Motivating Advanced Logic

At the Logic Education session at the APA/ASL meeting last week, Branden Fitelson made an excellent suggestion for teachers of graduate level logic courses in philosophy: One of the main problems is that it is often hard to see for students why the stuff they have to learn is relevant to philosophy (or to CS or linguistics, for that matter). Branden’s suggestion is that one should start each topic in such a course with a philosophy paper, or a passage from a philosophy paper, in which the relevant topics are used or referred to. So, e.g., you’d pick a passage from Lewis, or Putnam, and motivate the following topic (completeness, or possible worlds semantics, or what have you) as “we’re now going to figure out what Lewis is saying here.” Now it would be nice to have a repository of such passages/papers–if you have ideas, please post a comment. Here are some examples:

  • Quine, The ways of paradox (Ch. 1 in The Ways of Paradox) has a section on Gödel’s incompleteness theorem.
  • Lucas, Mind, machines and Gödel, Philosophy 36 (1961) for obvious reasons.

7 thoughts on “Motivating Advanced Logic

  1. tarski’s work on truth might be good for motivating issues in model theory. and it seems that understanding proof theory is essential for making sense of dummett’s work on anti-realism. Posted by davidj

  2. Gareth Evan’s paper “Can there be vague objects?” (Analysis, 38 (1978), 208) – it is short, important for a popular area of philosophy, and presupposes familiarity with modal logic.  Posted by Gillian Russell

  3. Yikes, I meant “Evans'” of course. Lynn Truss  will hunt me down like a dog for contributing to the decline of punctuated civilisation. I wonder whether this approach could work for undergraduates in intro logic as well. Maybe we could motivate interest in logic by giving them some of Russell’s stuff on descriptions…I imagine that a number of Boolo’s essays would pique the interest of grad students …  Posted by Gillian Russell

  4. To give a slightly different spin on this issue: it might be that we need more texts of this sort that aren’t classified as “merely” of interest to logician-philosophers, at least for traditional metalogic. Or maybe those texts are out there, but they’re not the ones typically thought of by contemporary analytic philosophers: Descartes’ Regulae, Locke’s Essay, the First Critique, for instance. It seems to me that an education in the history of modern philosophy, if given a certain focus, would lead one right to metatheory. In my notes at the ASL session in SF last week, I tried to indicate this briefly, but only so. Probably I need to write a paper making this clearer yet…Posted by Andy Arana  Posted by Anonymous

  5. There are some quite interesting philosophical applications of logic by Ajdukiewicz, say, his article on Kotarbinski’s reism, the critique of transcendental idealism, or his argumentation on the paradoxes of material implication. In Poland, as far as I know, his papers are widely read, even by first-year students. Posted by Rafal

  6. It occurred to me that might be useful for finding things like this. E.g., search for “book godel ontology ” and you find Quine’s “Ontological relativity” in the Pojman reader Classics of Philosophy . And “book Craig theoretical terms” will point you to some nice discussions (and references) for thye application of Craig’s theorem to the theoretical/observational term debate in the philosophy of science. Posted by Richard Zach

  7. On Gillian’s suggestion. RIG Hughes put out an anthology with Hackett in 1993 entitled A Philosophical Companion to First-Order Logic. Many good suggestions for articles in their. Also, Graham Priest’s Logic: A Very Short Introduction does a good job of motivating logic via philosophical problems.  Posted by Marc Moffett

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