Ok, logic people: it’s time to vote on a Grave Matter of Great Pedagogic Import!
So here I am, revising my intro logic book — which, recall, is intended for first year philosophers. I try to get things fairly precise, at least when we get down to formal business after the initial informal faffing around, but I also aim to keep things unscary.
I’m still a bit torn about what to use as metalinguistic variables.
In the first edition of my book, I use a sans serif font for wffs in the formal languages, as in: , .
Then I use serif italic for metavariables, e.g. as in ‘A’, ‘Fn’. Though on the board in class, some years I’d actually use Greek letters for metavariables.
- Pro using italics: Familiar italic type makes the book look rather less mathematical, rather less daunting (most philosophers are neither classicists nor mathematicians — so initially is about as friendly as ‘squiggle squoggle’).
- Pro using Greek: It’s the convention in more advanced texts so you might as well get used to it straight away. And for lecturers writing on the board, and for students taking notes, keeping track in your handwriting of ‘ordinary letters’ (for formal languages) vs Greek letters (metalinguistic) is much easier than trying to mark the distinction between e.g. upright and sloping letters.
In writing the first edition, friendliness-on-the-printed-page was the winning consideration. I still lean in that direction. But I’m interested to know what you think. So here is a poll (vote thinking of the interests of likely readers of an intro text!).
Greek letters for metavariables for beginning logic, or italic letters?
- Greek -- a classical education is a wonderful thing! (77%, 71 Votes)
- Italic -- keep it simple! (23%, 21 Votes)
Total Voters: 92
By all means add further thoughts in the comments below, as obviously this is a Very Serious Issue.