A System of Logic, by John Stuart Mill

Chapter II.

Of Ratiocination, Or Syllogism.

§ 1. The analysis of the Syllogism has been so accurately and fully performed in the common manuals of Logic, that in the present work, which is not designed as a manual, it is sufficient to recapitulate, memoriæ causâ, the leading results of that analysis, as a foundation for the remarks to be afterward made on the functions of the Syllogism, and the place which it holds in science.

To a legitimate syllogism it is essential that there should be three, and no more than three, propositions, namely, the conclusion, or proposition to be proved, and two other propositions which together prove it, and which are called the premises. It is essential that there should be three, and no more than three, terms, namely, the subject and predicate of the conclusion, and another called the middle term, which must be found in both premises, since it is by means of it that the other two terms are to be connected together. The predicate of the conclusion is called the major term of the syllogism; the subject of the conclusion is called the minor term. As there can be but three terms, the major and minor terms must each be found in one, and only one, of the premises, together with the middle term which is in them both. The premise which contains the middle term and the major term is called the major premise; that which contains the middle term and the minor term is called the minor premise.

Syllogisms are divided by some logicians into three figures, by others into four, according to the position of the middle term, which may either be the subject in both premises, the predicate in both, or the subject in one and the predicate in the other. The most common case is that in which the middle term is the subject of the major premise and the predicate of the minor. This is reckoned as the first figure. When the middle term is the predicate in both premises, the syllogism belongs to the second figure; when it is the subject in both, to the third. In the fourth figure the middle term is the subject of the minor premise and the predicate of the major. Those writers who reckon no more than three figures, include this case in the first.

Each figure is divided into moods, according to what are called the quantity and quality of the propositions, that is, according as they are universal or particular, affirmative or negative. The following are examples of all the legitimate moods, that is, all those in which the conclusion correctly follows from the premises. A is the minor term, C the major, B the middle term.


All B is C No B is C All B is C No B is C All A is B All A is B Some A is B Some A is B therefore therefore therefore therefore All A is C No A is C Some A is C Some A is not C


No C is B All C is B No C is B All C is B All A is B No A is B Some A is B Some A is not B therefore therefore therefore therefore No A is C No A is C Some A is not C Some A is not C


All B is No B is C Some B is All B is Some B is No B is C C C C not C All B is All B is All B is Some B is All B is Some B is A A A A A A therefore therefore therefore therefore therefore therefore Some A is Some A is Some A is Some A is Some A is Some A is C not C C C not C not C


All C is B All C is B Some C is B No C is B No C is B All B is A No B is A All B is A All B is A Some B is A therefore therefore therefore therefore therefore Some A is C Some A is Some A is C Some A is Some A is

          not C not C not C

In these exemplars, or blank forms for making syllogisms, no place is assigned to singular propositions; not, of course, because such propositions are not used in ratiocination, but because, their predicate being affirmed or denied of the whole of the subject, they are ranked, for the purposes of the syllogism, with universal propositions. Thus, these two syllogisms —

All men are mortal, All men are mortal, All kings are men, Socrates is a man, therefore therefore All kings are mortal, Socrates is mortal,

are arguments precisely similar, and are both ranked in the first mood of the first figure.50

The reasons why syllogisms in any of the above forms are legitimate, that is, why, if the premises are true, the conclusion must inevitably be so, and why this is not the case in any other possible mood (that is, in any other combination of universal and particular, affirmative and negative propositions), any person taking interest in these inquiries may be presumed to have either learned from the common-school books of the syllogistic logic, or to be capable of discovering for himself. The reader may, however, be referred, for every needful explanation, to Archbishop Whately’s Elements of Logic, where he will find stated with philosophical precision, and explained with remarkable perspicuity, the whole of the common doctrine of the syllogism.

All valid ratiocination; all reasoning by which, from general propositions previously admitted, other propositions equally or less general are inferred; may be exhibited in some of the above forms. The whole of Euclid, for example, might be thrown without difficulty into a series of syllogisms, regular in mood and figure.

Though a syllogism framed according to any of these formulæ is a valid argument, all correct ratiocination admits of being stated in syllogisms of the first figure alone. The rules for throwing an argument in any of the other figures into the first figure, are called rules for the reduction of syllogisms. It is done by the conversion of one or other, or both, of the premises. Thus an argument in the first mood of the second figure, as —

No C is B All A is B therefore No A is C,

may be reduced as follows. The proposition, No C is B, being a universal negative, admits of simple conversion, and may be changed into No B is C, which, as we showed, is the very same assertion in other words — the same fact differently expressed. This transformation having been effected, the argument assumes the following form:

No B is C All A is B therefore No A is C,

which is a good syllogism in the second mood of the first figure. Again, an argument in the first mood of the third figure must resemble the following:

All B is C All B is A therefore Some A is C,

where the minor premise, All B is A, conformably to what was laid down in the last chapter respecting universal affirmatives, does not admit of simple conversion, but may be converted per accidens, thus, Some A is B; which, though it does not express the whole of what is asserted in the proposition All B is A, expresses, as was formerly shown, part of it, and must therefore be true if the whole is true. We have, then, as the result of the reduction, the following syllogism in the third mood of the first figure:

All B is C Some A is B,

from which it obviously follows, that

Some A is C.

In the same manner, or in a manner on which after these examples it is not necessary to enlarge, every mood of the second, third, and fourth figures may be reduced to some one of the four moods of the first. In other words, every conclusion which can be proved in any of the last three figures, may be proved in the first figure from the same premises, with a slight alteration in the mere manner of expressing them. Every valid ratiocination, therefore, may be stated in the first figure, that is, in one of the following forms:

Every B is C No B is C All A is B, All A is B, Some A is B, Some A is B, therefore therefore All A is C. No A is C. Some A is C. Some A is not C.

Or, if more significant symbols are preferred:

To prove an affirmative, the argument must admit of being stated in this form:

All animals are mortal; All men/Some men/Socrates are animals; therefore All men/Some men/Socrates are mortal.

To prove a negative, the argument must be capable of being expressed in this form:

No one who is capable of self-control is necessarily vicious;

No one who is capable of self-control is necessarily vicious; All negroes/Some negroes/Mr. A’s negro are capable of self-control; therefore No negroes are/Some negroes are not/Mr. A’s negro is not necessarily vicious.

Though all ratiocination admits of being thrown into one or the other of these forms, and sometimes gains considerably by the transformation, both in clearness and in the obviousness of its consequence; there are, no doubt, cases in which the argument falls more naturally into one of the other three figures, and in which its conclusiveness is more apparent at the first glance in those figures, than when reduced to the first. Thus, if the proposition were that pagans may be virtuous, and the evidence to prove it were the example of Aristides; a syllogism in the third figure,

Aristides was virtuous, Aristides was a pagan, therefore Some pagan was virtuous,

would be a more natural mode of stating the argument, and would carry conviction more instantly home, than the same ratiocination strained into the first figure, thus —

Aristides was virtuous, Some pagan was Aristides, therefore Some pagan was virtuous.

A German philosopher, Lambert, whose Neues Organon (published in the year 1764) contains among other things one of the most elaborate and complete expositions which had ever been made of the syllogistic doctrine, has expressly examined what sort of arguments fall most naturally and suitably into each of the four figures; and his investigation is characterized by great ingenuity and clearness of thought.51 The argument, however, is one and the same, in whichever figure it is expressed; since, as we have already seen, the premises of a syllogism in the second, third, or fourth figure, and those of the syllogism in the first figure to which it may be reduced, are the same premises in every thing except language, or, at least, as much of them as contributes to the proof of the conclusion is the same. We are therefore at liberty, in conformity with the general opinion of logicians, to consider the two elementary forms of the first figure as the universal types of all correct ratiocination; the one, when the conclusion to be proved is affirmative, the other, when it is negative; even though certain arguments may have a tendency to clothe themselves in the forms of the second, third, and fourth figures; which, however, can not possibly happen with the only class of arguments which are of first-rate scientific importance, those in which the conclusion is a universal affirmative, such conclusions being susceptible of proof in the first figure alone.52

§ 2. On examining, then, these two general formulæ, we find that in both of them, one premise, the major, is a universal proposition; and according as this is affirmative or negative, the conclusion is so too. All ratiocination, therefore, starts from a general proposition, principle, or assumption: a proposition in which a predicate is affirmed or denied of an entire class; that is, in which some attribute, or the negation of some attribute, is asserted of an indefinite number of objects distinguished by a common characteristic, and designated, in consequence, by a common name.

The other premise is always affirmative, and asserts that something (which may be either an individual, a class, or part of a class) belongs to, or is included in, the class respecting which something was affirmed or denied in the major premise. It follows that the attribute affirmed or denied of the entire class may (if that affirmation or denial was correct) be affirmed or denied of the object or objects alleged to be included in the class: and this is precisely the assertion made in the conclusion.

Whether or not the foregoing is an adequate account of the constituent parts of the syllogism, will be presently considered; but as far as it goes it is a true account. It has accordingly been generalized, and erected into a logical maxim, on which all ratiocination is said to be founded, insomuch that to reason, and to apply the maxim, are supposed to be one and the same thing. The maxim is, That whatever can be affirmed (or denied) of a class, may be affirmed (or denied) of every thing included in the class. This axiom, supposed to be the basis of the syllogistic theory, is termed by logicians the dictum de omni et nullo.

This maxim, however, when considered as a principle of reasoning, appears suited to a system of metaphysics once indeed generally received, but which for the last two centuries has been considered as finally abandoned, though there have not been wanting in our own day attempts at its revival. So long as what are termed Universals were regarded as a peculiar kind of substances, having an objective existence distinct from the individual objects classed under them, the dictum de omni conveyed an important meaning; because it expressed the intercommunity of nature, which it was necessary on that theory that we should suppose to exist between those general substances and the particular substances which were subordinated to them. That every thing predicable of the universal was predicable of the various individuals contained under it, was then no identical proposition, but a statement of what was conceived as a fundamental law of the universe. The assertion that the entire nature and properties of the substantia secunda formed part of the nature and properties of each of the individual substances called by the same name; that the properties of Man, for example, were properties of all men; was a proposition of real significance when man did not mean all men, but something inherent in men, and vastly superior to them in dignity. Now, however, when it is known that a class, a universal, a genus or species, is not an entity per se, but neither more nor less than the individual substances themselves which are placed in the class, and that there is nothing real in the matter except those objects, a common name given to them, and common attributes indicated by the name; what, I should be glad to know, do we learn by being told, that whatever can be affirmed of a class, may be affirmed of every object contained in the class? The class is nothing but the objects contained in it: and the dictum de omni merely amounts to the identical proposition, that whatever is true of certain objects, is true of each of those objects. If all ratiocination were no more than the application of this maxim to particular cases, the syllogism would indeed be, what it has so often been declared to be, solemn trifling. The dictum de omni is on a par with another truth, which in its time was also reckoned of great importance, “Whatever is, is.” To give any real meaning to the dictum de omni, we must consider it not as an axiom, but as a definition; we must look upon it as intended to explain, in a circuitous and paraphrastic manner, the meaning of the word class.

An error which seemed finally refuted and dislodged from thought, often needs only put on a new suit of phrases, to be welcomed back to its old quarters, and allowed to repose unquestioned for another cycle of ages. Modern philosophers have not been sparing in their contempt for the scholastic dogma that genera and species are a peculiar kind of substances, which general substances being the only permanent things, while the individual substances comprehended under them are in a perpetual flux, knowledge, which necessarily imports stability, can only have relation to those general substances or universals, and not to the facts or particulars included under them. Yet, though nominally rejected, this very doctrine, whether disguised under the Abstract Ideas of Locke (whose speculations, however, it has less vitiated than those of perhaps any other writer who has been infected with it), under the ultra-nominalism of Hobbes and Condillac, or the ontology of the later German schools, has never ceased to poison philosophy. Once accustomed to consider scientific investigation as essentially consisting in the study of universals, men did not drop this habit of thought when they ceased to regard universals as possessing an independent existence: and even those who went the length of considering them as mere names, could not free themselves from the notion that the investigation of truth consisted entirely or partly in some kind of conjuration or juggle with those names. When a philosopher adopted fully the Nominalist view of the signification of general language, retaining along with it the dictum de omni as the foundation of all reasoning, two such premises fairly put together were likely, if he was a consistent thinker, to land him in rather startling conclusions. Accordingly it has been seriously held, by writers of deserved celebrity, that the process of arriving at new truths by reasoning consists in the mere substitution of one set of arbitrary signs for another; a doctrine which they suppose to derive irresistible confirmation from the example of algebra. If there were any process in sorcery or necromancy more preternatural than this, I should be much surprised. The culminating point of this philosophy is the noted aphorism of Condillac, that a science is nothing, or scarcely any thing, but une langue bien faite; in other words, that the one sufficient rule for discovering the nature and properties of objects is to name them properly: as if the reverse were not the truth, that it is impossible to name them properly except in proportion as we are already acquainted with their nature and properties. Can it be necessary to say, that none, not even the most trivial knowledge with respect to Things, ever was or could be originally got at by any conceivable manipulation of mere names, as such; and that what can be learned from names, is only what somebody who used the names knew before? Philosophical analysis confirms the indication of common sense, that the function of names is but that of enabling us to remember and to communicate our thoughts. That they also strengthen, even to an incalculable extent, the power of thought itself, is most true: but they do this by no intrinsic and peculiar virtue; they do it by the power inherent in an artificial memory, an instrument of which few have adequately considered the immense potency. As an artificial memory, language truly is, what it has so often been called, an instrument of thought; but it is one thing to be the instrument, and another to be the exclusive subject upon which the instrument is exercised. We think, indeed, to a considerable extent, by means of names, but what we think of, are the things called by those names; and there can not be a greater error than to imagine that thought can be carried on with nothing in our mind but names, or that we can make the names think for us.

§ 3. Those who considered the dictum de omni as the foundation of the syllogism, looked upon arguments in a manner corresponding to the erroneous view which Hobbes took of propositions. Because there are some propositions which are merely verbal, Hobbes, in order apparently that his definition might be rigorously universal, defined a proposition as if no propositions declared any thing except the meaning of words. If Hobbes was right; if no further account than this could be given of the import of propositions; no theory could be given but the commonly received one, of the combination of propositions in a syllogism. If the minor premise asserted nothing more than that something belongs to a class, and if the major premise asserted nothing of that class except that it is included in another class, the conclusion would only be that what was included in the lower class is included in the higher, and the result, therefore, nothing except that the classification is consistent with itself. But we have seen that it is no sufficient account of the meaning of a proposition, to say that it refers something to, or excludes something from, a class. Every proposition which conveys real information asserts a matter of fact, dependent on the laws of nature, and not on classification. It asserts that a given object does or does not possess a given attribute; or it asserts that two attributes, or sets of attributes, do or do not (constantly or occasionally) co-exist. Since such is the purport of all propositions which convey any real knowledge, and since ratiocination is a mode of acquiring real knowledge, any theory of ratiocination which does not recognize this import of propositions, can not, we may be sure, be the true one.

Applying this view of propositions to the two premises of a syllogism, we obtain the following results. The major premise, which, as already remarked, is always universal, asserts, that all things which have a certain attribute (or attributes) have or have not along with it, a certain other attribute (or attributes). The minor premise asserts that the thing or set of things which are the subject of that premise, have the first-mentioned attribute; and the conclusion is, that they have (or that they have not), the second. Thus in our former example,

All men are mortal, Socrates is a man, therefore Socrates is mortal,

the subject and predicate of the major premise are connotative terms, denoting objects and connoting attributes. The assertion in the major premise is, that along with one of the two sets of attributes, we always find the other: that the attributes connoted by “man” never exist unless conjoined with the attribute called mortality. The assertion in the minor premise is that the individual named Socrates possesses the former attributes; and it is concluded that he possesses also the attribute mortality. Or, if both the premises are general propositions, as

All men are mortal, All kings are men, therefore All kings are mortal,

the minor premise asserts that the attributes denoted by kingship only exist in conjunction with those signified by the word man. The major asserts as before, that the last-mentioned attributes are never found without the attribute of mortality. The conclusion is, that wherever the attributes of kingship are found, that of mortality is found also.

If the major premise were negative, as, No men are omnipotent, it would assert, not that the attributes connoted by “man” never exist without, but that they never exist with, those connoted by “omnipotent:” from which, together with the minor premise, it is concluded, that the same incompatibility exists between the attribute omnipotence and those constituting a king. In a similar manner we might analyze any other example of the syllogism.

If we generalize this process, and look out for the principle or law involved in every such inference, and presupposed in every syllogism, the propositions of which are any thing more than merely verbal; we find, not the unmeaning dictum de omni et nullo, but a fundamental principle, or rather two principles, strikingly resembling the axioms of mathematics. The first, which is the principle of affirmative syllogisms, is, that things which co-exist with the same thing, co-exist with one another: or (still more precisely) a thing which co-exists with another thing, which other co-exists with a third thing, also co-exists with that third thing. The second is the principle of negative syllogisms, and is to this effect: that a thing which co-exists with another thing, with which other a third thing does not co-exist, is not co-existent with that third thing. These axioms manifestly relate to facts, and not to conventions; and one or other of them is the ground of the legitimacy of every argument in which facts and not conventions are the matter treated of.53

§ 4. It remains to translate this exposition of the syllogism from the one into the other of the two languages in which we formerly remarked54 that all propositions, and of course therefore all combinations of propositions, might be expressed. We observed that a proposition might be considered in two different lights; as a portion of our knowledge of nature, or as a memorandum for our guidance. Under the former, or speculative aspect, an affirmative general proposition is an assertion of a speculative truth, viz., that whatever has a certain attribute has a certain other attribute. Under the other aspect, it is to be regarded not as a part of our knowledge, but as an aid for our practical exigencies, by enabling us, when we see or learn that an object possesses one of the two attributes, to infer that it possesses the other; thus employing the first attribute as a mark or evidence of the second. Thus regarded, every syllogism comes within the following general formula:

Attribute A is a mark of attribute B, The given object has the mark A, therefore The given object has the attribute B.

Referred to this type, the arguments which we have lately cited as specimens of the syllogism, will express themselves in the following manner:

The attributes of man are a mark of the attribute mortality, Socrates has the attributes of man, therefore Socrates has the attribute mortality.

And again,

The attributes of man are a mark of the attribute mortality, The attributes of a king are a mark of the attributes of man, therefore The attributes of a king are a mark of the attribute mortality.

And, lastly,

The attributes of man are a mark of the absence of the attribute omnipotence, The attributes of a king are a mark of the attributes of man, therefore The attributes of a king are a mark of the absence of the attribute signified by the word omnipotent (or, are evidence of the absence of that attribute).

To correspond with this alteration in the form of the syllogisms, the axioms on which the syllogistic process is founded must undergo a corresponding transformation. In this altered phraseology, both those axioms may be brought under one general expression; namely, that whatever has any mark, has that which it is a mark of. Or, when the minor premise as well as the major is universal, we may state it thus: Whatever is a mark of any mark, is a mark of that which this last is a mark of. To trace the identity of these axioms with those previously laid down, may be left to the intelligent reader. We shall find, as we proceed, the great convenience of the phraseology into which we have last thrown them, and which is better adapted than any I am acquainted with, to express with precision and force what is aimed at, and actually accomplished, in every case of the ascertainment of a truth by ratiocination.55

50 Professor Bain denies the claim of Singular Propositions to be classed, for the purposes of ratiocination, with Universal; though they come within the designation which he himself proposes as an equivalent for Universal, that of Total. He would even, to use his own expression, banish them entirely from the syllogism. He takes as an example,

Socrates is wise, Socrates is poor, therefore Some poor men are wise,

or more properly (as he observes) “one poor man is wise.” “Now, if wise, poor, and a man, are attributes belonging to the meaning of the word Socrates, there is then no march of reasoning at all. We have given in Socrates, inter alia, the facts wise, poor, and a man, and we merely repeat the concurrence which is selected from the whole aggregate of properties making up the whole, Socrates. The case is one under the head ‘Greater and Less Connotation’ in Equivalent Propositional Forms, or Immediate Inference.

“But the example in this form does not do justice to the syllogism of singulars. We must suppose both propositions to be real, the predicates being in no way involved in the subject. Thus

Socrates was the master of Plato, Socrates fought at Delium, The master of Plato fought at Delium.

“It may fairly be doubted whether the transitions, in this instance, are any thing more than equivalent forms. For the proposition ‘Socrates was the master of Plato and fought at Delium,’ compounded out of the two premises, is obviously nothing more than a grammatical abbreviation. No one can say that there is here any change of meaning, or any thing beyond a verbal modification of the original form. The next step is, ‘The master of Plato fought at Delium,’ which is the previous statement cut down by the omission of Socrates. It contents itself with reproducing a part of the meaning, or saying less than had been previously said. The full equivalent of the affirmation is, ‘The master of Plato fought at Delium, and the master of Plato was Socrates:’ the new form omits the last piece of information, and gives only the first. Now, we never consider that we have made a real inference, a step in advance, when we repeat less than we are entitled to say, or drop from a complex statement some portion not desired at the moment. Such an operation keeps strictly within the domain of equivalence, or Immediate Inference. In no way, therefore, can a syllogism with two singular premises be viewed as a genuine syllogistic or deductive inference.” (Logic, i., 159.)

The first argument, as will have been seen, rests upon the supposition that the name Socrates has a meaning; that man, wise, and poor, are parts of this meaning; and that by predicating them of Socrates we convey no information; a view of the signification of names which, for reasons already given (Note to § 4 of the chapter on Definition, supra, pp. 110, 111.), I can not admit, and which, as applied to the class of names which Socrates belongs to, is at war with Mr. Bain’s own definition of a Proper Name (i., 148), “a single meaningless mark or designation appropriated to the thing.” Such names, Mr. Bain proceeded to say, do not necessarily indicate even human beings: much less then does the name Socrates include the meaning of wise or poor. Otherwise it would follow that if Socrates had grown rich, or had lost his mental faculties by illness, he would no longer have been called Socrates.

The second part of Mr. Bain’s argument, in which he contends that even when the premises convey real information, the conclusion is merely the premises with a part left out, is applicable, if at all, as much to universal propositions as to singular. In every syllogism the conclusion contains less than is asserted in the two premises taken together. Suppose the syllogism to be

All bees are intelligent, All bees are insects, therefore Some insects are intelligent:

one might use the same liberty taken by Mr. Bain, of joining together the two premises as if they were one — “All bees are insects and intelligent” — and might say that in omitting the middle term bees we make no real inference, but merely reproduce part of what had been previously said. Mr. Bain’s is really an objection to the syllogism itself, or at all events to the third figure: it has no special applicability to singular propositions.

51 His conclusions are, “The first figure is suited to the discovery or proof of the properties of a thing; the second to the discovery or proof of the distinctions between things; the third to the discovery or proof of instances and exceptions; the fourth to the discovery, or exclusion, of the different species of a genus.” The reference of syllogisms in the last three figures to the dictum de omni et nullo is, in Lambert’s opinion, strained and unnatural: to each of the three belongs, according to him, a separate axiom, co-ordinate and of equal authority with that dictum, and to which he gives the names of dictum de diverso for the second figure, dictum de exemplo for the third, and dictum de reciproco for the fourth. See part i., or Dianoiologie, chap, iv., § 229 et seqq. Mr. Bailey (Theory of Reasoning, 2d ed., pp. 70–74) takes a similar view of the subject.

52 Since this chapter was written, two treatises have appeared (or rather a treatise and a fragment of a treatise), which aim at a further improvement in the theory of the forms of ratiocination: Mr. De Morgan’s “Formal Logic; or, the Calculus of Inference, Necessary and Probable;” and the “New Analytic of Logical Forms,” attached as an Appendix to Sir William Hamilton’s Discussions on Philosophy, and at greater length, to his posthumous Lectures on Logic.

In Mr. De Morgan’s volume — abounding, in its more popular parts, with valuable observations felicitously expressed — the principal feature of originality is an attempt to bring within strict technical rules the cases in which a conclusion can be drawn from premises of a form usually classed as particular. Mr. De Morgan observes, very justly, that from the premises most Bs are Cs, most Bs are As, it may be concluded with certainty that some As are Cs, since two portions of the class B, each of them comprising more than half, must necessarily in part consist of the same individuals. Following out this line of thought, it is equally evident that if we knew exactly what proportion the “most” in each of the premises bear to the entire class B, we could increase in a corresponding degree the definiteness of the conclusion. Thus if 60 per cent. of B are included in C, and 70 per cent. in A, 30 per cent. at least must be common to both; in other words, the number of As which are Cs, and of Cs which are As, must be at least equal to 30 per cent. of the class B. Proceeding on this conception of “numerically definite propositions,” and extending it to such forms as these:— “45 Xs (or more) are each of them one of 70 Ys,” or “45 Xs (or more) are no one of them to be found among 70 Ys,” and examining what inferences admit of being drawn from the various combinations which may be made of premises of this description, Mr. De Morgan establishes universal formulæ for such inferences; creating for that purpose not only a new technical language, but a formidable array of symbols analogous to those of algebra.

Since it is undeniable that inferences, in the cases examined by Mr. De Morgan, can legitimately be drawn, and that the ordinary theory takes no account of them, I will not say that it was not worth while to show in detail how these also could be reduced to formulæ as rigorous as those of Aristotle. What Mr. De Morgan has done was worth doing once (perhaps more than once, as a school exercise); but I question if its results are worth studying and mastering for any practical purpose. The practical use of technical forms of reasoning is to bar out fallacies: but the fallacies which require to be guarded against in ratiocination properly so called, arise from the incautious use of the common forms of language; and the logician must track the fallacy into that territory, instead of waiting for it on a territory of his own. While he remains among propositions which have acquired the numerical precision of the Calculus of Probabilities, the enemy is left in possession of the only ground on which he can be formidable. And since the propositions (short of universal) on which a thinker has to depend, either for purposes of speculation or of practice, do not, except in a few peculiar cases, admit of any numerical precision; common reasoning can not be translated into Mr. De Morgan’s forms, which therefore can not serve any purpose as a test of it.

Sir William Hamilton’s theory of the “quantification of the predicate” may be described as follows:

“Logically” (I quote his words) “we ought to take into account the quantity, always understood in thought, but usually, for manifest reasons, elided in its expression, not only of the subject, but also of the predicate of a judgment.” All A is B, is equivalent to all A is some B. No A is B, to No A is any B. Some A is B, is tantamount to some A is some B. Some A is not B, to Some A is not any B. As in these forms of assertion the predicate is exactly co-extensive with the subject, they all admit of simple conversion; and by this we obtain two additional forms — Some B is all A, and No B is some A. We may also make the assertion All A is all B, which will be true if the classes A and B are exactly co-extensive. The last three forms, though conveying real assertions, have no place in the ordinary classification of Propositions. All propositions, then, being supposed to be translated into this language, and written each in that one of the preceding forms which answers to its signification, there emerges a new set of syllogistic rules, materially different from the common ones. A general view of the points of difference may be given in the words of Sir W. Hamilton (Discussions, 2d ed., p. 651):

“The revocation of the two terms of a Proposition to their true relation; a proposition being always an equation of its subject and its predicate.

“The consequent reduction of the Conversion of Propositions from three species to one — that of Simple Conversion.

“The reduction of all the General Laws of Categorical Syllogisms to a single Canon.

“The evolution from that one canon of all the Species and varieties of Syllogisms.

“The abrogation of all the Special Laws of Syllogism.

“A demonstration of the exclusive possibility of Three Syllogistic Figures; and (on new grounds) the scientific and final abolition of the Fourth.

“A manifestation that Figure is an unessential variation in syllogistic form; and the consequent absurdity of Reducing the syllogisms of the other figures to the first.

“An enouncement of one Organic Principle for each Figure.

“A determination of the true number of the Legitimate Moods; with

“Their amplification in number (thirty-six);

“Their numerical equality under all the figures; and

“Their relative equivalence, or virtual identity, throughout every schematic difference.

“That, in the second and third figures, the extremes holding both the same relation to the middle term, there is not, as in the first, an opposition and subordination between a term major and a term minor, mutually containing and contained, in the counter wholes of Extension and Comprehension.

“Consequently, in the second and third figures, there is no determinate major and minor premises, and there are two indifferent conclusions: whereas in the first the premises are determinate, and there is a single proximate conclusion.”

This doctrine, like that of Mr. De Morgan previously noticed, is a real addition to the syllogistic theory; and has moreover this advantage over Mr. De Morgan’s “numerically definite Syllogism,” that the forms it supplies are really available as a test of the correctness of ratiocination; since propositions in the common form may always have their predicates quantified, and so be made amenable to Sir W. Hamilton’s rules. Considered, however, as a contribution to the Science of Logic, that is, to the analysis of the mental processes concerned in reasoning, the new doctrine appears to me, I confess, not merely superfluous, but erroneous; since the form in which it clothes propositions does not, like the ordinary form, express what is in the mind of the speaker when he enunciates the proposition. I can not think Sir William Hamilton right in maintaining that the quantity of the predicate is “always understood in thought.” It is implied, but is not present to the mind of the person who asserts the proposition. The quantification of the predicate, instead of being a means of bringing out more clearly the meaning of the proposition, actually leads the mind out of the proposition, into another order of ideas. For when we say, All men are mortal, we simply mean to affirm the attribute mortality of all men; without thinking at all of the class mortal in the concrete, or troubling ourselves about whether it contains any other beings or not. It is only for some artificial purpose that we ever look at the proposition in the aspect in which the predicate also is thought of as a class-name, either including the subject only, or the subject and something more. (See above, p. 77, 78.)

For a fuller discussion of this subject, see the twenty-second chapter of a work already referred to, “An Examination of Sir William Hamilton’s Philosophy.”

53 Mr. Herbert Spencer (Principles of Psychology, pp. 125–7), though his theory of the syllogism coincides with all that is essential of mine, thinks it a logical fallacy to present the two axioms in the text, as the regulating principles of syllogism. He charges me with falling into the error pointed out by Archbishop Whately and myself, of confounding exact likeness with literal identity; and maintains, that we ought not to say that Socrates possesses the same attributes which are connoted by the word Man, but only that he possesses attributes exactly like them: according to which phraseology, Socrates, and the attribute mortality, are not two things co-existing with the same thing, as the axiom asserts, but two things coexisting with two different things.

The question between Mr. Spencer and me is merely one of language; for neither of us (if I understand Mr. Spencer’s opinions rightly) believes an attribute to be a real thing, possessed of objective existence; we believe it to be a particular mode of naming our sensations, or our expectations of sensation, when looked at in their relation to an external object which excites them. The question raised by Mr. Spencer does not, therefore, concern the properties of any really existing thing, but the comparative appropriateness, for philosophical purposes, of two different modes of using a name. Considered in this point of view, the phraseology I have employed, which is that commonly used by philosophers, seems to me to be the best. Mr. Spencer is of opinion that because Socrates and Alcibiades are not the same man, the attribute which constitutes them men should not be called the same attribute; that because the humanity of one man and that of another express themselves to our senses not by the same individual sensations but by sensations exactly alike, humanity ought to be regarded as a different attribute in every different man. But on this showing, the humanity even of any one man should be considered as different attributes now and half an hour hence; for the sensations by which it will then manifest itself to my organs will not be a continuation of my present sensations, but a repetition of them; fresh sensations, not identical with, but only exactly like the present. If every general conception, instead of being “the One in the Many,” were considered to be as many different conceptions as there are things to which it is applicable, there would be no such thing as general language. A name would have no general meaning if man connoted one thing when predicated of John, and another, though closely resembling, thing when predicated of William. Accordingly a recent pamphlet asserts the impossibility of general knowledge on this precise ground.

The meaning of any general name is some outward or inward phenomenon, consisting, in the last resort, of feelings; and these feelings, if their continuity is for an instant broken, are no longer the same feelings, in the sense of individual identity. What, then, is the common something which gives a meaning to the general name? Mr. Spencer can only say, it is the similarity of the feelings; and I rejoin, the attribute is precisely that similarity. The names of attributes are in their ultimate analysis names for the resemblances of our sensations (or other feelings). Every general name, whether abstract or concrete, denotes or connotes one or more of those resemblances. It will not, probably, be denied, that if a hundred sensations are undistinguishably alike, their resemblance ought to be spoken of as one resemblance, and not a hundred resemblances which merely resemble one another. The things compared are many, but the something common to all of them must be conceived as one, just as the name is conceived as one, though corresponding to numerically different sensations of sound each time it is pronounced. The general term man does not connote the sensations derived once from one man, which, once gone, can no more occur again than the same flash of lightning. It connotes the general type of the sensations derived always from all men, and the power (always thought of as one) of producing sensations of that type. And the axiom might be thus worded: Two types of sensation each of which co-exists with a third type, co-exist with another; or Two powers each of which co-exists with a third power co-exist with one another.

Mr. Spencer has misunderstood me in another particular. He supposes that the co-existence spoken of in the axiom, of two things with the same third thing, means simultaneousness in time. The co-existence meant is that of being jointly attributes of the same subject. The attribute of being born without teeth, and the attribute of having thirty-two teeth in mature age, are in this sense co-existent, both being attributes of man, though ex vi termini never of the same man at the same time.

54 Supra, p. 93.

55 Professor Bain (Logic, i., 157) considers the axiom (or rather axioms) here proposed as a substitute for the dictum de omni, to possess certain advantages, but to be “unworkable as a basis of the syllogism. The fatal defect consists in this, that it is ill-adapted to bring out the difference between total and partial coincidence of terms, the observation of which is the essential precaution in syllogizing correctly. If all the terms were co-extensive, the axiom would flow on admirably; A carries B, all B and none but B; B carries C in the same manner; at once A carries C, without limitation or reserve. But in point of fact, we know that while A carries B, other things carry B also; whence a process of limitation is required, in transferring A to C through B. A (in common with other things) carries B; B (in common with other things) carries C; whence A (in common with other things) carries C. The axiom provides no means of making this limitation; if we were to follow A literally, we should be led to suppose A and C co-extensive: for such is the only obvious meaning of ‘the attribute A coincides with the attribute C.’ ”

It is certainly possible that a careless learner here and there may suppose that if A carries B, it follows that B carries A. But if any one is so incautious as to commit this mistake, the very earliest lesson in the logic of inference, the Conversion of propositions, will correct it. The first of the two forms in which I have stated the axiom, is in some degree open to Mr. Bain’s criticism: when B is said to co-exist with A (it must be by a lapsus calami that Mr. Bain uses the word coincide), it is possible, in the absence of warning, to suppose the meaning to be that the two things are only found together. But this misinterpretation is excluded by the other, or practical, form of the maxim; Nota notœ est nota rei ipsius. No one would be in any danger of inferring that because a is a mark of b, b can never exist without a; that because being in a confirmed consumption is a mark of being about to die, no one dies who is not in a consumption; that because being coal is a mark of having come out of the earth, nothing can come out of the earth except coal. Ordinary knowledge of English seems a sufficient protection against these mistakes, since in speaking of a mark of any thing we are never understood as implying reciprocity.

A more fundamental objection is stated by Mr. Bain in a subsequent passage (p. 158). “The axiom does not accommodate itself to the type of Deductive Reasoning as contrasted with Induction — the application of a general principle to a special case. Any thing that fails to make prominent this circumstance is not adapted as a foundation for the syllogism.” But though it may be proper to limit the term Deduction to the application of a general principle to a special case, it has never been held that Ratiocination or Syllogism is subject to the same limitation; and the adoption of it would exclude a great amount of valid and conclusive syllogistic reasoning. Moreover, if the dictum de omni makes prominent the fact of the application of a general principle to a particular case, the axiom I propose makes prominent the condition which alone makes that application a real inference.

I conclude, therefore, that both forms have their value, and their place in Logic. The dictum de omni should be retained as the fundamental axiom of the logic of mere consistency, often called Formal Logic; nor have I ever quarreled with the use of it in that character, nor proposed to banish it from treatises on Formal Logic. But the other is the proper axiom for the logic of the pursuit of truth by way of Deduction; and the recognition of it can alone show how it is possible that deductive reasoning can be a road to truth.


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