Exploring the intersection of legal analysis and symbolic logic, this solidly written book explains the elements of contemporary symbolic logic and examines the ways in which this powerful tool illuminates the structure of legal reasoning and clarifies various legal problems. Presenting concepts and techniques in a clear and orderly manner, it illustrates discussions with practical examples, legal cases and problems, and integrates numerous exercises to help students check their mastery of the material.
There are at least three good reasons for a philosophy student to study symbolic logic. (1) Modern symbolic logic is the most powerful and sophisticated tool that we have for analyzing reasoning. For this reason, those who want to improve their reasoning skills would be well advised to study symbolic logic. (2) Modern symbolic logic is perhaps the most important theoretical tool of twentieth century Anglo-American philosophy. Thus anyone who wants to understand contemporary English-language philosophy needs to have a solid grounding in the elements of symbolic logic. (3) Since at least the time of Leibniz, philosophers have sought to analyze natural-language reasoning in a symbolic, quasi-algebraic way so that disputes about the validity of an argument could be resolved by stating the argument formally and checking its steps mechanically. Modern symbolic logic is the closest we have come to completing this search. Along the way, logicians have sometimes had to sacrifice accuracy in the translation of natural language arguments for the sake of obtaining inference rules that permit us to check arguments’ validity mechanically. This raises the interesting philosophical question of whether modern symbolic logic accurately captures our notion of a valid argument, or whether it strays from this notion in order to attain formal rigor. We will discuss this question and others related to it in class and you will have the opportunity to write essay questions on this subject on the class tests.