More pre-formal preambles

As I said in my previous logical post, I’ve been looking at what I called the “pre-formal preamble” that you get in (some) entry-level formal logic books like my IFL — i.e. the introductory chapter(s) which informally explain notions like deductive validity, consistency, the idea of arguments coming in families sharing the same inferential form, etc., before the book starts to introducing truth-functional connectives and so on. I noted that, among a selection of older books, Benson Mates has the most lucid and useful such preamble.

Now looking again along my shelves, and at one or two e-copies, how do some later books measure up? Taking the texts in alphabetical order, here’s a few quick headline thoughts for now (I’ll return to say more about Mates and the best of the following in another post).

Barker-Plummer, Barwise and Etchemendy’s, Language, Proof and Logic (1999/2011) has surprisingly little at the outset: three sections on ‘The special role of logic in rational inquiry’, ‘Why learn an articial language?’, ‘Consequence and proof’ take just four and a half pages. By my lights, beginners need more than that by way of scene-setting and motivation.

By contrast, Bergman, Moor and Nelson’s The Logic Book (1980, 1990, 1998) does have a preamble chapter of some 24 pages — or rather it did have such a chapter in the third edition. It oddly gets cut to 14 pages by the sixth edition (in part by dropping the section which contrasts deductive and inductive arguments). Since The Logic Book is widely praised, I’ll say more about this.

Copi’s Symbolic Logic (I’m looking at the 1973 version) gives rather short measure, just over six introductory pages, though they are reasonably crisp and clear. Copi and Cohen’s Introduction to Logic (the 1990 edition) goes to the opposite extreme, having 150 pages or so before turning to symbolic logic at all. Neither is a helpful model for me to follow in IFL! Though I should mention one thing; unlike many others, Copi and Cohen at least do mention early on that real-life passages of argument are usually multi-step affairs (while typically texts define arguments as one-step inferences having premisses, a conclusion, with nothing coming between them).

Goldfarb’s Deductive Logic (2003) has just two pages of preamble before starting in, albeit very gently and clearly, on propositional logic.

Hodges’s Logic (1977) starts with quite a few pages of discursive preamble before truth-functors eventually get introduced on p.86. But these are somewhat idiosyncratically done, and have e.g. some digressions into linguistics that seem less well-placed, forty years on.

Kahane’s Logic and Philosophy: A Modern Introduction (latterly co-authored with Hausman and Tidman; 12 editions from 1969 to 2013) is widely used. In the fourth edition, say, there is a preamble chapter of eight pages without much content, and what there is is pretty sloppy. In the eleventh edition, this has grown to a somewhat better 15 pages (though I do wish people wouldn’t write misleading things like this: “Logic is concerned primarily with argument forms, and only secondarily with arguments”).

Hurley’s Concise Introduction to Logic (also in its twelfth edition, 19??-2015) is again widely used. Whatever its virtues, it is hardly concise, getting to p. 650 before starting on the answers to exercises. There’s some 200 pages of informal preamble before turning to the traditional syllogism. Dipping in, this preamble looks clear enough with myriad examples, but I would have thought that this would badly test the patience of most students. Anyway, not a model to be emulated IFL2!

Lepore’s Meaning and Argument: An Introduction to Logic Through Language (2000) is a not-very-formal formal logic book, which just about belongs in this list. The first 30 pages are preamble before some elementary propositional logic gets under way: this is very accessible but perhaps a touch too elementary, perhaps?

Simpson’s Essentials of Symbolic Logic (1988, 3rd end. 2008) is a lucid book, recommended by a number of people: but it dives straight into propositional logic with almost no preamble at all.

(Nicholas. J.J.) Smith’s nice Logic: The Laws of Truth (2012) starts with some 23 pages (§§1.1-1.5) of very clear general remarks about the nature of propositions, of arguments in general, of necessarily-truth-preserving arguments, and arguments valid in the narrower sense of being necessarily truth-preserving in virtue of (logical) form.

Teller’s Formal Logic Primer (1989) is an earlier favourite of mine, but similarly to Simpson dives in to propositional logic with with only three pages of preamble.

OK, that’s just a selection of the available books out there: I was surprised how few do give a reasonably expansive preamble, scene-setting for students. Thinking ahead to the new webpages to accompany IFL2, I’m planning to add some recommendations for parallel reading for groups of chapters. At the moment, then, it would seem that the leading candidates for recommendations to accompany my preamble chapters might be the material in Mates and/or Nick Smith (or perhaps Bergman, Moor and Nelson in earlier editions) .  So let me take another look at these again, say more about these options, and see if they inspire — in a positive or negative way — any changes in rough draft preamble for IFL2.

To be continued

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