Philosophy 201: Logic (Hight)

"There are only two means by which men can deal with one another: guns or logic. Force or persuasion. Those who know that they cannot win by means of logic, have always resorted to guns."
 -- Ayn Rand

Philosophy 201 is a course in formal logic. It concerns the reasons or justifications for holding beliefs. Logic is the systematic investigation of (good) reasoning. In this course we hope to do (at least) three things: (1) develop an understanding of what makes some reasoning good and others less so, (2) learn how to show that an argument or some reasoning is either good or not, and (3) develop skill at doing the first two quickly enough to make it useful..

So why would you want to learn this? Only one method in the history of human intellectual achievement has been shown to reliably produce true belief. The study of that method is called logic. If you like the idea of holding more true beliefs than false ones, this course is for you. If you like to win intellectual arguments, this course is for you. If you want to generally improve your ability to think and analyze, this course is for you. If you like to engage the world with a critical edge that will separate you from those who are content to follow and blindly agree to what they see on television, this course is for you. If you want to score better on the LSAT or the GRE or the GMAT, this course is for you.

This course will focus on deductive reasoning and the concepts associated with it. We will learn what separates good arguments from poor ones. We will learn how to formalize arguments in ordinary English, evaluate them, and draw conclusions about the world. We will learn about important formal truths in the world. We will spend some time discussing informal aspects of good reasoning, but this will not be the focus of the course.

Logic is to mental skill as exercise is to physical prowess. It takes practice and dedication, and it involves work, but the results are deeply satisfying.. Logic - properly understood and exercised - is better than sex. An achievement of the intellect lasts forever.


"The four points of the compass be logic, knowledge, wisdom, and the unknown. Some do bow in that final direction. Others advance upon it. To bow before the one is to lose sight of the three. I may submit to the unknown, but never to the unknowable. The man who bows in that final direction is either a saint or a fool. I have no use for either." -- Roger Zelazny {Lord of Light, 1967}