Logic: another “Five Books”

There is an entry I hadn’t noticed before (a recent one?) on the always interesting though sometimes annoying Five Books website, this one suggesting five books on logic.

The recommendations come from Tom Stoneham (a professor of philosophy at York). And they do seem to me to be a somewhat rum collection. I wouldn’t have dreamt in a month of Sundays of starting with Colin Allen and Michael Hand’s Logic Primer (this very brisk and to my mind dull effort may or may not work as a back-up to a suitably tailored lecture course, but as a teach-yourself book there are surely dozens better). Wilfrid Hodges’s Logic, Stoneham’s other mainstream textbook recommendation, is a vast improvement; but it has its quirks. While the idea that you’d recommend Wittgenstein’s Tractatus to someone wanting to find out about logic and why it matters strikes me as frankly perverse.

But it is very easy to carp! So what would I be recommending to the same intended readership?

Well, why not start off with Graham Priest’s typically zestful Logic: A Very Short Introduction (OUP), which should intrigue and tantalize.

And then I’ll suggest — well, forgive me, but of course I will! — the forthcoming second edition of my Introduction to Formal Logic (CUP) as a gentle introduction with a natural deduction flavour. Then I think  that people should read another textbook, with a different approach. (I agree with Stoneham here, that you want to see different approaches, different emphases, early on.) Hodges’s book is indeed a possibility here, or Richard Jeffrey’s wonderful Formal Logic: Its Scope and Limits (now Hackett). But I’d go for Nick Smith’s longer and more discursive Logic: The Laws of Truth (Princeton). My namesake’s book engagingly re-covers the same ground as mine and rather more as it highlights trees, with more side-discussions along the way (lots of interesting endnotes!).

I’ll follow Stoneham in rounding off the introductions to formal work with two more books that look sideways at related philosophical issues (rather than pushing on with more technical logic — the TYL Guide will give someone more than enough pointers on that!). But which two books? Stoneham recommends Quine’s short Philosophy of Logic as being “all about the philosophical arguments that underlie the decisions to do logic in one way or another”. But my book and Nick Smith’s already say quite a bit of that. So let’s set Quine aside, good though it is. As an alternative, how about Stephen Read’s still zippy, but more expansive and more adventurous, Thinking about Logic (OUP)?

Stoneham also recommends Mark Sainsbury’s Paradoxes, but this revisits topics already touched on in Graham Priest’s little book and in Read’s. So why not have some very instructive logical fun with Raymond Smullyan (to be read in parallel with the worthy books by the Smiths!)? How about starting with his old What is the Name of this Book? (now republished by Dover)?

So there you have Stoneham’s five (if you’ve clicked the link, you can also read his reasons, which I’d certainly want to challenge), and you have my five (as of this evening!). What would be your five, still bearing in mind the intended audience?

2 thoughts on “Logic: another “Five Books””

  1. If I can cheat and assume someone wants to explore logic after already having read something like Priest’s book, I’d start with one of the two Smiths. But as a second textbook I’d choose between two that cover the same ground but that take more distinct approaches. If someone was more interested in linguistic niceties and using logic to model natural language, Ernie LePore’s Meaning and Argument is a good option; if the more purely formal element appeals, Warren Goldfarb’s Deductive Logic is an excellent choice.

    Moving twoards philosophical reflection, I’d pick a different Sainsbury: his Logical Forms is very good at covering the same ground as most introductory textbooks but considering philosophical issues along the way. I’d then suggest Susan Haack’s Philosophy of Logics as an alternative to Read. As a fifth, I’d want to suggest something that gives a flavour of original research rather than a textbook, but that’s comprehensible to a relative beginner. I’m not sure there are many books that someone could enjoyably work through after only the previous four (in the way in which you could recommend some Fodor in the philosophy of mind or Kripke in metaphysics after some good textbooks). Perhaps Tim Williamson’s Vagueness comes close or maybe Jackson’s edited Conditionals collection.

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