Characteristica Universalis - Three Criteria

Three Criteria

C. J. Cohen (1954) set out three criteria which any project for a philosophical language would need to meet before it could be considered a version of the characteristica universalis. In setting out these criteria, Cohen made reference to the concept of "logistic". This concept is not the same as that used in statistical analysis. In 1918, Clarence Irving Lewis, the first English-speaking logician to translate and discuss some of Leibniz's logical writings, elaborated on "logistic" as follows:

Logistic may be defined as the science which deals with types of order as such. It is not so much a subject as a method. Although most logistic is either founded upon or makes large use of the principles of symbolic logic, still as science of order in general does not necessarily presuppose or begin with symbolic logic. —

Following from this Cohen stipulated that the universal character would have to serve as a:

  • "International auxiliary language" enabling persons speaking different languages to communicate with one another;
  • Symbolism for the exact and systematic expression of all present knowledge, making possible a "logistic" treatment of science in general. This symbolism could also be expanded to accommodate future knowledge;
  • Instrument of discovery and demonstration.

These criteria together with the notion of logistic reveal that Cohen and Lewis both associated the characteristica with the methods and objectives of General systems theory.

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