Cool Logic

Mathias Madsen (ILLC)

Fear and Loathing in the History of Rationality

April 10th at 18:00, in F1.15 ILLC seminar room

What is logic, really? Now often thought of as a relatively independent branch of mathematics, logic was in fact for large parts of its history seen as a kind of personal self-improvement tool used to teach oneself proper habits of rational thought. In my presentation, I will give examples of what this meant for the way logic books were written and used in early modern Europe. From the 17th century onwards, the emerging middle classes borrowed highly selectively from the medieval scholastic tradition in an effort to forge a new secular rationality that could match their increasingly confident class consciousness. After giving examples of this trend, I will follow the history of that tradition up to the emergence of mathematical statistics, which in the 19th century largely replaced logic as the marker of "Rational Man." Reconstructing this history sheds some new light on the surprisingly virulent disagreements in 20th century statistics.