2B03 home

CLASSES: M, W, 2:30-3:20 pm, F 4:30-5:20 pm       BSB 147 + tutorials

INSTRUCTOR: Richard T. W. Arthur      (rarthur at mcmaster dot ca)  

Office Hours:   W 4:00-5:00 pm     UH 305; ext. 23470.

About the Course

The aim of this course is to enhance your skills in reasoning logically and analyzing argument. To this end we will study the principles of natural deduction, both propositional and predicate logic, as well as learning techniques for analyzing and evaluating natural arguments. Although symbolic logic is mathematical in its appearance and aesthetic appeal, and indeed forms part of the foundation of modern mathematics and computer science, it is more like an artificial language to learn, and no special aptitude for math is necessary for this course.

The main thrust of the course will be to enhance your awareness of the natural arguments you encounter every day in books, conversations, and the media, and to provide you with the means for evaluating many of them. This will involve learning to recognize the logical forms of arguments and how to express them symbolically, and then applying the various techniques and proofs of propositional and predicate logic to determine their validity. It will also involve learning certain less formal methods for analyzing natural arguments, including the kind of sustained theoretical arguments you meet in your academic studies. These methods will complement the methods of symbolic logic, motivating their construction and use.

Course Objectives

To enhance your skills in reasoning logically and analyzing the kinds of arguments you will come across elsewhere in your studies and in the course of your lives;

To give you a familiarity with rigour and a grounding in the art of formal reasoning;

To equip you with elementary logical principles and methods you will need to pursue further study, whether in the upper level philosophy courses that presuppose a knowledge of them, or in mathematics, or in computer science.

Although logic has been studied as a sub-discipline of philosophy for over 2,400 years, its most recent rigorous formulation in the early 20th century made it an integral part of the foundations of mathematics, and led to the creation of computer science. In its modern form it is therefore an interdisciplinary field par excellence, as witnessed by the very wide variety of majors who enroll in the course. It is also a crucial course for philosophy majors, since many upper level courses (3D03, 3E03, 3O03, 4D03, 4H03 as well as, of course, Intermediate Logic 4XX3) presuppose familiarity with it. Graduates of this course typically speak of the inestimable value of the critical skills they learn in this course for their success in their subsequent studies in the undergraduate curriculum, and of its being an ideal preparation for qualifying exams like LSAT. 

© Richard T. W. Arthur 2016