Besides being a famous hymn-writer, Isaac Watts was also a renowned theologian and logician, writing many books and essays on these subjects.
Watts was the author of a text book on logic which was particularly popular; its full title was, Logic, or The Right Use of Reason in the Enquiry After Truth With a Variety of Rules to Guard Against Error in the Affairs of Religion and Human Life, as well as in the Sciences. This was first published in 1724, and its popularity ensured that it went through twenty editions.
Watts' logic text book was written for beginners of logic, and the book is arranged methodically. He divided the content of his elementary treatment of logic into four parts: perception, judgement, reasoning, and method, which he treated in this order. Each of these parts is divided into chapters, and some of these chapters are divided into sections. The content of the chapters and sections is then subdivided by using some combination of the following devices: divisions, distributions, notes, observations, directions, rules, illustrations, and remarks. Thus, every contentum of the book comes under one or more of these headings, and this methodical arrangement serves to make the exposition clear.
In Watts' Logic there are some notable departures from what one would expect to find in a text book of logic from Watts' time, and there are also some notable innovations. Detectable throughout the work is the influence of British empiricism, and in particular, the influence of philosopher and empiricist John Locke. For, Locke was a contemporary of Watts, and in the Logic there are several references to Locke and his Essay Concerning Human Understanding, in which Locke espoused his empiricist views. Another departure from most other authors of logic is that Watts was careful to distinguish between judgements and propositions. According to Watts, judgement is "to compare... ideas together, and to join them by affirmation, or disjoin then by negation, according as we find them to agree or disagree". However, he continues by saying, "when mere ideas are joined in the mind without words, it is rather called a judgement; but when clothed with words it is called a proposition". Watts' Logic follows the scholastic tradition and divides propositions into universal affirmative, universal negative, particular affirmative, and particular negative. In the third part, Watts discusses reasoning and argumentation, with particular emphasis on the theory of syllogism, which was a centrally important part of the classical logic which Watts' was treating in his work. According to Watts, and in keeping with the common practice of logicians of his day, Watts defined logic as an art (see liberal arts), as opposed to a science. Throughout the Logic Watts revealed his high conception of logic by stressing the practical side of logic, rather than just the speculative side. According to Watts, as a practical art, logic can be really useful in any of our inquiries, whether they are inquiries in the arts, or inquiries in the sciences, or inquiries of an ethical kind. It is Watts' emphasis on logic as a practical art which distinguishes his book from others. For, by stressing that there is a practical and non-formal part of logic, Watts was able to give rules and directions for any kind of inquiry, including the inquiries of science and the inquiries of philosophy. These rules of inquiry were given in addition to the formal content of classical logic that one would expect to find in a text book on logic from that time. Thus, Watts' conception of logic as being divided into its practical part and its speculative part, and therefore containing more than just formal logic, marks a departure from the conception of logic of most other authors. Instead, Watts' conception of logic is much more akin to that of the later, nineteenth century logician, C.S. Peirce.
Isaac Watts' Logic became the standard text on logic at Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard and Yale; being used at Oxford University for well over 100 years. C.S. Peirce, the great nineteenth century logician, wrote favourably of Watts' Logic. When preparing his own text book on Logic entitled A Critick of Arguments: How to Reason (also known as the Grand Logic), Peirce wrote, 'I shall suppose the reader to be acquainted with what is contained in Dr Watts' Logick, a book... far superior to the treatises now used in colleges, being the production of a man distinguished for good sense.' The Logic was followed in 1741 by a supplement, The Improvement of the Mind, which itself went through numerous editions and later inspired Michael Faraday.
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