Course Review: PHIL 220A

Symbolic Logic I 

“Not-not is not the same as not-not-not-not. But they are equivalent.”

Text: (Logic 2010 Software + Textbook)

Prof: Dr Roberta Ballarin

Roberta Ballarin seemed like she knew her onions. I had very limited interaction with her. One of the two times she spoke to me was to reprimand me, because she thought I started the exam when I was writing my name :P. There were a few interesting points raised in lectures regarding the philosophical implications of logic, but most of the lectures were practice problem sessions.


Difficulty

In comparison to Comp Sci, Physics and Math classes, the weekly problem sets were generally a breeze in terms of length and difficulty. Part of the reason I found this course easy was because I had covered similar material in CPSC 121. That said, if you have not taken anything vaguely computational in while, this course could take more time than you anticipated. Further, even if you do find the concepts easy, one cannot expect to succeed this course without any effort at understanding the material. All the midterms/final were fine if one did the homework and practised a few extra problems by hand. The first midterm was especially easy.

Key Concepts

Propositional Logic

Predicate Logic


Hard Concepts

Symbolizations with predicates: These can get really nasty. One has to symbolize really convoluted English sentences. Make sure you learn the how to deal with specific phrases and connectors.

Derivation with free variables: Tricky. Best to eliminate the free variable using tricks outlined in the software.


Software

Logic 2010 is the name of the software. Some aspects of it are pretty neat, but others are poorly designed. One thing I wish I knew earlier was ‘direct’ symbolization. In any case, later on in the course, the software will start to reject correct symbolizations of sentences, making it pretty useless. The only way to get around this is to try to figure out what the computer wants and only use that. The online book is pretty dry. But there are some useful hints interspersed in the various documentation attached to the software. But it might require some digging.


 Conclusion

If I had known the nature of this course, given that I had already taken CPSC 121, I would not have taken it. It does go a little deeper into logic then CPSC 121 though, so that might make it worthwhile for some. I did find the topic interesting. I just felt another course might have used my time more efficiently. Additionally, If you are student used to crunching through problem sets and are looking for an arts elective that is a grade booster, this could easily help you out.

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