Busting a myth about Lesniewski and definitions, a paper I wrote with Severi Hamari (I talked about it a while ago) is now forthcoming in History and Philosophy of Logic. I also posted an updated version of the paper on my academia profile.
- One important change is that the discussion of Nemesszeghys's views in section 9 contained a serious error. I missed it proofreading the first 20 times, but managed to catch this right before submition.
- Minor modifications are here and there.
- Another change is that we streamlined the references and provided more bibliographical details.
Abstract A theory of definitions which places the eliminability and conservativeness requirements on definitions is usually called the standard theory. We examine a persistent myth which credits this theory to S. Lesniewski, a Polish logician. After a brief survey of its origins, we show that the myth is highly dubious. First, no place in Lesniewski’s published or unpublished work is known where the standard conditions are discussed. Second, Lesniewski’s own logical theories allow for creative definitions. Third, Lesniewski’s celebrated ‘rules of definition’ lay merely syntactical restrictions on the form of definitions: they do not provide definitions with such meta-theoretical requirements as eliminability or conservativeness. On the positive side, we point out that among the Polish logicians, in the 1920s and 30s, a study of these meta-theoretical conditions is more readily found in the works of J. Lukasiewicz and K. Ajdukiewicz.