Thursday, September 02, 2010

Baby Logic and a Question

I've been talking with philosophers in my department about curriculum revisions and our logic course. Right now we only have one logic course. It would be nice to add an advanced course, but I don't particularly want to teach it--or rather, I'd like to teach it, but there are about a dozen courses I'd like to teach more than that one.

Some of us have referred to the course as "baby logic." This is a term I heard a lot in grad school, where there was a 1-quarter baby logic course and 2 further quarters of advanced topics--and none of those even touched on modal logic or many other possible topics in philosophical logic.

My question for you is why it's called baby logic and what baby logic refers to. Is it the content of a standard introductory course (even when "introductory" means "all you can ever get at this institution without taking your pretty self over to the math department")? That is, is baby logic sentential and predicate logic up to (or through) identity? Or is it less? One colleague thinks "baby logic" refers only to the informal logic that is typically taught in critical thinking courses. I could see how it might refer to sentential logic--on the grounds that truth trees are a mindless automatic procedure but models in predicate logic are not.


Anonymous said...

I never heard that term before. At North Carolina, there was (undergrad) intro to symbolic logic which varied a lot with the instructor (some, like me, wanted to at least mention the key metalogical properties whereas others did a section on critical thinking, aka, fallacies).


Being in CS, one thing I don't see a lot of is the standard symbolizing word problem based teaching approach. But maybe that's gone from everywhere?

Noumena said...

Evelyn -

I've encountered the phrase `baby logic' before. It seems to be used ambiguously, as you point out; I think it's typically used for the first logic class philosophy majors take, no matter the actual subject matter. I've wondered where the phrase comes from, too.

Bijan -

This could very well be a philosopher's thing -- I studied logic as a math grad student, and never heard anyone talk about `baby logic' until I moved into philosophy.

Purely anecdotally, a lot of the most prominent recent textbooks have downplayed symbolizing word problems in favor of more rigor and more metalogic. I consider my formal logic class a sort of skills course -- young philosophers and mathematicians need to know their way around complicated arguments -- rather than recruiting more logicians, so I include lots of word problems, in much the same way calculus courses for science and engineering include lots of word problems.

Kenny said...

I've always heard that term used (at Penn and at USC) to refer to classes that basically teach how to translated back and forth between English, sentential logic, and quantified first-order predicate logic. The course might include doing some deductions in a formal system, but the main point was just to know what the symbols meant. The main way it differed from a 'real' logic course was that it included very little or no meta-theory. I have not heard the term used to refer to informal logic before.

Catherine Hundleby said...

I've heard the term used as Kenny describes at Toronto and UWO.

But I wonder: Is your course only symbolic logic? Does it actually have any informal logic or argumentation theory?

I've become quite concerned recently with pedagogical standards in this area, and I think they are generally poor. And, I think if we are really concerned with pedagogy, students don't need metalogic so much as they need instruction in argumentation. This remains unfortunately a marginalized field in philosophy.

At Windsor, the home of "informal logic" we have an argumentation course and a fallacies course in addition to the basic "critical thinking" and sym log classes. Only the critical thinking is at the 1st year level, the others all 2nd year, and one argumentation theory course in 3rd year.

Khadimir said...

I've heard "baby logic" before as well. Other than that, I've forgotten most of the formal logic that I ever knew as I rarely use it. What I use constantly is argumentation, and I agree with Catherine that it is a neglected field in my experience. Though I do no study it formally, I find that being in a minority tradition of philosophy forces one to practice argumentation (hermeneutics).

All that aside, I think that an introductory logic course should cover fallacies, basic argumentation, and the basics of arguing via formal logic, e.g., get them used to the symbols, their manipulation, etc. Word problems if you can get it in, but I figure that would only come into focus for majors or in advanced courses.