Review - Preface to Logic - Morris Cohen

Review - Preface to Logic - Morris Cohen - Although Cohen...

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Although Cohen was unrivaled in contemporary American philosophy for the diversity of the subjects with which he occupied himself, it is from logic that he has drawn the basic principles that enable him to survey so wide a domain with such a unity of view. Early in life, through the study of Russell's Principles of Mathematics, he became convinced of the reality of abstract or mathematical relations. That pure mathematics asserts only logical implications and that such logical implications or relations cannot be identified with either psychological or physical events, but are involved as determinants of both, seemed to him to offer a well-grounded and fruitful starting point for philosophy. It at once ruled out for him the empiricism of Mill, since relations if they exist in the mind only cannot connect things external to the mind; it also ruled out for him the Hegelian effort to locate relations in an absolute totality that is beyond human understanding and therefore of no explanatory value. On the positive side the doctrine, since it constitutes a ground for the procedures of scientific method generally, permitted him to take full advantage of the remarkable developments of modern scientific thought. It led him also to return to what constituted the concern of classical philosophy before it became preoccupied with the problem of knowledge--mathematics, physics, biology, psychology, ethics, law, art, and religion. In philosophy proper it enabled him in the course of his extensive writings to raise almost every metaphysical question of importance and it re sulted in the composition of his book Reason and Nature, one of the few inexhaustible philosophical volumes written in America. When the second edition of Russell's Principles of Mathematics appeared in 1938 Russell pointed out that the Pythagorean numerology ". . . has misled mathematicians and the Board of Education down to the present day. Consequently, to say that numbers are sym bols which mean nothing appears as a horrible form of atheism. At the time when I wrote the Principles, I shared with Frege a belief in the Platonic reality of numbers, which, in my imagina tion, peopled the timeless realm of Being. It was a comforting faith, which I later abandoned with regret." Many of the disciples, however, refused to give up the faith and have busily defended the doctrines of the first edition against those of the second. Cohen long before the appearance of the second edition had detected this shift in Russell's thought. He remarked that with the publication of the Principles Russell became his Allah, and that Mohammed has kept the faith even though Allah himself has perhaps somewhat departed from it. Perhaps no more bitter controversy has been engendered in the mathematico-logical field than the dispute touched upon briefly by Russell in the passage quoted above. "What is all this frog-and- mouse battle among the mathematicians about?" even Einstein paused to ask. Its ramifications were extensive, and the militancy of contemporary logical positivism is
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This note was uploaded on 11/20/2010 for the course ECON 530 taught by Professor Giertz during the Spring '10 term at University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign.

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Review - Preface to Logic - Morris Cohen - Although Cohen...

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