practical syllogism

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Aristotle (384—322 bc)


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Aristotle appears to have thought that practical reasoning could be represented in the shape of a syllogism, although the passages are fragmentary and not altogether consistent. In one version, the first premise would give a kind of action or outcome a desirability characteristic; the second would identify an instance, and the conclusion would either be an action or a close, practical relation to an action, such as the formation of an intention to act. ‘All foods that contain vitamin C are healthy; this orange contains vitamin C, so let me eat it!’ might be a sample. Others proceed by giving a goal and a means to obtain it: ‘I need a covering, a cloak is a covering, so let me have a cloak!’ However it is clearly not a valid general form of reasoning, for there is no logical fault in acknowledging the premises but having no inclination to eat the orange or obtain the cloak. The idea that the conclusion of an argument is something like an action is not readily intelligible, especially as actions are concerned with particulars, and the conclusions of syllogisms have no application to particulars.

Subjects: Philosophy.

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