[FOM] Natural and Formal Languages and Reasoning
henriknordmark at mac.com
Thu Nov 25 10:25:57 EST 2004
On Nov 23, 2004, at 11:06 PM, Arnon Avron wrote:
> reasoning comes before languages, and that *all* languages (whether
> "natural" or "formal") just model reasoning
I am not really convinced that there really is such a thing as
(Nor am I absolutely convinced that all reasoning is linguistic
> there are plenty of geometrical ways of reasoning that can easily be
> visualized and understood, but are extremely difficult to be
> translated into any natural language.
I agree that reasoning can be greatly enhanced by visualizing certain
things geometrically. For example, reasoning about Euclidean geometry
is much easier with geometric intuitions guiding the process, than
trying to reason things out solely in a purely linguistic or formal
fashion like Hilbert did. And this seems to suggest that there really
is some sort of non-linguistic reasoning going on.
However, it is also possible that visualizing things geometrically
simply provides good intuitions, but doesn't really provide *reasoning*
per se. And that if you really want to reason about something you are
forced to introduce language in some form or another.
It seems to boil down to what do we exactly mean by *reasoning*.
> I have always taken for granted the complete opposite: that both
> natural languages and formal languages are used to model valid
> reasoning and arguments, and that formal languages are designed
> precisely because natural languages fail to do it adequately
If reasoning really is ontologically prior to language then I would
agree with the statement above.
However, since I consider it possible and more plausible that
language/reasoning come together as package that cannot be separated, I
would be more inclined to say that...
Formal languages and natural languages are means by which we are able
to reason. And formal languages were designed by people like Frege
because natural languages were not adequate for their purposes.
Institute for Logic, Language and Computation
Universiteit van Amsterdam
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