What does it mean to say that logic is formal? The short answer is: it means (or can mean) several different things.
In this paper, I argue that there are (at least) eight main variations of the notion of the formal that are relevant for current discussions in philosophy and logic, and that they are structured in two main clusters, namely the formal as pertaining to forms, and the formal as pertaining to rules. To the first cluster belong the formal as schematic;
the formal as indifference to particulars; the formal as topic-neutrality; the formal as abstraction from intentional content; the formal as de-semantification. To the second cluster belong the formal as computable; the formal as pertaining to regulative rules; the formal as pertaining to constitutive rules. I analyze each of these eight variations, providing their historical background and raising related philosophical questions. The significance of this work of ‘conceptual archeology’ is that it may enhance clarity in debates where the notion of the formal plays a prominent role (such as debates where it is expected to play a demarcating role), but where it is oftentimes used equivocally and/or imprecisely.
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