I would like to know how material logic differs from formal logic.

From the little that I'm aware of, it is apparently the case that material logic concerns itself with the truth of the content of an argument, whilst formal logic only concerns itself with the validity of an argument form.

Question: I'm under the impression that material logic is very close to the concept of soundness, is material logic an outdated concept?

I would appreciate any elucidations.

  • Are you talking about reasoning with material conditionals? That's a very well documented logical notion that is recognised as philosophically distinct to the formal logical consequence relation, but considering the breadth and scope of material implications as a "logic" is something I've not encountered in the literature. – Paul Ross Mar 9 '15 at 13:02
  • Hi Paul. As far as I know, material logic is distinct from the material implication. Nonetheless, I have now accepted an answer for my question. – Five σ Mar 9 '15 at 14:20

Neither SEP nor Wikipedia has heard of "material logic". In the writings of Jacques Maritain, it apparently means "applied logic" or thereabout; he goes into an elaborate argument why "material logic is the "Greater Logic".

According to Granström, which has a historical [re]view of the topic, "material logic" is a notion that was central in the scholastic period; John of St. Thomas defined it to be more or less what today is called epistemology. With the turn to formal logic in the 18th century, "material logic" has faded from modern treatments (of logic).


Sir David Ross, in Aristotle’s Prior and Posterior Analytics - Oxford UP, 1949 - distinguishes between the formal logic of the Prior Analytics and the material logic of the Posterior Analytics.

Formal logic pertains to the structure of deduction and proof, with little-to-no reference to content.

Material logic pertains to the metaphysical background, scientific content, and scientific conditions of proof. For Aristotle, the metaphysical background is one of substance and accident; the scientific content consists in the species of a given genus and their necessary accidents; the conditions apply to, e.g., the terms (subject and predicate) of each of the premises of the demonstration (= proof). See Mure, Aristotle, for a discussion.

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