The aim of this course
is to introduce the student to the principles and methods of formal logic.
The centerpiece of the lectures will be the syllogism, but preparation
for that topic will consist of acquainting the student with the way in
which formal and material logic differ as well as with the building blocks
of the syllogism: the concept, the term, and the proposition. It is crucial
that the student firmly grasp the difference between formal and material
logic in order to see that the former is concerned with inference, not
truth, and accordingly that what counts as a valid syllogistic argument
depends on the conclusion following consistently from its premises rather
than its correspondence with an object.
is also given to developing the skill of spotting formal fallacies. Besides
the obvious ability of enabling the student to distinguish valid and invalid
syllogisms from each other, the acquisition of that skill brings with
it a solid understanding of the syllogism itself, thereby conferring the
ability to use the syllogism adroitly for the organization of the student's
Because the primary
focus of the course is on the syllogism, the principles of deductive thinking
receive the most attention. Nevertheless, substantial time is also devoted
to inductive thinking since inductive generalization is at the heart of
statistical reasoning, which plays so important a role in the natural
and social sciences.
No course in formal
logic is complete if it omits attention to informal argumentation. By
attending to the latter, the student has the opportunity of deepening
two insights: (1) the principles of formal logic operate implicitly in
our daily thinking, whether that thinking be philosophical, scientific,
political, or ethical; and (2) formal logic is no mere idealization of
how the mind should operate but, on the contrary, is a living, practical
tool of daily human thinking.
As in all so-called
"skill" courses, the student is required regularly and frequently to work
out logical problems in addition to acquiring an understanding of the
theoretical principles underlying them.