An ARF Fellow Report by Henrique Antunes

A Report on my ARF Fellowship from August to November 2013
 
Henrique Antunes
 
February 2, 2014
 
When I accepted the suggestion to apply for an ARF-Fellowship from Professor Walter A. Carnielli, my
master's adviser at the State University of Campinas (Unicamp) and one of ARF senior members, I could
hardly imagine how it would be like. At that time, I knew almost nothing about Richard L. Epstein and
most the other ARF-members' work, and I didn't have enough time to get acquainted with it. Nevertheless,
I was encouraged by Professor Carnielli and decided to take the chance. The ARF-Fellowship turned to be
one of the most stimulating intellectual experiences of my life, changing my conception of logic and
of the philosophy of logic.
 
During the three months I spent in Dogshine, I read the essays written by Richard L. Epstein on various
themes related to mathematical logic, the philosophy of logic, metaphysics, epistemology and linguistics,
which are to be published this year in a book entitled Reasoning and Formal Logic: Essays on Logic as the
Art of Reasoning Well. When my fellowship started, some of the essays for the book were completely finished
and some had already been published previously in journals or other books. I was supposed to read those
essays carefully and report my opinion about them to the author. In the beginning, this was a very hard
task to accomplish because all of them seemed to me so different from everything else I ever read before that
I could hardly figure out what they were about. After reading and re-reading them a couple of times and
discussing some of their parts with the author and with Esperanza Buitrago-Diaz, another ARF Fellow at
Dogshine at the time, I started to understand them better, though.
 
Some of the other essays for the book were still being written at the time I arrived in Dogshine. Except
for one or two essays, all of them were almost complete drafts that needed only some minor changes and
completions. When I started to read them, I was already acquainted with the big picture about logic and
philosophy they were meant to be part of, which includes a general skepticism about metaphysical issues and
the idea that the main purpose of logic is to unfold the assumptions built into our language and into our
linguistic habits. As I could understand these ideas better than I could before, the task of reading those other
essays was much more easier than that of reading the first ones. During the discussions I had with Richard
L. Epstein, I could then participate in a more active way, posing more interesting questions and sometimes
disagreeing with him. All of those discussions were friendly and fun, which turned then into a very pleasant
daily habit.
 
Most part of the discussions Richard L. Epstein and I had together were about the very nature of logic.
They represented to me one the most important aspects of my fellowship and I think it is worthwhile to
describe briefly the main lesson I learned from them on this report.
 
Before I went to Dogshine, I was very committed to a realistic view of logic, which I inherited from
reading Aristotle and specially Frege's work during my undergraduate course on philosophy at the Federal
University of Minas Gerais (UFMG), in Brazil. At that time, I couldn't understand how logic could be viewed
as something different from the science of the most general and ultimate laws of reality, which all beings,
irrespective of their particular features, had to obey. Mathematical Logic was then just a mathematical
abstraction of this unique science called 'Logic'. Even though I was aware of the problem the existence of so
many different logics posed to this view, I thought that it had to be some way out of it; perhaps, as considering
the so-called 'non-classical logics' as describing the way we, human beings, actually reason in some specific
situations involving specific conditions. Accordingly, the non-classical logics were not to be seen as Logic, but
much more similar in principle to linguistics or to psychology. The discussions with Richard L. Epstein and
the reading of the essays "Valid Inferences", "A General Framework for Semantics for Propositional Logics", "Why
Are There So Many Logics?", "The Timeless of Classical Predicate Logic" and especially "Truth and Reasoning",
though, offered to me a much more complex and elaborate alternative to the realistic view than the ones
I've seen before and which is to be understood in a general philosophical framework deeply connected to
skepticism.
 
As I think Epstein would say, we can't prove any particular metaphysical system to be correct because
metaphysical assumptions are already built into any logic we would use to try to do it. So, there is no way we
can use logic to talk about metaphysics without entering into a vicious circle or begging the question. The
alternative proposed by Epstein is to start from those very metaphysical assumptions and then abstract some
aspects of them to develop a logic that describes and rules the way we reason according to those assumptions.
Under this view, formal logic is a useful tool for reasoning only after we have agreed about the assumptions a
particular system of logic codify; if we disagree about them while discussing a particular subject, this system
would turn out to be completely useless for that discussion.
 
Even though this new view dissociates logic and metaphysics, it opens the possibility to apply formal logic
in radically different reasoning situations and banishes the distinction between classical and non-classical logic
(see "Why Are There So Many Logics?"). As far as I can see, it describes logic as a local science or tool that
is to be adapted to (i) the specific purposes we want to achieve while discussing and reasoning together, (ii)
to the specific conditions of these reasoning situations (e.g., their subject matter) and (iii) to the specific
metaphysical assumptions we choose to accept -- these are not unrelated. For instance, if we are discussing
some subject in which time and changes are completely irrelevant, then maybe classical predicate logic will
do, since it does not account for theses aspects (cf. "The Timelessness of Classical Predicate Logic"). On the other
hand, if we are reasoning about the objects on my desk now, then we will need some dierent kind of logic
that deals with time and changes.
 
I don't know if I've been completely faithful to Epstein's view in the description I've made in the preceding
paragraphs but it represents the main lesson I learned from our discussions and from the reading of the essays
cited above: there is an alternative to the realistic view of logic that presents very interesting answers to the
classical problems the realist must deal with.
 
I'd like thank all of ARF-members for their support and approval, especially Richard L. Epstein for his
hospitality and teachings, and Professor Carnielli for all his efforts to make this trip possible. I also owe
my gratitude to the other people in Brazil that helped to afford the trip: Itala D'Ottaviano, Marco Runo,
Ablio Rodrigues Filho, Rofoldo Ertola, Juliana Bueno-Soler, Samir Gorsky and Mariana Matulovic.
 

Copyright © Advanced Reasoning Forum 2017. All Rights Reserved.