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Which author(s) first talked of Aristotle's syllogistic as a logic of terms?

Thank you for any scholarly references.

Aristotle does defines the notion of "term" in Prior Analytics:

I call a term that into which the proposition is resolved, i.e. both the predicate and that of which it is predicated, ‘is’ or ‘is not’ being added."

However, he never gets to discuss his syllogistic in terms of "terms". He gives a definition, but do not use it himself (See Łukasiewicz, Aristotle's Syllogistic From The Standpoint Of Modern Formal Logic 1957).

The notion of term should not therefore be taken as a defining feature of Aristotle's syllogistic. So, why call it a logic of terms?

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  • Really??? Aristotle; see An.Prior, 24b17-24b18: "I call a term that into which the proposition is resolved, i.e. both the predicate and that of which it is predicated, ‘is’ or ‘is not’ being added." But probably a search into Categories and Topics will produce further evidences. Apr 16 at 9:35
  • @MauroALLEGRANZA Sure, but in fact Aristotle never gets to discuss his syllogistic in terms of "terms". He gives a definition, but do not use it himself. So the notion of term cannot be essential to Aristotle's syllogistic, so why call it a logic of terms? See Łukasiewicz' Aristotle's Syllogistic From The Standpoint Of Modern Formal Logic (1957). Apr 16 at 9:59
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    A says that a proposition is "made of" terms. A syllogism is made of propositions, etc. IMO you are making the mistake of reading A's syllogistic weith the lens of modern mathematical logic, where syllogism is reduced to monadic predicate logic. Apr 16 at 10:23
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    Cocchiarella, A Logical Reconstruction of Medieval Terminist Logic:"This approach to logic began in the 13th century with such logicians as Peter of Spain, Roger Bacon, Lambert of Auxerre, and William of Sherwood. Around 1270, however, terminist logic "went into a kind of hibernation"... The hibernation ended in the early 14th century... The major terminist logicians of this later period are William of Ockham, John Buridan, Walter Burley, and Gregory of Rimini."
    – Conifold
    Apr 16 at 11:20
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    Pasnau, Terminist logic:"Terminist logic is a specifically medieval development. It is named from its focus on terms as the basic unit of logical analysis..."
    – Conifold
    Apr 16 at 11:24

1 Answer 1

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I'd bring forward some considerations in the spirit of Fermi estimation. Here are the Ngram Viewer graphs for the phrases “term logic,” “logic of terms” and “terminist logic”:

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A quick browse for “term logic” through the Google Books using the search function on the Ngram Viewer page reveals that as late as James M. Baldwin's 1906 book Thought and Things: Functional logic, or Genetic Theory of Knowledge the phrase was used in the sense of “the term of ‘logic.’” Likewise, 19th century usages of the phrase “logic of term” do not appear to be in the sense sought.

Indeed, there is no need to be Hegelian to regard this as expectable; as often, a new contrasting approach that sharply parts ways with it and circulates around may have raised the urge to call the traditional logic with an alternative name.

Frege's Begriffsschrift was published in 1879. The Ngram Viewer records 1906 as the year of the emergence of the phrase “terminist logic,” which could be taken as unwaveringly signifying another movement in logic. Hence, it seems reasonable to locate the date some time in between and seek the author(s) accordingly.

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  • Whoa, this is really good! It is fascinating to see that there are essentially two "spikes", a presumably primary one before 1850, and a presumably secondary one starting from 1955. - 2. "may have raised the urge to call the traditional logic with an alternative name" Exactly! - 3. "used in the sense of “the term of ‘logic'" Do you not rather mean here "the logic of terms" rather than "the term of logic", which seems meaningless to me? Apr 18 at 9:58
  • As for (3), those instances of “term logic" are such that 'term' could be replaced by 'word, 'name', 'condition' etc. and one would not lose much, like “I am unable to attach any other consistent meaning to the term logic, than that it is another word-the Greek word-for reasoning.” The spikes possibly arise from publications (of textbooks, etc.) coincidental in time. A relatively recent phenomenon to take into account is that the name term logic has been used in computer science. Apr 18 at 11:54
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    Ok, so the data on the expression "term logic" are mixed up with data on the phrase "term logic"! Thanks. Apr 18 at 15:39

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