Epilogue: Later Constituencies of Religious Logics and the Separation of Logic and Divinity at Harvard

    One Sunday, Brattle declared to his congregation:

    Indeed, the times are corrupt, and God is angry, and what judgments we may live to see, God only knows. However, this we may be assured of, that let floods of wrath come down upon this land, yet as for those few that walk in the integrity of their hearts, they are in the hands of God. He will protect them....317

    Brattle’s A Compendium of Logick was a textbook for corrupt times. So was Morton’s A Logick System. Thomas Brattle, brother and friend of the two logicians, saw the Salem witch trials as a result of a breakdown of right thinking and evidence of corrupt times. “That the Justices have thus far given ear to the Devil,” Thomas Brattle wrote, “I think may be mathematically demonstrated to any man of common sense.”318 Carefully stating his argument in logical terms, Brattle insisted that instead of divine testimony being the foundation of certainty, the judges were turning the colony’s law over to diabolical testimony: “I think it will appear evident to any one, that the Devil’s information is the fundamental testimony that is gone upon the apprehending of the aforesaid people.”319 The Devil, he went on, is a liar; whereas, “God is a God of truth; and the good Spirits will not lie.” Thomas Brattle then pleaded that this and other arguments should convince people to pray with “earnest supplication” that God direct the judges to stop the proceedings and aright their wrongs; otherwise, he concluded, if “God does not graciously appear for us, I think we may conclude that New England is undone and undone.”320

    Underlying Brattle’s rhetoric is the premise that right thinking will help save New England, that logic will save New Englanders from listening to the Devil. In this Thomas Brattle essentially affirmed the perspective of the logic textbooks by Morton and his brother. Without the certainty of divine testimony that cannot deceive, then New England is “undone and undone.”

    William Brattle’s Cartesian logic—drawing from a tradition of religious and dogmatic logics going back to Melanchthon—was taught to students as the most natural and rational method of discovering, maintaining, and expanding dogmatic certainty in Christianity. In the eighteenth century, many Lockean and Scottish Common Sense logic textbooks carried on the religiously-oriented tradition with their emphasis on God’s role in the mind and in delivering and confirming divine testimony. Isaac Watts’s Logic, or the Art of Reason, which was first published in 1725, and popular for the next hundred years, was the most influential Lockean version of a religiously-oriented and dogmatically-inclined textbook used in the British Empire. Scottish textbooks derived from the work of Thomas Reid, Professor of Moral Philosophy at the University of Glasgow, increasingly became influential and continued to emphasize God’s communication in the mind and through divine testimony.

    When Brattle’s textbooks disappear from the curriculum in 1767 when the Overseers at Harvard reformed the structure of teaching, so that tutors would be assigned to subjects rather than students, the president and faculty ruled that Watts’s Logick and Locke’s Essay were to be the textbooks taught by the logic tutor. Thomas Siegel’s analysis of the textbooks sold out of Jeremiah Condy’s bookshop in Boston from 1759 to 1770, shows that Watts’s Logick and Philosophical Essays were among the most popular books bought by Harvard students during that era. After the turn of the century, Watts’s importance in the Harvard curriculum diminished.321 Ten logic tutors of various levels of religious dogmatism passed through the college before 1795, when Levi Hedge (1766–1844) was appointed tutor. Hedge moved the college away from Watts more toward the Scottish logicians.

    Hedge was a dependable addition to the faculty, and in 1810 he was promoted to the first College Professorship of Logic and Metaphysics.322 After Brattle, Hedge is the second Harvard teacher to write an influential logic textbook which served students for more than half a century. The first edition of Elements of Logic: A Summary of the General Principles and Different Modes of Reasoning was published in 1816. The third edition of 1821 was revised slightly and printed with smaller type to make it more affordable. In 1843, the third edition was again reprinted. An anonymous book reviewer in 1816 criticized Hedge’s text for being short and devoid of rhetoric; however, it was useful.323

    Choosing not to follow the tradition of Brattle and Watts, Hedge avoided the religious aspects of logic. Even when dealing with testimony, Hedge offered no category of divine testimony. As for “transmitted or traditional,” knowledge, he wrote:

    The general principle with regard to this sort of testimony is, that the further it travels from its original source, that is, from the immediate witness of the fact, the weaker it becomes.324

    This is straight Lockeanism and Scottish Common Sense without any of Locke’s or Reid’s digressions to explain how divine testimony or holy scriptures did not fit the general principle of testimony. The most telling statement follows when Hedge deals with testimony of supernatural events or miracles:

    These, contradicting our invariable experience, and opposing the well known laws of corporeal nature, are in themselves the highest degree improbable; and require for their belief a testimony so ample, and attended by such circumstances, as would render its falsehood no less miraculous than the fact attested.325

    This statement offers little solace to religious students. Hedge’s logic, replacing the influence of Watts’s logic, is the first de-Christianized logic textbook to have significant influence in the Harvard curriculum. Up until the end of the eighteenth century, logic at Harvard was taught with a religious orientation. With the new century and Hedge’s text, logic and religion were separated.

    By 1795, when Hedge was hired, the undergraduate curriculum served an increasingly diverse constituency. The logic course was no longer expected to service a particular religious orthodoxy and the logic curriculum no longer was designed to serve the divinity curriculum. Between 1803 and 1808, the door was thrown open for basic changes in the relationship of Calvinistic Christianity to Harvard’s curriculum when a controversy developed over what type of religious man would become the third Hollis Professor of Divinity. David Tappan, the second chair holder, had been a Calvinist like his predecessor Wigglesworth. A Unitarian was appointed Tappan’s successor and a Unitarian became president of the college.

    The Unitarian triumph at the college caused the Trinitarians to create their own seminary at Andover in 1808. Within the next two decades, a rapid succession of specialized graduate schools for ministers were established throughout the country which separated the undergraduate curriculum from divinity.326 The new separation of divinity from the undergraduate curriculum freed logic from serving any specific religious constituency. Hedge was elevated to a new professorship of logic in 1810, and Harvard created its own graduate divinity school in 1815. It is no coincidence that the logic professor felt free to publish a new, non-religious, logic textbook the year after his logic classes became free from subservience to divinity classes.

    The demise of religiously-oriented and dogmatically-inclined logic textbooks closely follows the development of the modern university in the nineteenth century. Without the need to teach divinity, undergraduate curricula throughout the country could freely be secularized. Also the religious diversity of the student body and faculty in most nineteenth-century colleges encouraged expectations that classes would support a limited, generic, and largely moral Christian sensibility rather than a specific dogmatic theology. Instead of teaching the foundations of rational Christianity in freshman and sophomore logic classes, a newer form of Christian sensibility was increasingly taught in obligatory moral philosophy classes during the senior year.

    Modern logic avoids the epistemology, psychology, and emphasis on decision-making that made humanistic logic so important in colleges; however, the old humanistic logic is being revived, in part, in the late twentieth century, often under the general title of “critical thinking.” The new courses and textbooks often renew the humanistic concern for practical merging of thought and fife. They avoid the narrowness of modern logic in an attempt to embrace rational decision-making in general. In the context of such breadth, religious-based critical thinking textbooks can flourish in colleges which serve specific religious constituencies. At Calvin College in Michigan, a philosophy professor has published a textbook titled Return to Reason, which is a type of critical thinking manual that could be described as religiously-oriented and dogmatically-inclined.327 This short textbook, which is used in philosophy courses at several Christian colleges, is split into two parts: “The Way of Argument” and “The Way of Reason” and simplifies the teachings of a new Calvinistic movement called Reformed Epistemology. Although this movement relies heavily on the philosophy of Thomas Reid and John Calvin, its essential Augustinianism makes it similar to Morton’s and Brattle’s logics. In this context, Return to Reason shows that the humanistic tradition of religiously-oriented and dogmatically inclined logic has not died.328