Perspectives on Science vol. 29, n°3, mai-juin 2021
Logic and Methodology in the Early Modern Period
Élodie CASSAN (dir.)
Revue publiée en accès libre par MIT Press Direct
Ce volume contient des contributions de Roger ARIEW, de Sorana CORNEANU, de Rodolfo GARAU et Élodie CASSAN.
In this issue, our main concern is : why did early modern philosophers devote so much attention to logic in the construction of their systems of knowledge despite a widespread rhetoric of the rejection and rupture with the logical tradition ? What kind of change and continuity in the understanding of the role of logic does this reflect ? What does this gesture tell us about the building of the philosophical discourse ?
The first two papers of this volume deal with two essential figures of early modern philosophy, namely Francis Baconand René Descartes, whose names frequently come together in the framework of the traditional historiography of the period, hailed as two “Founding Fathers” of philosophical modernity. Is there such thing as a “Baconian logic” ? Is Cartesian logic fully defined by a break with traditional scholastic logic ? At stake in these two questions is the project to show that however new early modern philosophy may have been, it did not arise in a virgin land, immune from historical determination, but owes its novelty to its reworking of traditional materials. We claim that the field of logic is particularly representative of this phenomenon. More precisely put, we explore the part played by the early moderns reshaping of logic in the perspective on their invention of early modern philosophy. We contend that a philosophical history of logic is instrumental in the making of a history of early modern philosophy that is not reduced to the listing of its authors, but is characterized by its themes, concepts and problems.
The last two papers illustrate this reading strategy by focusing on an important case study. They are dedicated to the empiricist philosophy of Pierre Gassendi, who is incrementally coming to the foreground, after having spent too long behind the scenes of early modernscholarship. Both papers emphasize the dialectical relation entertained by Gassendi with the history of logic of his time.
In the end, our conclusions are two fold. Firstly, a study of the early moderns’ reshaping of logic provides a tool for a better understanding of their philosophical move. Second, a new understanding of the part played by logic in the building of early modern philosophy significantly contributes to current debates about the rise of seventeenth century science and about the formation of the modern concept of human being.
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