Tag Archives: truth value

Knowing the Truth of Statements

Mr. Nance,

Introductory Logic Exercise 8, Question # 9 asks what type of statement this is:

“Jesus is God, and He is man.”

The answer key says “supported, by authority.” Could definition also be a possible answer?

I see what you are thinking. Jesus is both God and man by nature, and definitions are (to a certain extent) trying to get at the nature of the term. But the question is basically asking, “How would you know that this statement is true?” Ask anyone how they know that Jesus is both God and man, and they will point to some authority: the Bible, or a creed, or their pastor tells them, etc. Besides, we don’t really define people.


Sayers’ Helpful Summary of Logic

Sayers’ Vision for Logic

In her seminal essay “The Lost Tools of Learning,” the author Dorothy Sayers describes her understanding of the medieval scheme of education, specifically the Trivium — the three liberal arts of grammar, logic, and rhetoric. She argues that students in the Middle Ages were taught the proper use of the tools of learning by means of these arts. Of logic she says,

dorothy[1]“Second, he learned how to use language; how to define his terms and make accurate statements; how to construct an argument and how to detect fallacies in argument.”

As I have taught logic in the classroom, written logic texts (and blog posts), and spoken on logic and classical education around the world, I have regularly returned to this quote. It is for me perhaps the most useful sentence (of the 238 sentences) in the essay.

A Proper Pedagogical Progression

In this sentence Sayers explains what logic is for: logic teaches us how to use language. This reminds us that the liberal arts of the Trivium are language arts (whereas the Quadrivium are mathematical arts). Specifically, logic teaches us how to use the language of reasoning, of disputation and proof.

This sentence also describes a proper pedagogical progression of logic:

  1. We must start with terms: how to define them, relate them, and work with them, including understanding the value of defining terms.
  2. Terms are related in statements (categorical statements connect subject terms with the predicate terms). Logic teaches us “how to make accurate statements”; that is, how to make statements that are true and applicable, as well as understanding how we know that they are true, and how they relate to each other. It teaches how to do this with many different types of statements: simple and compound, categorical and hypothetical, immediate inferences, and so on. Terms are the building blocks of statements.
  3. Statements are the building blocks of arguments, as we connect premises together to draw conclusions. So logic teaches us “how to construct an argument”; that is, how to write a valid argument to establish a desired conclusion.  It teaches how to do this with many types of arguments: categorical and propositional, conditional and disjunctive, symbolic arguments and arguments in normal English.
  4. Finally, logic teaches us “how to detect fallacies in argument,” both the formal fallacies from the rules of validity for categorical syllogisms and propositional arguments, and the informal fallacies of ordinary discourse, like circular reasoning and ad hominem. Logic teaches us not only to detect them, but to name them, and to expose them by means of counterexamples to those untrained in logic.

Were I to add one element to Sayers’ list, it would be “to construct a proof in a step-by-step, justified manner.” With this addition, every page, every concept of both Introductory and Intermediate Logic is covered in Sayers’ helpful description of what is encompassed in learning logic.

Re: Nonsense and Self-reports

Mr. Nance,

I am using your Introductory Logic course to teach an informal class in logic to four young people in my church. Thank you for creating a rigorous, explicitly-Christian logic textbook!

During a recent class (working through Lessons 6-8), two questions came up. Can I get your thoughts on them?

(1) Nonsense Statements

On page 57 you give the example of the nonsense sentence “The round square sweetly kicked the green yesterday.” A few students began waxing philosophical about what precisely rendered this sentence nonsense. One asked if it was nonsense in virtue of the fact that squares, by definition, cannot be round. If so, they asked, wouldn’t the sentence, “The square sweetly kicked the green yesterday” be eligible for statement-hood? Sure, squares aren’t known to kick, but that only means that the sentence is likely a false statement. Further, “green” might refer metaphorically to the green grass or a public common grassy land.

I love having such inquisitive students, but I’m afraid I wasn’t able to give them a tidy answer to these questions: Instead, I suggested that we take statements like “this statement is false” as clear examples of nonsense and leave the rest for an epistemology class. What would you have said?

(2) Self-supporting statements

There was some consternation about the notion that self-supporting statements are true (p. 61). One student gave the example of James 2:14 where the self-report “I have faith” is false. I answered by saying that, in general, we should give self-reports the benefit of the doubt. That is, we should judge a self-report true, until or unless we have some good reasons or arguments for thinking it false. Of course, this doesn’t mean that all self-reports are true. Categorizing self-reports as self-supporting, I told them, is more a point of intellectual decency and doing-as-you-would-be-done by than of hard logical categories.

I also pointed out that many self-reports fall into the category of incorrigible statements—that is, for some self-reports, we simply will never have any means, whether by authority, experience, or deduction, of proving them false. Most self-reports about mental states fall into this category—for example, “I wish I had purchased Apple Stock five years ago.”

If you can give any general pointers here, I would be grateful. Thank you. Continue reading Re: Nonsense and Self-reports

On Logical Independence

Mr. Nance,

On Test 2b there were two questions on the issue of statements being logically independent that I found myself tripping on a little. Can you help me understand them more clearly?

The first is Test 2b, 11a: “It is later than 1:00 pm. / It is later than 2:00 pm.”
The next is Test 2b, 11c: “Some siblings are twins. / Some siblings are not twins.”

Both are said to be not logically independent. I would appreciate if you could help me see that more clearly than I do.

Thank you! Continue reading On Logical Independence

Shorter Truth Tables for Equivalence

Mr. Nance,

I have a question Lesson 11 of Intermediate Logic. I have all of the right answers to the exercises, but I noticed that on a few of the questions, I wrote more lines in my answers because I thought I had to be exhaustive in my efforts to find no contradiction. A specific example would be #5. I agree that there is only one way for the conditional to be false. But, there are multiple ways the conditional can be true. Why didn’t you try lines with I as true and C false, or C false and I true? Am I misinterpreting the fourth instruction from p.70 to “switch the assigned truth values and try again”? Is this directive leveled at each whole proposition, or at each constant? (I hope this is making sense). Continue reading Shorter Truth Tables for Equivalence

The Pattern of T & F in Truth Tables

Mr. Nance,

I was doing the exercises for Intermediate Logic Lesson 6 and got stumped by #2. In the part of the proposition that is ~q ⊃ ~p, when I was doing the defining truth table for the variables, I assumed the first variable, though out of order alphabetically, would get the TTFF pattern. But in the answer key, the letter that comes first in the alphabet (p), though the consequent, got the TTFF pattern. Why is that? Continue reading The Pattern of T & F in Truth Tables

“Not both” v. “Both not”

Mr. Nance,

I am having a hard time with problem 3 in Exercise 3 of Intermediate Logic.  For the first proposition, ~(J ⋅ R), the answer key says “Joe and Rachel are not both students.” For the second proposition, ~J ⋅ ~R, the answer key says “Both Joe and Rachel are not students.” Those sound the same to me. Continue reading “Not both” v. “Both not”

Everything I say is a lie

A statement is a sentence that has a truth value, either true or false. Several types of sentences are not statements – questions and commands, for instance – because they do not have truth values. Another type of sentence that is not a statement can be called nonsense.

Nonsense sentences are not statements for the same reason as questions and commands; they cannot be said to be true or false. There are two types of nonsense sentences that we usually encounter in studies of logic. Continue reading Everything I say is a lie