A re-examination and reinterpretation of the records of the presocratics and earlier from an ATR (Argumentative Theory of Reason) perspective : the development of reasoning in Greece in the form of “devising and evaluating arguments intended to persuade”
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
Aristotle was the founder of logic. He said that there was nothing like it earlier. Interpretations of the records of the presocratics from a classical theory of reasoning (CTR) perspective give the ‘traditional account’ of the development of ‘Greek rationalism’. That is, an account of the Greeks becoming better at discovering the world through a process of forward inference: ratiocination. The recent argumentative theory of reason (ATR) of Sperber and Mercier provides an alternative perspective through which to interpret, or reinterpret these same records. According to the theory, the main function of reasoning is the devising and evaluating of arguments intended to persuade. This suggests a process of backward inference in order to support ideas that have arisen intuitively or in some other way. In applying this new perspective to the records, the result is that the Greeks did develop as reasoners, but more in the ATR sense until Plato. That is, the Greeks, over time, became better at devising and evaluating arguments, which were then used to support their ideas and speculations. Together these ideas and their supporting arguments became the theories the Greeks are known for. In other words, the Greeks developed first as rational persuaders with a variety of physical ideas and speculations about the world.
At some point in the development, the Greeks recognised what it is to reason and its utility in the context of the law courts and the political assembly. Over a period of time, they came to understand, formalise and teach and learn the ways and methods of reasoning in the ATR sense. Once this was understood, there is evidence that it was then consciously and deliberately applied in attempts to discover the world through the process of forward inference. This all occurred well before Aristotle. To conclude, there was not nothing at all before Aristotle. He systematised what had already been formalised in coming up with logic. But formalised methods of reasoning, both ATR and CTR, were needed in order to do this.