“A remarkable book capable of reshaping what one takes philosophy to be.”
—Cora Diamond, Kenan Professor of Philosophy Emerita, University of Virginia
Could there be a logical alien—a being whose ways of talking, inferring, and contradicting exhibit an entirely different logical shape than ours, yet who nonetheless is thinking? Could someone, contrary to the most basic rules of logic, think that two contradictory statements are both true at the same time? Such questions may seem outlandish, but they serve to highlight a fundamental philosophical question: is our logical form of thought merely one among many, or must it be the form of thought as such?
From Descartes and Kant to Frege and Wittgenstein, philosophers have wrestled with variants of this question, and with a range of competing answers. A seminal 1991 paper, James Conant’s “The Search for Logically Alien Thought,” placed that question at the forefront of contemporary philosophical inquiry. The Logical Alien, edited by Sofia Miguens, gathers Conant’s original article with reflections on it by eight distinguished philosophers—Jocelyn Benoist, Matthew Boyle, Martin Gustafsson, Arata Hamawaki, Adrian Moore, Barry Stroud, Peter Sullivan, and Charles Travis. Conant follows with a wide-ranging response that places the philosophical discussion in historical context, critiques his original paper, addresses the exegetical and systematic issues raised by others, and presents an alternative account.
The Logical Alien challenges contemporary conceptions of how logical and philosophical form must each relate to their content. This monumental volume offers the possibility of a new direction in philosophy.
This book is remarkable in its content, unique in its form, and innovative in its understanding of philosophical methodology. The essays in Part I provoke a lively dialogue. In his replies in Part II, Conant shows us the multiplicity of ways in which, in doing the history of philosophy, we blind ourselves to some philosophical possibility. In doing so, he enables us to see over and again a deep truth about the nature of philosophy and why it is difficult. The result is an exceptionally interesting and original work—one that is not so much an outstanding contribution to some ‘field’ within philosophy as a work capable of reshaping what one takes philosophy to be.
This extraordinary book constitutes nothing less than a philosophical engagement with the history of fundamental conceptions of logic from Descartes to Leibniz, through Kant and Frege, to early and later Wittgenstein—an engagement that explores different ways of conceiving this history, different ways of conceiving what logic is, what thought and judgment are, as well as what knowledge is and how it relates to thought and judgment. There is a distinctive form of philosophical self-engagement that characterizes Conant’s remarkable ‘Replies’ in Part II. No reader can enter into this mode of self-engagement—this manner of working through layers of understanding and misunderstanding, layers of criticism and self-clarification—without herself becoming fruitfully entangled in the very kind of philosophical activity that these ‘Replies’ seek to exemplify. These pages are filled with nuances in conceptual clarification, a wealth of philosophical distinctions, and a level of rigor in philosophical reflection that is rarely found on our philosophical planet. This book will hold a singular place in the contemporary philosophical landscape.
A carefully written and cleverly argued exploration of both historical and contemporary issues in the philosophy of logic.
- 1080 pages
- 6-3/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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