Metatome on Teaching Formal Logic

Over at Metatome, Adam Potthast asks, “Does anyone have any special things they do to give formal logic more take-home value?” By which he means, “how do you motivate teaching formal logic to students who aren’t math, physics or philosophy majors.” And that’s a good question. I’ve so far only tried to increase the “take-home value” of formal logic for math, CS, and philosophy students. One suggestion is to include more history of logic. That, it seems to me, is important because otherwise it’s hard for the kids to see why anyone would even want to do all this stuff with formal symbols. But I’m not sure how much this will be appreciated by the students who aren’t math, CS, or philosophy majors. Well, maybe by the philosophy majors need to be specially motivated anyway, and talking about logic and Frege and Russell, Wittgenstein and Carnap might do that. And Leibniz, of course.

3 thoughts on “Metatome on Teaching Formal Logic

  1. Well, formal logic is quite useful for linguistics (a point which Alexander Leitsch always missed).

  2. I don’t think an intro to logic course would have value for people not in those subjects (linguistics, CS, math, and philosophy of course) as anything but an intellectual exercise. As my friend said, you can have an A paper in a class (even in philosophy) that affirms the consequent. Detecting a logical fallacy in a non-purely logical argument is not *really* such an applicable thing. To really rebut someone’s argument in, say, politics, you’d need more than that, in my opinion. Though logical fallacies do allow for a lot of seemingly impressive rhetorical points 🙂

  3. I spoke to my students about the connection of arguments to law, and also to late-night debates while having a drink with friends. “Just imagine how smart you’d feel if you caught somebody affirming the consequent!” Don’t know if it worked or not…

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