I thought this book was dreadful, and it is one of the few books I’ve tossed in
the recycling bin after reading.
In the 90’s, I went through notepads and erasers grinding through the work
required to earn my philosophy degree’s required symbolic logic credit. I took
simple proofs to dead-end after dead-end. I remember silently scratching away
at sheet after sheet of green engineering paper that had been gifted to
me by my roommate Justin on many late nights trying to get those damnable
proofs to work out. Every failure or wadded-up paper was an opportunity; it
was a chance to start over and see the problem differently. It was laborious,
but I felt better after every surmounted obstacle.
Every textbook section or class would introduce a new spell: DeMorgan’s
Theorems, modus ponens, modus tollens, “existential instantiation,” etc.
and then throw terse, dense premises at us that we must transform to a
conclusion. It’s in this class, under the guidance of my then-TA, Tracy
Lupher, that I learned debugging in its most essential form. I eventually
earned an A in the class, acing the final. My 5th edition of Irving
M. Copi’s “Symbolic Logic” will travel with me as long as I have a pulse as a
testament to that challenge.
As such, I take logic pretty seriously. Decades on now, I still love the topic
and, sadly, have gotten a bit rusty. While visiting Foyle’s in Charing
Cross last year, I saw The Art of Logic and thought a refresher from
a “lay” book would be nice. As a writer of curriculum, I’m always keen to see
how others take the difficult palatable as well, so I thought the book might
serve in both of those capacities.
Sadly, my high expectations for this book were not realized. Instead, it:
- Failed to provide substantial footing as an introduction to logic
- Lost its way both by structure and poor editing
- And had an odd fixation with using distracting and contentious social-justice
scenarios for demonstrating the poorly-introduced logical concepts —
and I’m a liberal!
In total, my dislike for this book was so great I had to write a lengthy post
about it. I’ve included notes about the few bright spots as well.