What is Logical Form?

In Gerhard Preyer & Georg Peter (eds.), Logical Form and Language. Clarendon Press. pp. 54--90 (2002)
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Bertrand Russell, in the second of his 1914 Lowell lectures, Our Knowledge of the External World, asserted famously that ‘every philosophical problem, when it is subjected to the necessary analysis and purification, is found either to be not really philosophical at all, or else to be, in the sense in which we are using the word, logical’ (Russell 1993, p. 42). He went on to characterize that portion of logic that concerned the study of forms of propositions, or, as he called them, ‘logical forms’. This portion of logic he called ‘philosophical logic’. Russell asserted that ... some kind of knowledge of logical forms, though with most people it is not explicit, is involved in all understanding of discourse. It is the business of philosophical logic to extract this knowledge from its concrete integuments, and to render it explicit and pure. (p. 53) Perhaps no one still endorses quite this grand a view of the role of logic and the investigation of logical form in philosophy. But talk of logical form retains a central role in analytic philosophy. Given its widespread use in philosophy and linguistics, it is rather surprising that the concept of logical form has not received more attention by philosophers than it has. The concern of this paper is to say something about what talk of logical form comes to, in a tradition that stretches back to (and arguably beyond) Russell’s use of that expression. This will not be exactly Russell’s conception. For we do not endorse Russell’s view that propositions are the bearers of logical form, or that appeal to propositions adds anything to our understanding of what talk of logical form comes to. But we will be concerned to provide an account responsive to the interests expressed by Russell in the above quotations, though one clarified of extraneous elements, and expressed precisely. For this purpose, it is important to note that the concern expressed by Russell in the above passages, as the surrounding text makes clear, is a concern not just with logic conceived narrowly as the study of logical terms, but with propositional form more generally, which includes, e.g., such features as those that correspond to the number of argument places in a propositional function, and the categories of objects which propositional....
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