[FOM] FOM: Is logic prescriptive or descriptive?

Irving Anellis irving.anellis at gmail.com
Wed Jul 11 15:27:22 EDT 2012

Dick Epstein raised the question: Is logic prescriptive or descriptive?

On an historical note, Charles Sanders Peirce (1839-1914), for one,
held that logic is prescriptive, or, as he said, "normative", actually
suggesting that it was a part of ethics. The idea was that it provides
the rules for correct reasoning. Although at times he was rather
ambiguous about his use of the term "logic", sometimes using it in the
broadest possible sense, to mean semiotics, or the science of signs,
other times treating it as a branch of semiotics, including deductive,
inductive, and abductive reasoning, and still other times, having
formal logic in mind, as deductive. Underlying the argument that logic
is normative or prescriptive rather than descriptive, Peirce in every
one of these cases struggled against the view of the philosophers of
his day who either explicitly argued that [formal] logic is a branch
of psychology or implicitly treated logic as if it were either a
formalized aspect of epistemology (or philosophy of mind) or of

A good place to begin to explore Peirce's view would be Arthur Walter
Burks, “Peirce’s Conception of Logic as a Normative Science”,
Philosophical Review 52 (1943) 187-193.

Irving H. Anellis
8905 Evergreen Avenue, Apt. 171
Indianapolis, IN 46240-2073
Peirce Edition
Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis

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