Before Logic

By Richard Mason

Subjects: Continental Philosophy
Series: SUNY series in Philosophy
Paperback : 9780791445327, 161 pages, March 2000
Hardcover : 9780791445310, 161 pages, March 2000

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Table of contents


Chapter 1
What Can Be

Chapter 2
The Truth in What We Say

Chapter 3
What Must Be So

Chapter 4
Talking about Things

Chapter 5
Getting around Language

Chapter 6
"Logic Must Take Care of Itself"


Argues that there is an undeniable and essentially historical dimension to logic.


2000 CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title

Must logic come first? Are philosophical problems really logical? Must we think logically to think at all? Richard Mason's case is that too much comes before logic—too many choices and too much history. Logic has been formed by choices made by philosophers, not just as a subject of study, but in terms of what has mattered: the problems, and the possible solutions. Before Logic contains case studies of crucial choices: on the formation of logical possibility, on truth, on the explanation of necessity, on essentialism, and on the location of logic. For readers with interests in analytical or continental philosophy or in logic, this book shows why and how history matters to logic. Logic then, cannot be the basis for metaphysics—or an important grounding for philosophical investigations—because too many important assumptions precede it. The difficulty this position presents is that it avoids the obvious objections of relativism. This controversial topic strikes at the heart of much post-Wittgensteinian and post-Heideggerian thought.

Richard Mason (1948–2006) was a Fellow of Wolfson College at Cambridge. He is the author of Understanding Understanding and Oppenheimer's Choice: Reflections from Moral Philosophy, both also published by SUNY Press.


"This study addresses the very real scandal that logic cannot without absurdity provide its own foundation. The book should appeal to anyone concerned with philosophical meditations on the problems of logical necessity, truth, and history. " — David Lovekin, Hastings College

"Before Logic is a competent and widely informed book, one whose main thesis is provocative and interesting. " — Nicholas Rescher, author of Realistic Pragmatism and Predicting the Future