Re-programming the Mind through Logic. The Social Role of Logic in Positivism and Lieber’s Mits, Wits and Logic


This essay on the social history of logic instruction considers the programmatic writings of Carnap/Neurath, but especially in the widely read book by Lillian Lieber, Mits, Wits and Logic, where Mits is the man in the street and Wits the woman in the street. In the ‘pre-Toulmin’ days it was seriously argued that the intense study of formal logic would create a more rational frame of mind and have many beneficial effects upon the social and political life. It arose from the conviction that most metaphysical conundrums, religious and political problems and even fanaticism had their root in the irrationality of ordinary discourse, which had to be replaced by the more logical ‘ideal language’ of Principia Mathematica. The enthusiastic promotion of formal logic occurred at a time when it was widely thought that minds could be ‘made over’, ‘reprogrammed’ by proper intervention. This stands in stark contrast to the motivation for teaching informal logic and critical thinking, as it becomes apparent in a 1981 exchange between Ralph Johnson and Gerald Massey in Teaching Philosophy. Most of this essay focuses on Lillian Lieber, an earnest and enthusiastic advocate of the cause of formal logic, and on the reasons for the widespread conviction that, for the sake of peace and social harmony, formal logic should, if possible, be taught to every man, woman and child.



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References found in this work

Theory of Games and Economic Behavior.John Von Neumann & Oskar Morgenstern - 1944 - Princeton, NJ, USA: Princeton University Press.
Der Logische Aufbau der Welt.Rudolf Carnap - 1928 - Hamburg: Meiner Verlag.
A practical study of argument.Trudy Govier - 1991 - Belmont, Calif.: Wadsworth Pub. Co..
The Uses of Argument.Stephen E. Toulmin - 1958 - Philosophy 34 (130):244-245.
Logical Self-Defense.Ralph Henry Johnson & J. Anthony Blair - 1977 - Toronto, Canada: Mcgraw-Hill.

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