J.-Y. Girard’s Transcendental Syntax, V2

sq_transcendental_syntaxMeaning is use.

– Ludwig Wittgenstein

If people never did silly things nothing intelligent would ever get done.

– Ludwig Wittgenstein

The latest two preprints by logician J.-Y. Girard continue his program for transcendental syntax, divided into deterministic and nondeterministic. He defines transcendental syntax as the study of the conditions of the possibility of language: to begin by discovering the preliminary suppositions in the creating of a logical sentence such as a proposition or deduction.

What are the presuppositions for using propositions? Girard claims the main one is the balance between the creation and the use of words, which is at the heart of meaning. But the notion that a proposition has a meaning that is well defined is prejudice, albeit one that allows us identify the terms of a sentence and thus to perform deductions.

Girard wants instead to find inner explanations of logical rules: explanations based on syntax instead of a semantics that correlates to a mandated “reality”. To emphasize this, he gives the term Derealism as another expression for transcendental syntax. Logical rules should have a normative aspect because of their utility, so his project appears to be one of pragmatism. Others have said that Linear Logic is the logic of the radical anti-realist.

Girard divides all of logical activity into four blocks that weave together: the Constat, the Performance (please forgive my shortening on the diagram above), L’usine (factory), and L’usage (use). These four blocks are partitioned by Kant’s analytic-synthetic and a priori-a posteriori distinctions. The analytic is said to have “no meaning”, that is, “locative”. The synthetic is said to have “meaning”, that is, “spiritual”. The a priori is said to be “implicit”, and the a posteriori is said to be “explicit”.
transcendental_syntax_tableCan we find all the explanations we need to create logic internally? If so, perhaps it is only because of how the brain works, like how John Bolender posits that social relations described by the Relational Models Theory are created out of symmetry breaking structures of our nervous systems, which are in turn generated by our DNA. A realist would certainly say that our understanding of logical rules is enabled but also limited by our brains, whereas an idealist would say that our minds could “transcend” those limits. But it seems pragmatic to say that the mind is what the brain does.

I believe a closer analogy for the fourfold of Transcendental Syntax is to Hjelmslev’s Net than to Kant’s Analytic-Synthetic Distinction. If so, then Performance and L’usage are Content (Implicit), whereas Constat and L’usine are Expression (Explicit). Performance and Constat are Substance (Locative), and L’usine and L’usage are Form (Spiritual). Hjelmslev was a linguist that developed a theory of language as consisting of only internal rules.

Or even to analogy with Aristotle’s Four Causes, which is how I’ve arranged the first diagram: the Constat is the Material cause, the Performance is the Efficient cause, L’usine is the Formal cause, and L’usage is the Final cause. Material and Efficient causes are often considered mere matter in motion, which could be Locative, or meaningless (physical). Formal and Final could be Spiritual, or meaningful, as patterns of matter and motion, respectively.


How can we know that a given named term is the same as another one in a different part of our formula? Rather than using names, or linking them through semantics or a well-defined meaning, we can tie terms together by their locations in our sentences and deductions.


J.-Y. Girard / Transcendental syntax 1: deterministic case (January 2015 Preprint)

J.-Y. Girard / Transcendental syntax 2: non deterministic case (February 2015 Preprint)


V. Michele Abrusci, Paolo Pistone / On Transcendental Syntax: a Kantian Program for Logic?



[*8.122, *8.123]




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