PHILOSOPHERS FASTENED ONTO DEDUCTIVE LOGIC AS THE WAY TO WISDOM
These matters are the first I did in my attempt to understand Philosophy:
According to History of Philosophy, the first philosophers started with axioms (which are self-evident postulates that couldn’t be wrong) and then used deductive logic on them (which also couldn’t be wrong) to reach further and further back to the basic Truths of the universe and of life. Previously everybody had been content to accept that all things, processes and happenings had their origin in the gods, which wisdom was brought to them by the poets.
I think that perhaps the first philosophers had pulled themselves away from this tradition of ultimate Truth, and it was just too much of another step for them to go out and do observations and experiments as well. So they sat in their chairs and did deductive logic. Another reason for not using their senses was that these had sometimes fooled them; and because their mathematics, which had been so successful at gaining knowledge, consisted of deducing from axioms (from here).
How was it that some people in Ancient Greece took this fateful first step of seeing Wisdom as consisting of logicking, mathematics and science? They called it Reason, and they were called Philosophers.
I get the idea from somewhere that poetry was in ancient times the natural way to express matters of profundity and ultimacy. That included the gods and their myths. Then along came Philosophy with its Reason and this was in prose.
Here is the most quoted example of deductive logic: ‘All men are mortal. Socrates is a man. Therefore Socrates is mortal.’ And another: ‘If I think, I must exist. I think. Therefore, I must exist.’ Aristotle called such brilliant arguments ‘syllogisms’.
Did Aristotle really say that this was all that Philosophy amounted to? It seems incredible. Did Philosophy through the ages remain dedicated to deductive logic alone? It seems incredible. Due to my alienation from the philosophical cast of mind, and my inability to credit the amazing things philosophers seemed to be saying, I still don’t know! I can’t work it out. If that was all Philosophy ever did, it could only have produced tautologies or truisms. Why wasn’t this obvious?
Surely Philosophy must have graduated to doing more than that. But then I read that Descartes, in the early 1600s, was still dedicated to deduction, and so were the Rationalists of the 18th century! No, I can’t yet credit this simple fact in the History of Philosophy. If Philosophy did graduate, what did it graduate to? What does Philosophy do now? Or did part of it just start metamorphosing into Science from 1500 AD onward?
I am able to grasp that Science is different from Philosophy in that it uses inductive logic to draw provisionally acceptable ‘laws’ from observations and experiments (although I think this understanding of science has been contradicted by Popper, and he has been contradicted by yet others.).
Perhaps one can say that Philosophy from the beginning was seen as a duty to abolish the human-like from explanations of how things and happenings came about. They started by removing the gods, who behaved like humans. And, since the 19th century, they’ve been taking the human out of how the human mind works. It is an attempt to find natural, material causes rather than supernatural intentional acts.