vol16/iss1/15