The Relativity of Logic

in Victorian Relativity

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print June 2001 | ISBN: 9780226327327
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226327365 | DOI:
The Relativity of Logic

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This chapter focuses on the relativity thinking characteristic of the idolization of science central to Victorian intellectual culture and given the popular idea of the method of scientific investigation. The relativistic critique of logic was started by the definitive Victorian textbook of logic, J. S. Mill's System of Logic. Spencer's relativity is based on an overriding intuition of the necessary failure of thought in its longing to grasp the truth of the world in “absolute,” unconditional terms. Arthur James Balfour picks up his central themes and focuses them on an uncompromising denial of the logical soundness and coherence of modern science itself, striving at the same time to justify the conception of doubt as a “positive state” with a rigorous intellectual program of its own. Thus, underlying the whole critical development is the recurring, insistent intuition that the assurance of truth on logical grounds is not just an intellectual fallacy but at bottom the expression of an ideology of violence.

Keywords: Victorian intellectual culture; J. S. Mill; System of Logic; Spencer; absolute; positive state; James Balfour

Chapter.  18129 words. 

Subjects: History of Science and Technology

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