, Volume 29, Issue 1, pp 75-101

The "Natural" and the "Formal"

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Abstract

The paper presents an argument against a “metaphysical” conception of logic according to which logic spells out a specific kind of mathematical structure that is somehow inherently related to our factual reasoning. In contrast, it is argued that it is always an empirical question as to whether a given mathematical structure really does captures a principle of reasoning. (More generally, it is argued that it is not meaningful to replace an empirical investigation of a thing by an investigation of its a priori analyzable structure without paying due attention to the question of whether it really is the structure of the thing in question.) It is proposed to elucidate the situation by distinguishing two essentially different realms with which our reason must deal: “the realm of the natural”, constituted by the things of our empirical world, and “the realm of the formal”, constituted by the structures that we use as “prisms” to view, to make sense of, and to reconstruct the world. It is suggested that this vantage point may throw light on many foundational problems of logic.