Comments on Lepore and Ludwig “conceptions of logical form”

Robert May
University of California, Davis
Over the years, I’ve been asked many times what “logical form” is, as applied to natural language. This is a natural enough question to address to me; after all, I’ve written a book titled Logical Form, and I’ve been asked to write any number of papers on the topic. This question, it seems to me, is certainly a “big” question, and big questions deserve big answers. I must admit, however, to being somewhat baffled as to how to do this satisfactorily, since big answers to big questions unfortunately tend to the trivial. With a nod to Wittgenstein, logical form has always seemed to me to be something that you know it when you see it; it is clear enough when it pops up, but one is hard pressed to say just what it is, to define it. This is so even though the meanings of the words “logical” and “form” seem straightforward enough; what I find puzzling is how the first word is supposed to modify the second. What is it that makes a form logical, as opposed to something else that is not logical? This, it seems to me, is a very hard question to answer indeed, for if we cannot contrast logical form with some other type of form, then every form (or no form) is a logical form, and we have arrived at the triviality previously mentioned.
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