Teach Yourself Logic: A Study Guide

It is an odd phenomenon, and a rather depressing one too. Serious logic is seemingly taught less and less, at least in UK philosophy departments. Yet logic itself is, of course, no less exciting and rewarding than it ever was, and the amount of important formally-informed work in philosophy is if anything ever greater. Many maths departments too teach little or no logic, despite the centrality of the subject.

It seems then that many beginning graduate students in philosophy and maths will need to teach themselves from books, either solo or by organising study groups. But what to read? I have just counted almost three hundred formal logic books of one kind or another on my own shelves — and of course these form only a selection of what is out there. Students need a reader’s Guide, i.e. an annotated reading list for self-study, giving some advice about the available books: so here is my (on-going) attempt to provide one. So download

Teach Yourself Logic: A Study Guide, Version 10.0 (20 March 2014)

It goes without saying, of course, that all constructive comments and suggestions will be most warmly welcomed. Many thanks, in particular, to those who have earlier sent comments which are now deleted because I’ve taken up the suggestions in newer versions of the Guide.

16 Responses to Teach Yourself Logic: A Study Guide

  1. Thomas Klimpel says:

    I wonder how it is possible that a book like Ebbinghaus et al, which is very accessible and quite comprehensive in the (5th edition of the) German original, consistently gets so devastating reviews, for the (2nd edition) of the English translation. You write
    > Ch. 11 is by some way the longest in the book, on ‘Free Models and Logic Programming’. This is material we haven’t covered in this Guide. But again it doesn’t strike me as a particular attractive introduction (we will perhaps mention some better alternatives in a future section to be added to Chapter 3).
    > [...]
    > *Summary verdict* The core material in Part A of the book is covered better (more accessibly, more elegantly) elsewhere.

    Even so chapter 11 is really the hardest chapter of the entire book, dismissing it as inaccessible and inelegant without giving a better alternative indicates that the book must strike some really negative chords for philosophically oriented English readers. Or perhaps it is running completely against the flow of thought of the reviewers???

  2. Thomas Klimpel says:

    I wonder a bit what would happen if the books “Grenzen der Mathematik” and “Die Gödel’schen Unvollständigkeitssätze” of Prof. Dr. Dirk W. Hoffmann: () would prove so “good” and popular that they would be translated into English. Both books probably have strong and weak parts, but at least the book “Grenzen der Mathematik” is interesting and rewarding to read in the German original. (I haven’t read “Die Gödel’schen Unvollständigkeitssätze”, so I can’t say anything about it.) Would the books attract negative reviews criticizing the weaker parts of the book without mentioning the strong parts, because the text and the flow of thought just wouldn’t be quite right?

  3. Appy says:

    Wow. This guide is unusually thorough. But no love for lambda calculi/ combinatory logic? Too computer sciency?

  4. Appy says:

    Apparently Smullyan has a new book called Introduction to Mathematical Logic coming out in a few months. I’ll be interested to see what that covers. I’m hoping it’ll be more than just another puzzle book.

    Just something to mention for future revisions!

    • David Auerbach says:

      Smullyan has a logic text out: Logical Labyrinths. It’s his First-order Logic book rewritten to intersperse puzzle, problems , more prose and typos. Also just out is The Gödelian puzzle book.

      • Peter Smith says:

        Heavens! Has Smullyan discovered the secret, if not of eternal youth, then at least eternal authorship ….? I guess I should indeed look at these three books though!

        • Trismegistos says:

          He did. I one of his books he states the recipe: if you can prove that for any day n you will be alive for next day n + 1, you will live forever. So probably he just found the proof.

  5. Ahmad Alhour says:

    Hey. Thanks for sharing the guide.

    I got a little bit confused around the baby logic section, say I buy your IFL book, will it be sufficient enough for me not to study Quine’s Elementary Logic book? I’m asking this because I’m buying a bunch of books and I can’t make up my minds about these two…

    On a side note, just finished reading a book on Critical Thinking.


    • Peter Smith says:

      IFL is about three times the length of Quine’s little book, so (as you’d expect) goes quite a bit further in various ways. But his is a lovely classic, still worth reading too to reinforce some basic ideas, and give you a somewhat different perspective on some topics.

  6. Jason says:

    What are your thoughts on Quine’s “Set Theory and Its Logic” book? Is that a good treatment of basic set theory? How advanced would you say it is? Thanks much


    • Peter Smith says:

      The set theorists I know tend to be a bit harsh about Quine’s book (I’m not sure how fairly, but I’m no set theorist). I still think it is worth looking at for the different perspectives it provides, though I wouldn’t recommend starting there. As for difficulty, it is about on a par with e.g. Enderton’s set theory book, I’d have thought.

  7. Alic says:

    Thanks so much for this guide, I’m finding it immensely useful. I’ve worked through IFL and am now looking to go further.

    I have a question which I thought you might be in a position to answer. I have very little maths background (I stopped at GCSE at school!) but am really interested in the foundations of maths (logic and set theory) for philosophical reasons. Realistically, how far am I likely to get without knowing much maths? And if the answer is ‘not far’, then what maths should I try to learn in order to get further?

  8. Mary says:

    Every time I have tried to download Teach Yourself Logic, my computer goes crazy. Does this location have malware?

    • Peter Smith says:

      Thanks for the alert, but I have not had previous report of problems (the file has been there three months), and running an initial scan on the LogicMatters site doesn’t reveal any problems either …. But I will double-check.

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