Return to Polylogism

Polylogism is the doctrine that there is not one correct logic, one correct method of reasoning necessarily binding on all men, but that there are many logics, each valid for some men and invalid for the others. The polylogist divides men into groups, and holds that each group has by nature (or creates for itself by choice) its own distinctive method of inference based on its own distinctive logical laws, so that the inferences that are entirely logical for one group are entirely illogical for the others . . .

On the polylogist view, there is no common or universal logic to serve as the objective standard and arbiter when men disagree. There is no way for members of opposing groups, with opposing views, to resolve their disputes; it is useless to appeal to facts or to evidence for this purpose, since the minds which engage in the process of reasoning obey different rules of thinking.

In the Nazi version of polylogism, . . . there is Aryan logic, British logic, Jewish logic, etc., and these give rise respectively to Aryan truth, British truth, Jewish truth, etc . . . . The movement that first launched the doctrine of polylogism in a culturally influential form [is] Marxism. Aware of the fact that communism cannot be defended by reason, the Marxists proceeded to turn the fallacy of ad hominem into a formal philosophic doctrine, claiming that logic varies with men’s economic class, and that objections to communist doctrine may be dismissed as expressions of “bourgeois logic.” Thus, vilification of an opponent replaces analysis of his argument . . . . Kant [is] the real father of polylogism, the first among the major philosophers officially to sever logic from reality . . . In terms of fundamentals, Nazi polylogism, like Nazi subjectivism, is simply a pluralizing and racializing of the Kantian view.

Actually, polylogism is not a theory of logic—it is a denial of logic. The polylogist invests “logic” with the character of a mystic revelation, and turns logic into its antithesis: instead of being the means of validating objectively men’s claims to knowledge, logic becomes a subjective device to be used to “justify” anything anyone wishes.

Copyright © 1986 by Harry Binswanger. Introduction copyright © 1986 by Leonard Peikoff. All rights reserved. For information address New American Library.


Excerpts from The Ominous Parallels, by Leonard Peikoff. Copyright © 1982 by Leonard Peikoff. Reprinted with permission of Stein and Day Publishers. Excerpts from The Romantic Manifesto, by Ayn Rand. Copyright © 1971, by The Objectivist. Reprinted with permission of Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc. Excerpts from Atlas Shrugged, copyright © 1957 by Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead, copyright © 1943 by Ayn Rand, and For the New Intellectual, copyright © 1961 by Ayn Rand. Reprinted by permission of the Estate of Ayn Rand. Excerpts from Philosophy: Who Needs It, by Ayn Rand. Copyright © 1982 by Leonard Peikoff, Executor, Estate of Ayn Rand. Reprinted by permission of the Estate of Ayn Rand. Excerpts from “The Philosophy of Objectivism” lecture series. Copyright © 1976 by Leonard Peikoff. Reprinted by permission. Excerpts from Alvin Toffler’s interview with Ayn Rand, which first appeared in Playboy magazine. Copyright © 1964. Reprinted by permission of Alvin Toffler. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Plume, a member of Penguin Group (USA), Inc.