Peirce, logic diagrams, and the elementary operations of reasoning

Thinking and Reasoning 8 (1):69 – 95 (2002)
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Abstract

This paper describes Peirce's systems of logic diagrams, focusing on the so-called ''existential'' graphs, which are equivalent to the first-order predicate calculus. It analyses their implications for the nature of mental representations, particularly mental models with which they have many characteristics in common. The graphs are intended to be iconic, i.e., to have a structure analogous to the structure of what they represent. They have emergent logical consequences and a single graph can capture all the different ways in which a possibility can occur. Mental models share these properties. But, as the graphs show, certain aspects of propositions cannot be represented in an iconic or visualisable way. They include negation, and the representation of possibilities qua possibilities, which both require representations that do not depend on a perceptual modality. Peirce took his graphs to reveal the fundamental operations of reasoning, and the paper concludes with an analysis of different hypotheses about these operations.

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