Logical Options, in retrospect

A quick end-of-term report on using Bell, DeVidi and Solomon’s Logical Options as reading for a seminar, in case my experiences with this book are useful to others choosing a text.

Background: all our first-year students do a formal logic course using my (tree based) Introduction to Formal Logic. Then they also have to do a second year logic paper which is largely philosophical logic, but which also contains a component of more formal logic work. The formal syllabus covers [1] more on systems of logic other than trees, [2] more on interpretation of the quantifiers, [3] the idea of a formal theory, [4] modal logic, [5] the idea of intuitionistic logic. I had already lectured a bit on [4] and Michael Potter on [1] and [5]. I put on eight seminars, two each on the first four topics, for two groups of self-selected logic fans.

Logical Options seemed a perfect choice for a book to follow. It’s tree based, so it follows on nicely from our first year course: and it covers [1] to [5] and a bit more.

I didn’t think, though, that the book worked that well. I found myself producing quite extensive handouts for topics [1] to [3] (they are linked on my website), because Bell, DeVidi and Solomon’s discussions are often just too terse to be useful. For just one example, no one would really understand the idea of a natural deduction system from their presentation (they give a set of rules, but oddly describe neither a Gentzen nor a Fitch method of setting out proofs using those rules). Some students found Logical Options quite useful as a summary discussion after they had read my more long-winded handouts: but no-one — and these are very clever and very eager students — said that they found the book worked well for them as a stand-alone read. So, as they say, close but no cigar.

I will probably give similar seminars next year, but organized a bit differently — I’ll expand/improve my handouts, and then use them as the main materials, with Logical Options as supplementary material rather than (as this year) officially focus on the book.

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