Course: PHI201
Instructor: Halvorson
S 2016

Description of Course Goals and Curriculum

This course, Introductory Logic, aims to provide an entry-level to logic and to give students a better sense about logicians and how they think in particular. It does not focus on contemporary topics in logic, but rather a traditional, simple topics starting from symbolic logic, predicate logic, basic proofs and some formal language. This course does not have any prerequisite and it certainly does not require any prior knowledge in philosophy or mathematics at all. I walked into the course only with some basic logic I learned in high school and nothing else, but at the end of the course, I certainly understood better what logic is and what logician does.

Learning From Classroom Instruction

The course, similarly to other humanity courses, has two 50-minute lectures and one precept in a week. The lectures aim to give you exposure to the materials and step-by-step explanations of the topics as well as the related problems. The lectures were rather slow-paced, so as long as one paid attention, he/she would have plenty of time to digest the information and come up with questions within the lecture. The course reading was only from one classic book called Beginning Logic by Lemmon. The book is somewhat helpful. Because the lectures already covered almost all the important materials of the course, I personally used the book only as a reference when I did not fully understand some topics or needed some help with the assignments. The precepts were the most helpful aspect of the class. My preceptor, Thomas Barrett, was amazing at explaining and guiding us to improve at proofs. In the precepts, the materials covered in the lectures were summarized and explained in a different manner. Questions were answered, and everything started to make sense. The precepts served perfectly as a review and a place to clear up any question you might have from the lectures. The materials started off with the very basic elements such as what an argument is, what are logic operators, or how to create a truth table. Once we learned some of the rules, we started working with proofs. And for most of the class, we focused on proofs, but they became more complicated after the lectures covered predicate logic and more rules. Proofs can be slightly intimidating to some, but in the class, we started with very basic proofs and slowly increased their complexity. Therefore, there were a lot of chances to practice. To me, it is difficult to learn or to teach someone exactly how to prove. There are certain rules and techniques taught in the lectures and the precepts one can keep in mind to approach the problems more systematically. However, one still requires practices in order to improve. So please do not be intimidated by proofs and be patient. Even if it seems unfamiliar and impossible at first, as one takes some time to think and work with a certain number of proofs, he or she will surely have a firm grasp over it. It will become more natural and no longer frightening.

Learning For and From Assignments

Class assessments were only composed of problem sets, midterm exam, and final exam. No class participation and no paper. The problem sets came out almost every week, exactly ten in total. Each one had approximately five main problems and did not take more than a couple of hours to finish on average. They did become more difficult as the class progressed and certainly required more time and thoughts to complete. However, if I ever felt I had spent too much time pondering but not making any real progress, I would bring my questions to the precept, office hours, or just send an email to my preceptor. Nevertheless, one still need to patiently spend time thinking in order to improve, but at the same time, should not hesitate to reach out for help rather than getting frustrated or disheartened. Besides, as I have mentioned earlier, problem sets gave me a lot of practices I need, and I became more proficient at proofs toward the end. The exams included a small part on the theory and a large part on problems that resembled the problem sets. The approach I took was similar to any other course I have taken: did the practice exam, went through lectures and precepts material, and made sure I could redo all the problem sets. This preparation should be plenty for the exams. To me, working with proofs requires practices, and rather than something you can cram last minute before the exams, you learn and get better at it slowly but constantly throughout the semester. There was not much work outside of class at all so it is best to keep yourself on top of the material and not fall behind.

External Resources

I did not seek out many external resources. Once in awhile, I looked up on the internet for some rules or small concepts I did not fully understand. Nonetheless, the course reading and preceptors were great and sufficient resources to get through to the end of the semester. Visit office hours especially your preceptor’s, if you feel like you have wasted a lot of time working on the problem sets. As I have mentioned, it is important to balance between learning and keeping yourself from being distressed and becoming to hate proofs.

What Students Should Know About This Course For Purposes Of Course Selection

PHI 201, Introductory Logic, is a great introductory course to logic and proofs. While it does not give a holistic view of philosophy, it certainly shows me what logic is about and to think like a logician. The workload is also light and very suitable for a fifth course, especially for fulfilling your EC requirement; however, it could not be elected P/D/F when I took it. Even though the topics might not seem interesting or practical to some, I really recommend taking the course if you are even remotely interested and also suggest regularly attending the lectures and precepts.
Introductory Logic

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