What’s your favorite logic textbook?

I have always wanted to challenge myself to teach logic or symbolic logic.  Every opportunity I have had to teach logic never really came to be, lack of enrollment, registrar forgetting to put the course on the schedule, but I am now in a situation that I might be teaching it in the coming year where I will likely have enrollment and the course will actually happen.  I know this will take some disciplined preparation on my part, and I am up for the task, but I am struggling at this point to arrive at a compelling text.

Do any of you have experience teaching logic, and what text or texts do you use?

18 thoughts on “What’s your favorite logic textbook?

  1. Despite not having taught from it, I’d do Hurley’s logic if I weren’t assigned a required text. I like Shick and Vaughn for Critical Thinking with some science and general interest.

  2. I tried Language, Proof, and Logic this past term. Some students were ticked off because there’s not much of a re-sale market for that text. Its main selling point is its software, but if you buy a used copy of the book you don’t have access to the software. As a result, students pretty much have to pay full price for a new copy. Also, the authors need a better distributor. Their current distributor is the University of Chicago Press, which is not very accommodating when it comes to desk copies. E.g., when the relevant official at my university’s textbook store placed the textbook order for my class, she ordered two desk copies (one for me, one for my TA). Chicago simply refused to send the desk copies. It turned out that they won’t send any unless you write them a signed letter that provides certain bits of info. I didn’t find out about this until about a week into the class. When they did dispatch the book, they seem to have chosen the slowest mailing option. I didn’t get the text til the third week of classes and had to rely on a library copy (with no access to the software). They never did send the second copy for my TA. So, if you opt for it be sure to order it ASAP. The authors of LPL are pretty spartan with the derivation rules. They made that choice, I think, in order to keep the formal system relatively simple. That’s a benefit if you go through the more advanced parts of the text, in which they prove some results about the system. If I teach formal logic again, I’ll go back to using The Logic Book by Bergmann, Moor, and Nelson. Also popular in my neck of the woods is Logic: Techniques of Formal Reasoning by Kalish, Montague, and Mar. It’s pitched at a slightly higher level of difficulty than The Logic Book. All three of these texts can be used for two courses, one in intro formal logic and the other for a more advanced course that gets into meta-logic. The Logic Book comes with a solution manual for the students, which has solutions for about half the exercise questions. The rest of the questions are answered in a separate Instructor’s Manual. There are also some good on-line resources. E.g., there’s Blogic by David Velleman and Logic Self-Taught: a Workbook (by Katazhyna Papzhytska); Joe Lau at the Univ of Hong Kong maintains a site called “Critical Thinking Web”, which includes tutorial modules for some formal logic. (I’m not posting the links since that tends to get comments relegated to a spam file but Google should call up these sites quickly.) I don’t know if you plan to get into modal logic, but there’s a site called ‘Modal Logic Playground’. Finally, there’s a good Mac app for constructing proofs (The Logic App). I think it costs about $4.

  3. Per my recommendation of Hurley’s text. The Reasons. Hurley, more than any other text I’ve encountered, gives wide coverage in an easy to understand manner. Also, it’s so large and diverse in its topics that it’s easier to tailor the class. Other texts I’ve used have narrower coverage, are less easy to understand, have less examples, etc. However, the Hurley text is frightfully expensive new or used.

    As for making the experience enjoyable for students, I think the #1 thing is to prepare as many interesting examples and practice exercises as you can. Logic, like math, will never endear itself to most, but can be made more fun by not teaching it in a rote way. I think Hurley’s text makes that easier for the instructor because of the depth of its resources. I also recommend the prior suggestions about logic proof software. Since practice is key for logic, it is helpful. I think Hurley might come with logic software, but I’m not sure.

    As for exercises that are fun, consider the following. Allow students to bring in copies of real-world arguments in what they’re reading or watching and have the class extract the premises and conclusions. Hopefully if you have enough engaged students that they will enjoy the exercise, and it will allow you to demonstrate the identification of premises and conclusions. Later, you might select some of them for symbolization. Aside from the practice, it also helps to give students a sense that you are interested in your concerns, since you will be using material that they brought to you, and that such work can matter in their lives. OF course, execution of all this is key.

  4. For Logic: Herrick’s _The Many Worlds of Logic_

    For Critical Thinking (I give a heavy socio-political slant to this course): Teays _Second Thoughts: Critical Thinking for a Diverse Society_

  5. Hurley is now the new standard, having replaced the decades long standard of Copi. Hurley is clear and very accessible to undergates as its pro, but the con for me is the short hand introduction to truth tables and the way where you really can’t choose between modern and traditional squares of opposition (I do both, but emphasizing one ir the other when it comes to Venn diagrams would be helpful).

    A very good text other than Hurley is The Power of Logic by Snyder, Wasseeman, et. al (McGraw Hill). It is exactly like Hurley but with even better examples and a much nicer explanation of truth tables and Venn diagrams. I use it over Hurley just as a preference because I am comfortable with the text.

    I regularly teach logic, teaching honors logic in the fall (predicate and modal logic, also doing some fun stuff with Continentalist logics and philosophy of mathematics).

    I like Moore & Parker’s Critical Thinking through McGraw Hill for the “logic-lite” courses, great problems and exercizes.

  6. I only got to teach a few seminars before I got dragged away by life circumstances, but I must say that I liked Language, Proof, and Logic, which was very different to the way I was taught via Lemmon (a very English way into Logic). All the stuff about the expense and awkwardness of getting the book is true, but it has two real benefits: 1) The automatic proof-marking system really cuts down on TA work. 2) Although it takes a while to get into the more complicated aspects of proofs, the reason is that it does a fairly thorough job of explaining the underlying concepts, which is much better both for giving an idea of what logic is about to those students who will inevitably be no good at proofs, and building a basis for doing more advanced work in formal logic and the philosophy of logic for those students with a talent for it. The fact that the book actually incorporates a lot of advanced material that precocious students can take a look at is an added bonus here.

  7. For critical thinking (not formal logic) there’s a good book called How To Think About Weird Things. It’s cheap enough (around $10) that it can be added as a second required text.

  8. I haven’t taught from How to Think about Weird Things, but acquaintances who have used it have had only good things to say about it.
    Re. formal logic, looking it in more detail, I see that The Logic Book (in its 5th ed.) has less material on meta-logic than I’d thought. It gives more space to intro formal logic. Also, it doesn’t inc. material about pre-Boole logic (e.g., no syllogistic). I’ve been sent some unsolicited, free textbooks by publishers over the years. I’ve held on to only the ones that struck me as being very good. Among those books is Logic and Philosophy (by Hausman, Tidman, and Kahane), now in its 11th edition. It has a chapter devoted to philosophical problems, such as the liar paradox, whether there should be be more than two truth-values, and the very notion of deductive validity. Instead of extensive material on meta-logic, the authors devote roughly the final third of the book to other systems of logic. So, there’s a chapter on syllogistic logic (with Venn diagrams and the square of opposition), a chapter on inductive logic, and a 25-page section (not a full chapter) on modal logic. There’s also a chapter devoted to informal fallacies.

  9. Shick and Vaughn are the authors of How To Think about Weird Things. It’s the same book that I recommended. I will go further an note its strengths that I do not see mentioned previously. It’s accessible and talks about “cool things” like parapsychology (the properly scientific kind) and ghosts, etc. It’s emphasis is on science and the philosophy of science in its later chapters. It’s weakness is its bare treatment of formal logic. In fact, you would want another textual source even to explain the basic inferences if you want to do any formal logic. That said, I think the book would fit in well for an introductory course if used as the first book. Then, later, you could follow up with a text introducing formal logic if you wished. It’s treatment of inference is sufficient that students should be able to identify premises, conclusions, kinds of arguments, etc. Oh, the book is cheap too, and is in its 2nd edition. Since it does a lot of philosophy of science, it also has a notable section on abduction, which not all books have. That is actually more helpful for science and medicine/nursing majors. But, to repeat, its coverage of the formalities of inference (intentionally) weak.

    I also recommend the free book 42 Fallacies by Laboissiere. I can send it to you if you’re like. It’s an excellent workbook.

  10. Coming at things from a different perspective: I’m currently taking a logic class that uses Language, Proof, and Logic. It makes me want to set it on fire most of the time, it’s terrible enough at explaining things that I’ve started actually going to the lectures, the world-creation problems are tedious and easier to bruteforce than to properly solve, and the programs aren’t very well written… but on the other hand, there are programs, and they let me check my work before I submit it.

    You’d have to read ahead and cover for the textbook’s stupidity (my professor just doesn’t assign any of the problems that the machine can’t grade, which seems to me like a good idea) but the programs are a definite advantage. On the other hand, it seems like there should be a free program that can at least check proofs, and that plus an open-access textbook would cover all the advantages of LPL that I’ve seen as a student.

  11. I regularly teach an intro to logic course, and I had used Moore a,d Parker in the past, but last term I decided to use feldmans’s Reason and Argument, which the students seemed to like much better than Moore and Parker. The emphasis is on evaluating arguments, so no real discussion of fallacies. Might have to check out the shick and Vaughn volume as a supplement to Feldman next time around.

  12. I like Virginia Klenk’s Understanding Symbolic Logic. It’s very clear and does some spend put serious effort into the issue of “translating” natural language to symbolic notation.

    I’ve always wanted to use Morton’s Disasters and dilemmas: Strategies for real-life decision making for the backbone of a critical thinking class, but haven’t had the chance yet.

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