— 670 —
Syllogism not the great Instrument of Reason.
      §4. There is one thing more, which I shall desire to be considered
concerning Reason; and that is, whether Syllogism, as is generally
thought, be the proper instrument of it, and the usefullest way of
exercising this Faculty. The Causes I have to doubt, are these.
      First, Because Syllogism serves our Reason, but in one only of the
forementioned parts of it; and that is, to shew the connexion of the
Proofs in any one instance, and no more: but in this, it is of no great
use, since the Mind can perceive such Connexion where it really is,
as easily, nay, perhaps, better without it.
      If we will observe the Actings of our own Minds, we shall find,
that we reason best and clearest, when we only observe the con-
nexion of the Proofs, without reducing our Thoughts to any Rule of
Syllogism. And therefore we may take notice, that there are many
Men that Reason exceeding clear and rightly, who know not how
to make a Syllogism. He that will look into many parts of Asia and
America, will find Men reason there, perhaps, as acutely as himself,
who yet never heard of a Syllogism, nor can reduce any one Argu-
ment to those Forms: and I believe scarce any one ever makes Syllo-
gisms in reasoning within himself. Indeed Syllogism is made use of
on occasion to discover a Fallacy hid in a rhetorical Flourish, or
cunningly wrapp’d up in a smooth Period; and stripping an Absurd-
ity of the Cover of Wit, and good Language, shew it in its naked
Deformity. But the weakness or fallacy of such a loose Discourse
it shews, by the artificial Form it is put into, only to those who have
throughly studied Mode and Figure, and have so examined the many
Ways, that three Propositions may be put together, as to know
which of them does certainly conclude right, and which not, and
upon what grounds it is that they do so. All who have so far con-
sidered Syllogism, as to see the Reason, why, in three Propositions
laid together in one Form, the Conclusion will be certainly right,
but in another, not certainly so, I grant are certain of the Conclusion
they draw from the Premisses in the allowed Modes and Figures: But
they who have not so far looked into those Forms, are not sure by
— 671 —
Virtue of Syllogism, that the Conclusion certainly follows from
the Premisses; They only take it to be so by an implicit Faith in
their Teachers, and a Confidence in those Forms of Argumentation;
but this is still but believing, not being certain. Now if of all Man-
kind, those who can make Syllogisms are extremely few in compari-
son of those who cannot, and if of those few who have been taught
Logick, there is but a very small Number, who do any more than
believe that Syllogisms in the allowed Modes and Figures do con-
clude right, without knowing certainly that they do so; If Syllo-
gisms must be taken for the only proper instrument of reason and
means of Knowledge, it will follow, that before Aristotle there was
not one Man that did or could know any thing by Reason; and
that since the invention of Syllogisms, there is not one of Ten
Thousand that doth.
Locke Hum IV, 17, §4, pp. 670-671