PL 2310 A



CONTENTS
Textbook: Office: 508 Chaminade Tower
Preferred Email: rskipper@stmarytx.edu I live 70 miles away in Wimberley, Texas. I drive in Sunday night and drive
home on Thursday afternoon. My place in San Antonio does not have a land line
or an Internet connection. Your best bet on contacting me, if I'm not in my
office, is by email. 

The purpose of this class is to explore the most basic version of modern (i.e., symbolic) logic. Logic, of whatever sort, is a formal system of connecting statements with each other in a way that captures some of the complexity of human reasoning. It is very limited in what it can accomplish, but it does what it does very well. It is not my goal to reshape your thinking into the pattern of logic. Logic is only a tool for thinking, not a substitute for it. But by coming to understand exactly how this tool works, and how to use it properly, you will be excercising your mind in new ways. That very exercise, whether you ever actually use logic or not, should improve your overall ability to think.
Symbolic logic is a rulegoverned manipulation of symbols. So are other things, like music, computer programs, and language. To understand logic, you will need to (1) learn how to represent the inner logical structures of statements using a very limited system of symbols, (2) learn to use the rules, one at a time, and (3) develop facility at manipulating the symbols. The process is incremental: Everything you learn in the last part of the semester will build upon what you learn in the early part. And everything you learn you will need to practice. So we will be working a lot of problems in class, and you will be doing a lot of homework exercises. Class activities will be structured around the text and the exercises. I will do some lecturing, but it will be mostly to clarify or amplify the more difficult concepts in the book, which we will follow very closely. I will not waste class time summarizing the reading for you. I will spend class time clarifying anything you are having trouble with.
By the end of the semester, you should be able to
(1) recognize and analyze the logical structure of an argument;
(2) understand the meanings of the truthfunctional connectives,
both in terms of their English equivalents and in terms of their truthtables;
(3) construct rigorous proofs;
(4) demonstrate a firm grasp of basic logical concepts; and
(5) show facility with rulegoverned manipulation of
symbols.
About the textbook: The textbook contains more than enough material for three, very different, logic courses, so I will be leaving out quite a lot. The core of this course will be chapters eight and nine. We will work our way up to it quickly and spend a long time focused on them. It is in chapter nine that you will start to see how a more powerful logic can emerge from the simpler one we started with. By the end of the semester, you should be qualified to move on to advanced logic.
Constructing proofs in symbolic logic is very much like solving
equations in algebra. The rules are not exactly the same, but the process of
working, step by step through welldefined problems to solutions will be familiar
to you from your math courses. The main difference is that, in algebra, you
have to find an unknown solution, but in logic, you are given both the evidence
and the conclusion up front, and your job is simply to supply the steps taking
you from the one to the other. Each week, we will learn new concepts and practice
them with homework exercises.
You should expect to put in six hours of work outside of class
each week. There will be times when the concepts are so difficult that you will
hit a mental roadblock, and you will spend much longer than six hours trying
to overcome the barrier. There will be other times when the concepts are so
simple that you breeze right through a set of exercises. The very concepts that
you find the easiest may be the most difficult for another student, and that
other student may easily grasp the ones that are hardest for you. From my perspective
as a teacher, I find it impossible to predict what any particular student will
find easy and what will be hard. But "easy" and "hard" only
refer to the relative speed that the concept registers with you. Once you've
made the breakthrough on any given concept, it will be so clear and obvious
to you that you will wonder why you ever thought it was hard. I will
do my best to give you individual attention; however, I strongly encourage you
to not rely entirely on me, but to form study groups and help each other with
understanding the reading.
Your grade will be based on the following:
WARNING! Policy Statement
BE HONEST (DON'T CHEAT). It may seem insane to have to say this to responsible adults like you, but I'm saying it. So listen up! Cheating in any form is totally unacceptable. If you cheat, you will fail my course, and I will turn your name in to your Dean. Dishonesty comes in many forms, but one form is copying the homework of another student and turning it in as your own. Studying with other students is a good thing. Comparing your work with that of others is ok, too. You can learn from comparing your approach with that of your peers if you go about answering the questions in different ways. However, every word or symbol that goes into the work that you turn in must be your own. Do not—I repeat DO NOT—take the work of anyone else and turn it in. Borrowing someone else's thinking is not study, it's cheating. You are much better off turning in homework filled with mistakes than turning in work that is not your own. The homework, after all, is practice, not a test. If you don't do the practice, you won't get any help from me, and you won't be able to pass the real tests, so, if you cheat on the homework and I don't catch you, you are much worse off than if I did catch you.
Your Responsibilities