PHIL 358
Reasoning and Inference: The Philosophy of Logic
Last Offered Spring 2022
Division II Writing Skills
This course is not offered in the current catalog

Class Details

This is a course in the philosophy of logic. What, you may ask, is the philosophy of logic? In a logic class, we think about how to represent ordinary language and thinking within formal systems and how to prove various things within these systems. In a philosophy of logic class, we think about what we are doing when we do logic. An example might be helpful. You are psyched to be reading this course description right now. At least, let’s assume that you are for the sake of argument. A number of things follow from this happy assumption. Here are a few: (i) You are psyched. (ii) You are reading. (iii) You exist. (iv) It is possible that you are reading. (v) Either you are reading or you are a fish. In the first part of this course, we are going to focus on what this following-from business amounts to, and ask whether there is a special sense of following-from that characterizes logic? We will also try to get more precise in our understanding of some of the key concepts in logic, such as contradiction, consistency, logical consequence, syntax and semantics. In the second part of the course, we will turn to the fundamental questions concerning the status and structure of logic. Logic is sometimes called the study of reason. But, is logic the study of how people do reason, or is it the study of how people should reason? Against the first, people often don’t seem to reason very well. On the other hand, if logic is about how we should reason, what makes it the case that we should reason one way rather than another? What makes a theorem of logic true? For that matter, what are logical theorems even about? Should we revise logic in light of empirical discoveries in, for example, physics or psychology? If so, what are the constraints on good revisions? Logicians and mathematicians have done a good deal of work developing extensions of and alternatives to classical logic. Some philosophers have wondered, however, whether the notion of an alternative logic is even coherent. We will end the course with a discussion of some of these alternatives. Among the authors we will read are: Aristotle, Frege, Russell, Quine, Kripke, Putnam, Field and Fine.
The Class: Format: tutorial; There are likely to be video presentations of formal material. There may also be help sessions for problem sets.
Limit: 10
Expected: 8
Class#: 3966
Grading: no pass/fail option, no fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: Students will write five tutorial papers and five response papers. In addition, they will revise one of these papers in light of comments from their partner and the instructor. Finally, there may be some problem sets to solidify understanding of formal material.
Prerequisites: Although not strictly necessary, a prior course in logic or discrete mathematics will be very helpful. In any case, some comfort with formal reasoning will be assumed as we will be going through an accelerated presentation of logical systems.
Enrollment Preferences: Philosophy majors. Students with a background and interest in formal reasoning.
Distributions: Division II Writing Skills
WS Notes: Students will write 5 tutorial papers and 5 responses. The instructor and the respondent will attend both to the content and to the writing quality of the tutorial papers. Finally students will substantially revise one of their tutorial papers in consultation with the instructor.
Attributes: PHIL Contemp Metaphysics + Epistemology Courses

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