Marcus Publishes Books on Formal Logic
Oxford University Press recently published two textbooks on logic by Associate Professor of Philosophy Russell Marcus.
Introduction to Formal Logic with Philosophical Applications was developed as a way of integrating writing into what is traditionally a course on strictly formal (i.e., mathematical) methods in philosophy: formal symbolic logic. The first draft of the book was written in 2011 with support from a Class of 1966 Faculty Development Award from the Dean of Faculty’s Office.
Marcus said he was frustrated with the results of his logic teaching, noting that “students knew how to do their truth tables and translations and proofs, but they generally had little idea of why they were doing them.
“I started putting aside some time in the course to talk about the philosophical motivations for doing logic, why we were teaching this math-y course in philosophy and how professional philosophers use or presuppose formal logic in their work,” he said.
The result was what came to be known as “Philosophy Fridays”—biweekly asides in which students were asked to choose a topic for further research and writing. “Every student in my logic course writes a philosophy paper on the connection between logic and other areas of philosophy,” Marcus said.
Marcus contends that few teachers of formal logic ask students to write about why logic is studied. He thinks he may be the first to provide students with robust tools for writing about logic—short essays about philosophical topics, with suggestions for further reading and prompts for student writing.
Fearing that some teachers would be put off by the writing aspects of the book, the publisher suggested a second version of the book. A shorter, slightly reorganized version of the original book was published as Introduction to Formal Logic.
Both books contain chapters on formal, mathematical logic, a rigorous introduction, and some interesting innovations. The original book includes some of the essays Marcus uses to motivate his students’ research and writing. The shorter version contains only the essays that Marcus deemed essential to the text.
Students in Marcus’ Philosophy 240 classes assisted with proofreading and refining the books, with Jess Gutfleish ’14, Deanna Cho ’15, Spencer Livingstone ’16, Phil Parkes ’17, and Rey Camacho ’18 being credited with making significant contributions. “And of course the Hamilton College emphasis on writing was key to facilitating my innovations,” Marcus said.