Maarten Maartensz:    Philosophical Dictionary | Filosofisch Woordenboek                      

 J - Johnson, W.E.


William Ernest Johnson: (1858-1931), British logician, mostly remembered for his Logic, in 3 volumes. Also wrote about mathematical logic and induction.

It has been widely asserted that Johnson belonged to "the old guard" of British logicians, that was swept away by Whitehead and Russell's Principia Mathematica. This is not so: Logic is a quite interesting original work, though it is true that it understands the term "logic" in a wider sense than became normal in the 20th century in mathematics and philosophy, namely as comprising (parts of) epistemology, methodology and philosophy of science, and also true that Johnson, although he was quite competent to do so, avoided the formalisms that were so characteristic of mathematical logic.

He also had an original take on induction, in an essay that seems to have inspired both Keynes and Broad to similar ideas, though again in the Logic Johnson considers various other forms of induction than can be comprised under generalizing from a sample to a population.

Interestingly, some of the new terminology Johnson introduced in his Logic - "determinable" and "determinate", "continuant", "occurent", "ostensive definiton" - was rather widely used in 20th C analytic philosophy.

See also: Logic


 Original: Feb 8, 2012                                                Last edited: 08 February 2012.   Top