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What is Mind? Does it matter? What is matter? Never mind!

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Gary HersteinRSS Feed of this column.

Dr. Herstein began his career in the computer and networked PC industries, where he worked for almost 25 years. During this time he completed an MA in Interdisciplinary Studies at DePaul University... Read More »

Medical doctors often like to characterize themselves as scientists, and many others in the public are happy to join them in this.

I submit, however, that such a characterization is an error.

It is not a slur on the profession or its practitioners to say this, particularly once one understands that science is not the only, or only worthy, or even the most prominent form of reasoned inquiry that people can and do engage in. Furthermore, it is not a slur to say something that is simply true.

Philosophers have the embarrassing habit of apologizing for formal logic. Mathematicians don’t bother because they don’t care -- they’re just interested in the pretty pretty symbols and waste no part of their lives checking to see if their activities actually mean anything. But philosophers worry about everything, and the more obvious a thing or its explanation might be, the more worrisome it becomes to them. And since a particularly large part of philosophy in the last 140 years has specifically centered itself around the importance of formal logic -- which is “obviously” important -- this becomes especially problematic.

For some thousands of years “logic” was viewed as the “theory of inquiry” – “inquiry into inquiry” if you will. This was almost certainly the case with Plato, definitely the case with Aristotle, and by and large true throughout the history of Western thought right up to the revolution in symbolic logic that occurred with Frege, Dedekind and Peano in the late 19th Century. However, with these changes the notion of logic came to be swallowed up by formal and symbolic concerns.

Logic as the theory of inquiry was lost sight of leaving mathematical logic as the sole claimant to the title of “Logic.”