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Teach yourself logic, #1: Basic first-order logic
Posted on May 6, 2012 It is an odd phenomenon. Serious logic is taught less and less, at least in UK philosophy departments. Yet the amount of formally-informed work in philosophy is ever greater. It seems then that many beginning graduate students (if they are not to cut themselves off from working in some of the most exciting areas) will need to teach themselves, solo and by organising reading groups. But what to read? Here then is the first of a planned series of posts covering different areas of logic of interest to philosophers. This instalment covers the basics, up to a good grasp of the elements of classical firstorder logic. I’ll assume that you’ve already done a smidgin of logic of some kind (utter beginners innocent of all logic and worried by symbols might find Guttenplan’s book a useful preliminary). Two general points I’ve made before. (a) Mathematics (and that’s what we are talking about here, to be honest!) is not a spectator sport: you should try some of the exercises in the books as you read along to check and reinforce comprehension. (b) It is much the best to proceed by reading a series of books which overlap in level, with the next one covering some of the same ground and then pushing on from the previous one, rather than to try to proceed by big leaps. Again this will help reinforce and deepen understanding as you re-encounter the same material from different angles. OK, with that preamble off we go (and though I don’t for a moment expect nearly fifty sets of comments as with the post on fun reads in philosophy, do please add comments — either on what you’ve found works in teaching first-order logic, or on what you’ve found particularly helpful as a student yourself). All the in-print books should be in any decent university library: order them if they aren’t in yours! 1. My Introduction to Formal Logic (2003, 2009) is intended for beginners (and has been the first year text in Cambridge): but it in fact already goes further than seems to be covered in whole undergraduate courses in some good UK universities. It was written as a teachyourself book. It covers proposition and predicate logic ‘by trees’. It even has a completeness proof for predicate logic, though for a beginning book that’s very much an optional extra! 2. Paul Teller’s A Modern Formal Logic Primer (1989) predates my book, is now out of print, but is freely available online. It is excellent, and had I known about it at the time (or listened to Paul’s good advice when I got to know him), I’m not sure that I’d have written my own book. Unlike my book, as well as introducing trees this also covers a (user-friendly) version of natural deduction. It is notably user-friendly. 3. David Bostock’s Intermediate Logic (1997) goes only slightly further than either Paul’s book or my own, and is rather discursive, but it is very well done (and touches on some

but not proving. Nick Smith says: May 6. A notch up in sophistication of approach we find the excellent Ian Chiswell and Wilfrid Hodges. It’s a long book. Guttenplan’s book) that is all that some places seem to offer. 6. 8. (ed. Gabbay and F. You should now be able to cope. #1: Basic first-order logic 1. just out from Princeton University Press. surprise — prefer mine. 1990) is also now out of print. 2012 at 11:14 am Thanks. TYL. ← Book note: Tent and Ziegler’s A Course in Model Theory Book note: Smullyan’s Theory of Formal Systems → 24 Responses to Teach yourself logic. Logic and Structure (4th ed. or formal semantics. Reply • 2. in Handbook of Philosophical Logic. This is now getting a little more ‘mathematical’ in flavour. One thing that will be helpful to independent . Reply • Peter Smith says: May 6. and which sections cover material of particular interest to certain audiences (e. As to Volker Halbach’s book. Vol. the undecidability of first order logic). for desert. look at Raymond Smullyan. Bookmark the permalink. It also includes a healthy dose of philosophy of logic. It goes from the very beginning up to the early stages of metalogic (e. and discussing in some detail. and it shows). but should be manageable at this stage. or nonclassical logics. If you can cope with this book. First-Order Logic (first published 1968) which is an utter classic: you should certainly now be able to read Parts I and II. but it would indeed make a suitable entry point. I still — surprise. Chiswell and Hodges’s book.4. by way of wonderful revision summary. Mathematical Logic (2007). An expanded version of this appears in the 2nd edition of the Handbook. you are doing just fine! Finally. It deals nicely with natural deduction. I should have made it clearer I was thinking of recommendations for people who had done the smidgin of logic (e. but it isn’t always an easy read which is why I list it at this point rather than earlier. 1984-89). Neil Tennant’s Natural Logic (1978.g. I still like this a lot as a text on natural deduction (Tennant thinks that this approach to logic is philosophically significant. I’ll edit to clarify. 7. Daniel says: May 6. but freely available from the author’s website. though certainly not for a complete beginner).g. with Wilfrid Hodges’s ‘Elementary Predicate Logic’. proving some soundness and completeness results. but the Preface sets out which sections cover the core logic that everyone should know. etc. sequent calculus) in all their major varieties. is intended to be suitable for independent study. Daniel. axiomatic proofs.g. 1. by D. which I worked through by myself at sixth-form. natural deduction. Guenthner: Reidel. as well as the formal material — and it covers all the major forms of proof (trees. 5. 2012 at 5:01 pm My new book Logic: The Laws of Truth. 2012 at 10:11 am I haven’t read any on your list besides the Bostock (which is very good. started life as teaching notes for a course based on the classic book by Dirk van Dalen. issues such as free logic which are not dealt with in our book). they say. 2004 — at this stage you can omit the last chapter). This entry was posted in Logic. Halbach’s ‘Logic Manual’ is the current Oxford text and is fairly easy to work through alone also (with exercises online). I’d suggest Guttenplan’s ‘Languages of Logic’. those wishing to prepare themselves to study mathematical logic.).

I really like Teller’s Primer. Reply 5. I thought it was one of the more interesting into books I’ve seen. whereas the only result they achieve is boring the reader. It’s crystal clear. and readers coming with enough “mathematical maturity” could love it. because of the later chapters. the philosophy graduate student starting out learning some logic might find that a bit alarming. like Kaye’s. ‘Further into Mathematical Logic’.readers is that the answers to the exercises are online (or at least will be very soon. 2012 at 4:12 pm There’s a book I first saw mentioned on one of your blog posts (iirc the same one that first mentioned Chiswell and Hodge): Richard Kaye’s The Mathematics of Logic: A Guide to Completeness Theorems and their Applications. Its great advantage (besides being free) is that it is short. Reply • Peter Smith says: May 8. compact without being terse. But I certainly agree that this is a very good book. I used to recommend it to students who wanted something more than Guttenplan and they all loved it. I use the Primer regularly when teaching intro courses. the book starts with chapters on König’s Lemma and on posets. 2012 at 1:01 pm Herb Enderton’s A Mathematical Introduction to Logic is still worthy of honorable mention. Enderton’s book. Hodges’s overview article should now be able to read it with profit. Reply 3. Reply 4. Rowsity Moid says: May 7. 2012 at 9:55 am Great list. One of the virtues of this subject is that each work on the list adds some unique contribution to its reader. For example. Reply • Peter Smith says: May 9. Aldo Antonelli says: May 7. Many authors think that they can make the material more accessible by being prolix. A bit arbitrarily. But perhaps the first half of the book should indeed be on this introductory . and makes it all seem so easy. once the final formatting is completed). too. 2012 at 2:19 am Agreed on both counts. It’s a real joy to read. 2012 at 12:43 am I think Kaye’s intended audience is people with a certain mathematical background. Matthew says: May 7. Clark says: May 8. is on my draft list for a later instalment. 2012 at 3:09 pm Warren Goldfarb’s Deductive Logic is superb. Reply • 6. It informs the beginner without condescension.g. And even non-mathmos who having got as far as coping with e.

list too. Gödelian incompleteness at the end) and I used to like this book a lot. something I don’t think I’ve seen before. Reply • Peter Smith says: May 10. In fact. Kleene. and pick some other subject instead. AZ says: May 9. Edward says: May 10. such as acrostics or beekeeping. What do you think of J C Beall’s “Logic The Basics” and of Geoffrey Hunter’s “Metalogic: An Introduction to the metatheory of Standard First Order Logic”? Reply • Peter Smith says: May 10. It looked like its approach to incompleteness was to do it for 2nd-order logic. my book is pretty much the first-order logic part of Jeffrey’s. If you can manage the fast version on self-study. we suggest that he close the book now. done more slowly.» Reply 8. To any student who is not ready to do so. 2012 at 4:28 pm I love Jeffrey’s book. 2012 at 4:24 pm Beall’s book — which is discussing paracomplete and paraconsistent logics within sixty pages — is hardly the place to start. 2012 at 2:28 pm Dear Peter.g. 2012 at 2:17 pm I looked at Jeffrey’s Formal Logic: Its Scope and Limits in a bookshop the other day. It will be on my reading list for nonclassical logics. It is . great! But I wouldn’t have written my book if I hadn’t found that many readers need to go my slowly at the beginning. It was love at first reading: «It will be very important as we proceed to keep in mind this distinction between the logic we are studying (the object logic) and our use of logic in studying it (the observer’s logic). Rowsity Moid says: May 10. but it’s been quite a while since I’ve opened a copy. There’s also Machover’s Set Theory. Hunter’s book by contrast is mostly bang on topic (though goes further towards into e. But this belongs on a later ‘Further into Mathematical Logic’ list. If yes. and it seemed interesting. then the only book that I can think of for self-teaching serious first-order logic is «Mathematical logic» by Stephen C. 2012 at 9:23 pm I don’t know if I am doing right in interpreting «serious logic» as meaning metalogic. Machover’s book is very nice too. but doesn’t belong here. Logic and their Limitations. Reply • 7. Reply • 9.

TLB’s stodginess was initially a welcome change from having had to teach from Posposel when I was a teaching assistant. I found myself having to write very extensive accompanying handouts). But as I’m choosing a book for next year. so much as to another list “Going beyond the first-order”. and I’m not sure it justifies the $USD 130 price tag against. 2012 at 2:23 pm I find The Logic Book rather ‘dense’ (in your word) and stodgy. It seems it’s time to revisit whether there’s a happy balance between lightness and rigor in Teller’s book. and Nelson’s The Logic Book because I like how fully they spell things out. Reply • ChrisE says: May 21. and reading the above post and also Aldo Antonelli’s comment. But how did your students find it — what was the feedback in course questionnaires? I can’t imagine they found the book very enticing. 2012 at 6:40 am Another intermediate-level text worth putting on this list is “Logical Options: An Introduction to Classical and Alternative Logics” by John L. and second-order logics. I’m thinking that that might not be the greatest virtue. Still. David DeVidi. but perhaps prematurely. Reply • Peter Smith says: May 21. Bell. It covers all sorts of interesting material. Moor. And they haven’t experienced other books. three-valued. and I’ve never tried using it. 2012 at 4:41 pm You’re right to deflect the question towards my students’ evaluations. Reply • 10.Luke says: May 11. For my part. Blackburn … and so I’ve discounted them. Reply • 11. Nick Smith’s. yours. And it has some virtues (though when I taught a seminar based on it.. Mill. 2012 at 1:17 pm I have for some years been using Bergmann. and Graham Solomon. many-sorted. and others. intuitionistic. Ayer. including modal. The price tag is just outrageous. Teller which I enjoyed as an undergraduate. Reply • Peter Smith says: May 16.ChrisE says: May 21. suggestions that it was overly challenging have come roughly at the same rate as they do for the likes of Hume. (It also has frustratingly many errors. though an errata sheet is published. . fuzzy. I don’t think this belongs to the list “Getting your head around basic first-order logic”. Hempel.) I wonder if anyone else has views on The Logic Book.perhaps showing its age in some ways (which is why it wouldn’t make my current shortlist). but it certainly has its virtues. yes.g. I’m not sure how many students actually work through the fairly dense text. 2012 at 9:06 am An intermediate text. e. but while my students’ responses to The Logic Book have never been glowing.

along with the answers to these further exercises [now you are on your own!]. (iii) Hand in your self-marked work.Chris S. That is why I like Teller’s Primer. and the real strength of the book is the wealth of exercises to choose from. which forces me to make up my own. 2012 at 8:18 am I have used The Logic Book to teach intro courses. Reply • 13. I think the book is not bad. that’s why I am being paid the big bucks. and self-correct your answers. Two-part Worksheets in this format (example here) can very significantly cut the amount of work needed from the poor grad students you are employing as markers! • 12. hey. and there is no reason to push new and “improved” editions on the students. (I do regret that Paul has posted answers to the exercises. with minor differences in style of presentation etc. I find most introductory logic textbooks to be about as good. surprise. and know many people who have likewise used it for the same purpose. You can now set class work in the following format. but. The subject matter has not changed in decades. surprise. noting anything you still don’t understand. I agree with Peter that the price is outrageous. 2012 at 8:43 am Here’s one reason for have at least a lot of answers to exercises provided on the web.Rowsity Moid says: May 23. and we are thinking here particularly about books that work for solo study (as against a classroom text backing up lectures). 2012 at 8:04 am Colin Howson’s Logic with Trees: An Introduction to Symbolic Logic? Reply • Peter Smith says: May 23. and you can’t beat the price. Having said that. (ii) Then check your answers against the model answers from the web.) Reply • Peter Smith says: May 23. 2012 at 8:45 am . I prefer my version of logic-with-trees — if only because mine has more worked examples. It’s about as good as any other.Reply • Aldo Antonelli says: May 23. for heaven’s sake. The meta-theory chapters are irrelevant for intro classes. 2012 at 8:31 am Well. but I have also heard that the publisher is willing to put together customized version leaving out any unwanted chapters (for a reduced price). (i) Do such and such exercises. says: June 26.

What about Rosen’s Discrete Mathematics and its Applications? Reply 14. .Stumbled across this website by accident.

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