Article/Publication Details

Ordinary Expressions Have No Exact and Systematic Logic

(Original title: Ordinary Expressions Have No Exact and Systematic Logic)
Organon F, 2009, vol. 16, No 4, pp. 542-551.
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The general slogan in the title of this paper (which is taken from Strawson 1952, 57) gives a general, but nevertheless accurate, expression of Strawson’s view concerning the nature of formal logic per se in relation to natural language. What is at stake here is the extent to which the formal methods and the formal semantics of contemporary symbolic logic can render the meanings of natural language expressions. Strawson sets up an agenda for logical theory which, although rather dated for a logic text, is what one naturally expects from an introduction to elementary formal logic and a systematic analysis of certain crucial metalogical concepts, most notably entailment. However, my own reading is that Strawson’s approach to logic makes a lasting contribution to understanding the inner workings of natural language through his critical discussion of the limits of the formal renderings of the semantics of natural language expressions via canonical first-order notations. One can recognize in this critical attitude towards the limits of formal methods a consistent generalization of Strawson’s own strategy from his critical response to Russell’s theory of descriptions.

In my paper I shall focus on certain examples which illustrate the general slogan that characterizes Strawson’s views on the nature of logic in connection with ordinary language and talk.

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