The Commens Dictionary

Quote from ‘Logical Machines’


The secret of all reasoning machines is after all very simple. It is that whatever relations among the objects reasoned about is destined to be the hinge of a ratiocination, that same general relation must be capable of being introduced between certain parts of the machine. For example, if we want to make a machine which shall be capable of reasoning in the syllogism

   If A then B,
   If B then C,
   Therefore, if A then C,

we have only to have a connection which can be introduced at will, such that when one event A occurs in the machine, another event B must also occur. This connection being introduced between A and B, and also between B and C, it is necessarily virtually introduced between B and C. This is the same principle which lies at the foundation of every logical algebra; only in the algebra, instead of depending directly on the laws of nature, we establish conventional rules for the relations used. When we perform a reasoning in our unaided minds we do substantially the same thing, that is to say, we construct an image in our fancy under certain general conditions, and observe the result. In this point of view, too, every machine is a reasoning machine, in so much as there are certain relations between its parts, which relations involve other relations that were not expressly intended. A piece of apparatus for performing a physical or chemical experiment is also a reasoning machine, with this difference, that it does not depend on the laws of the human mind, but on the objective reason embodied in the laws of nature. Accordingly, it is no figure of speech to say that the alembics and cucurbits of the chemist are instruments of thought, or logical machines.

W 6:69-70
‘Reasoning Machine’ (pub. 15.04.13-13:27). Quote in M. Bergman & S. Paavola (Eds.), The Commens Dictionary: Peirce's Terms in His Own Words. New Edition. Retrieved from
Apr 15, 2013, 13:27 by Sami Paavola
Last revised: 
Jan 07, 2014, 00:58 by Commens Admin