The Logical Question: A Mini Course in Logic

This mini-course deals with the question of correct procedure in thinking things out, that is to say, in reasoning. Here we investigate the process of reasoning, not its content.

  • We are not concerned to discover the intimate nature of the process of reasoning;
  • We are interested here solely in the function, the action of reasoning;
  • We study to know what makes this action correct, legitimate, justified.

In this light:

  • We study and identify the various operations of the mind or intellect;
  • We note and identify the various operations of the mind or intellect;
  • We note their outer expression;
  • And thus we seek to discover and formulate the laws of thought.

The science thus developed is called Logic. More precisely it is Formal Logic or Dialectics.

This mini-course is divided into the following four Sections:

  • Section 1 – The Operations of the Mind
  • Section 2 – Ideas and Terms
  • Section 3 – Judgments and Propositions
  • Section 4 – Reasoning and Argument


Section 1: The Operations of the Mind


  • a. The Mind;
  • b. Fundamental Operations of Mind;
  • c. The Grasp of Knowledge.


a) The Mind

The mind is man’s most perfect knowing power. It is the intellect or understanding. Some modern writers and teachers use the term the mind to signify any form of conscious life; we do not. We hold the terms mind, intellect, understanding as strict synonyms. Among bodily beings, man alone has mind.

Man has bodily knowing powers called the senses. There are five external senses: sight, hearing, taste, smell, and feeling or touch. There are four internal senses: imagination, sentient consciousness, sentient memory, and instinct. The senses are bodily powers. But the mind is an nonmaterial power. The senses lay hold of individual material objects. The mind lays hold of these objects in a suprasensible manner, and it also lays hold of objects which are entirely out of reach of the senses.

By the sense of sight, for example, we lay hold of bodily things that have color. We see individual things — people, trees, animals, rocks. But by the mind we understand what these things are in themselves. We this or that tree; but we understand what tree is. The tree we see is this one bodily thing. But the mind’s knowledge of tree enables us to define tree, and the definition fits not only this one bodily thing, but each and every tree that ever was or is or will be or can be. We know an essence. Therefore philosophers say, “The senses grasp things in individual; the mind grasps things in universal.” Thus it is apparent that the mind lays hold of things in a suprasensible manner.

The mind also lays hold of things that the senses cannot grasp. By the mind we know what honor is, or liberty, or patriotism, or unity, or truth. These things are outside the reach of the senses.

The mind is a nonmaterial knowing power or faculty. It is a faculty of man’s soul. But man is not a soul alone, nor a body alone; man is a single compound of body-and-soul. In this present life, the mind of man cannot come into direct or immediate knowledge of the essences of things; it must get at these essences by working them out from the findings of the senses. For all human knowledge in this world begins with the action of the senses, and of the external senses. The mind draws from sense-findings the essential elements which constitute its object.

That the mind is a soul-faculty, and that the soul is a nonmaterial substance, are truths investigated in the part of philosophy called psychology. These truths will be taken up in a later mini-course.


b) Fundamental Operations of Mind

The findings of the outer senses are immediately carried inward to the inner senses of imagination and sentient consciousness. Imagination in its first and basic use is not the fancy by which we “make up” images; it is not a cartooning power; first of all it a faithful reproducing power; it presents inwardly the findings of the outer senses exactly as these are experienced. And sentient consciousness makes us aware of the things thus sensed outwardly and represented inwardly in the imagination.

So far the senses serve the mind: they grasp their objects, and these are inwardly reproduced or represented in conscious imagination. Here the mind goes to work on them.

The very first thing the mind does is to pay attention to the sense-findings held in imagination. It focusses upon them, finding in them a certain point of interest and inquiry.

Secondly, the attentive mind lays hold of the point of interest and inquiry, and draws it out, so to speak, from the circumstances and limitations with which it is involved or united, and views it alone. The mind is thus said to draw out or abstract an essence. Thus the second mental act is that of abstraction.

To illustrate. Suppose a boy who has no knowledge whatever of what circle means is shown three circles of different size drawn in different colors on a blackboard. First, the boy sees the pictures, and at once the seeing is taken inward and recorded in conscious imagination. Then the boy’s mind or intellect attends; it focusses on a point of inquiry, “What kind of thing is this?” Attention continuing, the boy’s mind notices that while all three pictures are different in size, position, and color, they are all the same in point of roundness; they are all pictures of the same thing. The boy’s mind fixes on this one thing, drawing it out from the circumstances and limitations of size, position, color, and grasping it alone. In other words, the boy’s mind abstracts from the nonessential details of size, position, and color, the thing, the essence, which each of the pictures represents. This grasp or understanding of an essence is called apprehending or apprehension, and the essence apprehended and possessed by the mind is now held in the mind as a concept or an idea.

The first operation of the mind is the forming of ideas. Ideas are formed (and “formed” does not mean “made up,” but “legitimately worked out:) by the abstractive power of the attentive mind working on the findings of the senses, as held inwardly in the imagination. In other words, the forming of ideas, or apprehension, is the mind’s basic operation, which it exercises by means of attention and abstraction.

The second operation of the mind is judging. When the mind has acquired some ideas or concepts by the first operation of apprehending, it tends to compare them, to notice likenesses and differences, and to pronounce upon its findings. This pronouncing of the mind on the agreement or disagreement of ideas is the operation called judging.

Judging is the basic process of thinking. The fruit of judging is the judgment, that is, the pronouncement of the mind on the agreement or disagreement of two ideas. And the judgment is a thought. An idea alone is not a thought, for an idea is a simple grasp of an essence — it is a simple apprehension — in which the mind merely takes in an essence, a root-meaning, without saying anything about it.

But when the mind compares its ideas (always two by two) and pronounces upon them, it is thinking. Now, the mind in its pronouncing upon two ideas will pronounce truly or falsely. Therefore, truth or falsity is to be found in the judgment, not in single ideas. When the mind judges (that is, pronounces) in such a way as to square with fact, its judgment is true; otherwise its judgment is false.

The third and final operation of the mind is reasoning or inferring. Reasoning is the process of thinking things out.

When the mind cannot make a judgment on the agreement or disagreement of two ideas, this is because it does not know the ideas clearly or because it cannot behold them distinctly in their relations to each other. In this case, the mind employs a third idea which it does know in relation to each of the others, and, through the mediation of this third idea, the mind thinks out or reasons out the relation of the two to each other.

Thus, if the mind is unable to judge on ideas “A” and “B”; if it cannot judge, “A is B” or “A is not B,” because “A” and “B” are not distinctly grasped in themselves or in their relations to each other, then the mind calls in idea “C” which it knows distinctly in itself and in its relations to the other two. And the mind reasons thus:

A is C
C is B


A is B.

or thus:

A is not C
C is B


A is not B.

Here the mind is able to reach judgment on “A” and “B” through their known relation to “C.” Notice that the thing the mind is after in the whole process is a justified judgment. Thus it is manifest that the process of reasoning is a roundabout way of arriving at judgment. This fact explains why we have called judging the basic thinking process.

A judgment reached by reasoning is said to be reasoned out or inferred; the process of reaching the judgment in this fashion is called reasoning or inference. More precisely, this reasoning is called mediate inference, because the reasoned judgment is reached through the medium of a third idea.

To sum up. There are three notable operations of the mind: apprehending, judging, reasoning.

  • Apprehending is the mind’s grasping of an essence; the essence once grasped is held in the mind as a concept or idea.
  • Judging is the mind’s pronouncing on the agreement or disagreement of two ideas; the pronouncement, as a thing accomplished by the mind and in the mind, is called a judgment.
  • Reasoning is a roundabout or mediate way of reaching judgment when this cannot be reached directly by the study of the two ideas with which it deals; the result or fruit of the reasoning process is a piece of reasoning or a mediate inference.


c) The Grasp of Knowledge

The mind forms ideas, judges upon them, and reasons out inferred judgments as conclusions or consequents. These items of its possessions the mind holds more or less perfectly, and evokes them on occasion. Thus the mind has the function of retaining and using its knowledge. Inasmuch as the mind keeps what it has learned, it is called the intellectual memory.

Notice a contrast here. We have sentient memory (as do many animals less than man) and intellectual memory. The function of sentient memory is to recognize sense experiences as having been known before. Sentient memory is not the sentient retaining power; this power is the imagination. But the mind, inasmuch as it retains and recognizes meanings — that is, things understood and not merely sensed — is the intellectual memory.

All knowing, sentient and intellectual, is a kind of grasping, a kind of getting hold of reality and taking it in. When we know an object, we take it into ourselves and possess it; and yet we leave it where it is and as it is. We do not take in known objects physically, but cognitionally. We take them in a kind of image. And yet the image is not a mere picture, even a moving picture. It is a vital and conscious grasp, whereas a picture, even a cinema projection, is a lifeless and unconscious representation.

When we know a thing we are joined with it, but the joining does not produce a third thing as the joining of material objects always does. A signet impressed on wax results in figured wax; an image impressed on a photographic film results in a figured film. But an object known is impressed on a knowing power or faculty without resulting in a figured faculty. A signet impressed on wax shapes and limits the wax; the signet impressed on the faculty of sight does not shape and limit vision.

Knowing is a unique grasping process which leaves the object known in its objective otherness even while that object is grasped and possessed. In a word, knowing is not cramped and limited by the material limitations of the thing known. This is true of all knowledge, and eminently true of intellectual knowledge which grasps objects in universal.

And therefore philosophy declares that the very root of knowing is non-materiality, that is, freedom from the limitations of matter. The knowledge-image which is the means of our knowing is not a material or physical image; it is a cognitional image; it is called, in an ancient phrase, an intentional image. The term intentional is not here suggestive of what is usually meant by intention; it does not indicate a purpose of the will. It means according to the intent, the bent, the tendency of a knowing power. An intentional image is not a physical image, but an image suited to the intent, tendency, or character of knowing and of knowledge. It is a psychical image or species.

The grasp of knowledge is the laying hold of reality in intentional image.


Summary of the Section

In this Section we have mentioned the chief operations of the mind: apprehending, judging, reasoning, and we have learned a brief explanation of each process. We shall have more detail about these operations in the Sections which follow.

We learned that apprehending is accomplished by the abstractive activity of the attentive mind, that is, by attention and abstraction.

We have seen that the second operation of the mind, that is, judging, is the basic thought process, and that apprehending is preliminary to judging, while reasoning is only an indirect way of reaching a position in which judging is possible; reasoning itself is accomplished by connected judging, and it consists in the drawing out of one judgment from two others.

We have noticed that the fruit of apprehending is the concept or the idea; that the fruit of judging is the judgment; that the fruit of reasoning is a mediate inference.

We have learned that, in apprehending, the mind lays hold of a reality by grasping its essence in intentional image, which is an image unaffected by the material limitations of individual things as these exist in nature.


Mini-Courses in Philosophy are brief lessons on the basic topics in the major branches of Classical Realistic philosophy. Designed & organized by Dr. Jonathan Dolhenty for the beginning student.

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