"No hay manera de escapar a la filosofía […] Quien rechaza la filosofía profesa también una filosofía pero sin ser consciente de ella." Karl Jaspers, filósofo y psiquiatra. "There is no escape from philosophy. Anyone who rejects philosophy is himself unconsciously practising a philosophy." [Karl Jaspers, Way to Wisdom 12 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1951)]
Aristotelian logic, after a great and early triumph, consolidated its position of influence to rule over the philosophical world throughout the Middle Ages up until the 19th Century. All that changed in a hurry when modern logicians embraced a new kind of mathematical logic and pushed out what they regarded as the antiquated and clunky method of syllogisms. Although Aristotle’s very rich and expansive account of logic differs in key ways from modern approaches, it is more than a historical curiosity. It provides an alternative way of approaching logic and continues to provide critical insights into contemporary issues and concerns. The main thrust of this article is to explain Aristotle’s logical system as a whole while correcting some prominent misconceptions that persist in the popular understanding and even in some of the specialized literature. Before getting down to business, it is important to point out that Aristotle is a synoptic thinker with an over-arching theory that ties together all aspects and fields of philosophy. He does not view logic as a separate, self-sufficient subject-matter, to be considered in isolation from other aspects of disciplined inquiry. Although we cannot consider all the details of his encyclopedic approach, we can sketch out the larger picture in a way that illuminates the general thrust of his system. For the purposes of this entry, let us define logic as that field of inquiry which investigates how we reason correctly (and, by extension, how we reason incorrectly). Aristotle does not believe that the purpose of logic is to prove that human beings can have knowledge. (He dismisses excessive scepticism.) The aim of logic is the elaboration of a coherent system that allows us to investigate, classify, and evaluate good and bad forms of reasoning.