Saturday, April 19, 2014

Logic Books: what to read and what to avoid

Not so long ago I tried to get head first into Aristotle's Organon starting backwards with the Topics  and, oh, it is so tough.

I blame his style for being so convoluted. It is still chock full of goodies, but much effort is needed to  unearth the gems. I decided that what was needed to get the info was either : a) sterling willpower and pen & paper; b) a guided tour;  or  c) the indirect route. I chose the latter by retaking symbolic logic, the same I should have learned from high school. Looking around, I found some books that I wanted to mention.

(What follows refers mostly to college level intro logic)

Sherlock's Logic

This is divided into two parts. The first one is a detective story involving a murder and the Templars. The story itself is good and a quick read. The second part introduces concepts of symbolic logic, one at a time, matching each with a chapter from the preceding story. Explanations are very condensed, which requires the reader to really exert herself to grasp each concept. In general, it is a survey of logic all right, but leaves out great many unexplored areas, has too few exercises (and those without answers), is unsystematic, steep,  and in the end, unsatisfying.

Introduction to Symbolic Logic by Karl J Smith

If you are on the run and need only a refresher, this is the book for you. Concepts are quickly explained and exercises for each chapter, with answers at the end of the book provided.

Schaum's Outlines: Logic 2nd by Nolt

Nolt's is just like Smith's but on steroids. You know the series. I came to this one for the solved exercises (which once you get to them are like meh), but stayed for the concise explanations which shine. This one covers the whole spectrum and a bit more. Inexpensive and readily available.

Logic: a Modular Approach by Facione & Scherer

Now we enter into those of textbook calibre. This one starts from naught and begins building from there, first with language and then with the usual logic programme. Each concept is clearly delineated and referenced to previous ones. As said the system is built upon itself through modules which correspond to subchapters in the usual sense. There are 46 modules in total. A fair amount of exercises are also to be found at the end of each module with answers to about half of the problems. Four cumulative tests are also included. This is an old book (the Disco font on the cover betrays its age), but still feels current and can still be purchased new. Compared to Copi's, this book is easier (yet not dumbed down) and its content more thoroughly explained. It unfortunately has also some long stretches of mind-numbing expositions. Its biggest faults however are that it only has a couple of modules on inductive reasoning and doesn't get into predicate calculus.

Introduction to Logic by Copi & Cohen

This appears to be the standard on logic textbooks. Notwithstanding, it is unnecessarily dense.   Answers to just 1 out of 5 exercises. I would skip this one altogether since, despite its many editions, it still needs moderate to heavy streamlining. It is also expensive.

Symbolic Logic by Copi

Tough and stingy with explanations, yet it is well worth a look to affirm and expand the basics.  Definitely not a first course. The hardest exercises are to be found here though this one too has too few solutions. Peter Suber and someone else on the net have solutions up to chapter 5.

Symbolic Logic: A First Course by Gary M. Hardegree

This one is the best on translation to symbolic (formalization) I've seen bar none. Goes up to polyadic predicate. It doesn't rush things and looks at every nook and cranny without losing the thread. Can take a while to make through the relevant chapters, but you end with the feeling of really knowing the stuff. Dozens of exercises are also provided with answers. Regrettably, identity is not covered.

Logic: Analysing and Appraising Arguments by Gensler

This one is an extensive attempt but is relatively light on explanations. Of all the books mentioned it is the only one which takes a look at modal logic in some length though. It has been superseded by a newer book by the same author. 

A Concise Introduction to Logic by Hurley

As with the first Copi, this is an inexplicably expensive book.  This one also carries about the same usual logic topics. Includes predicate logic calculus. Of all, this one felt best at expounding inductive logic and probably the best overall. Once more, answers to just a few exercises.

Logic by Paul Tomassi

In this one the author tries to make intro logic accessible to students who struggle with it once and for all. I'm not sure he succeeds in this, but the book might come in handy as a backup as it goes deeper than the rest on some philosophical aspects. As of late, the more I look at it, the more I like it.

Logic With Trees by Howson

A showcase of the Truth-Trees. The author takes a deep look into them which has the unfortunate effect of placing the book beyond the scope of first time delvers. Unless you really have to know about the inner-workings of Trees, you are better off with Tomassi's book or with Nolt's which look at their immediate, mechanical aspect in a more practical, concise manner. Howson's book could serve as a first course, but it wouldn't be my first choice, nor my second, nor my third, etc. Some solved exercises. Can be skipped safely.

First Course in Mathematical Logic by Suppes

This one too starts from the ground up, but shifts the focus from language to mathematical expressions. The author appears to be going somewhere with the focus on number expressions, but its the same logic from the other books with just different symbols. Worth a look if you're math oriented, have interest in logic in general or if it's the only one you can lay your hands on. If language or philosophy, however, is your interest, you might be better served  by one of the others. While strong on propositional,  for predicate it shrinks from Existential Instantiation/Elimination rules entirely. Note that set theory is also not covered. No answers to the exercises. Wah! Oh wait, Frederick Binford has those.

Lógica Clásica de Primer Orden by Falguera

The most dense of the ones here, idiosyncratic, out of print and in another language. All the same, it has great many substitution rules with proofs for predicate logic. Also has a couple hundreds of exercises with solutions on an accompanying booklet.

In closing, here's something completely different:

Logicomix by Doxiadis et al.

This is one is a graphic novel based on Bertrand Russell's search of Truth & certainty in logic. An easy read, places many of the concepts in their historical context and serves as a good appetizer for Gleick's The Information of which we'll talk next week.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Gunpowder tea review

I've been looking for an alternative to the Japanese standard green tea sencha for a while now. Sencha is fine, but to me it leans a bit to too much to the bitter-astringent side. My previous attempt with the Longjing didn't pan out, so I went for a less ambitious grade of green and see how that would turn up. I set my sights on the gunpowder after hearing about it for a while and thanks to a final push by Pettigrew's guide, bought it.

From the very beginning I expected it to be something radically different in its aspect. I expected gunpowder tea to be, well, powder. It is not. Gunpowder tea consists of rolled up green tea leaves into small pellets. When these expand in water they take five times as much volume than when dry, so an appropriately large steeping basket is the way to go when brewing it. At least the one I've got here, which  comes from my local provider, has some noticeable debris that come out  when the leaf uncurls. Could be particles of the same leaf, but to me it looks like dirt. Luckily, the brew itself appears to be unaffected.

The liquor is stronger than the Longjing but softer than the sencha.  Once again, the leaf is very tolerant to prolonged steeping or resteeping. A teaspoon might be enough for 32 oz of water. Speaking of water, the tea appears best-brewed when it is just rumbling than near boiling or after-boiled. Unlike all my other teas, one wants to keep on swallowing with this one; as it cools, the more pleasant it gets. Call me crazy, but I've been leaving a cup of this over the last few weeks for a middle of the night drink instead of plain water and not only does it do the job, but also still tastes quite good. This one too is non-grassy (now that I come to think of it I've had a good run avoiding those of late). 

From what I read, it is a very popular beverage in Morocco where mint is added and I can taste why. It is very refreshing, especially when it has had time to cool off. In my short experience, it is probably among the top three in this area.