While philosophy is often thought to be defined by the kinds of questions it attempts to answer, in reality the subject area is defined just as much by its methodology. In this sense, it is no different to other research areas. Each has norms with regard to both the types of questions it attempts to answer, and how it goes about answering those questions. While other parts of this Introduction to Philosophy series are primarily interested in providing you with a background to the questions philosophers are interested in answering, this part on logic will provide you with an introduction to the tools philosophers use to answer these questions.
As with any area of academic research, philosophers are expected to give reasons for their proposals, and within philosophy these reasons predominantly take the form of arguments. To engage in philosophy, then, is to engage in argumentation. And in order to become effective philosophical practitioners it’s paramount that we understand what arguments are, how to recognise them, and how to evaluate them effectively. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that we have a whole branch of philosophy dedicated to answering just these questions, called logic. The goal of this part on logic is to provide you with both the concepts necessary to identify and evaluate arguments, and to start you on the never-ending journey of becoming excellent philosophical practitioners.
Further, the concepts and tools highlighted throughout this part should prove useful in other areas of your life, as arguments play just as much of a role in public life as in intellectual life. Others will propose arguments in an attempt to persuade us that what they say is true, and it is our responsibility to evaluate whether these arguments do indeed give us good reason to endorse their claims. Learning how to evaluate arguments appropriately, therefore, is a fundamental skill, and thus in gaining logical skills, one gains important life skills. These skills can stop us from becoming misled by the claims of others, including politicians and the media, and allow us to become clearer about the reasons we have for our own beliefs. They are some of the best tools we have available to safeguard our own beliefs from the persuasion techniques of others.
This book is made up of five chapters, each of which introduces new fundamental concepts you will need to engage with arguments. The first, What is Logic?, outlines in more detail the goals of logic and its role within philosophy as a whole. You will be introduced to the concept of an argument, how to recognise when something is an argument, and how to go about identifying its content. The second chapter, Evaluating Arguments, builds from the first. Once we have identified an argument, we need to get on to the business of working out if it’s any good. However, it turns out we cannot judge all arguments using the same criteria, for different types of arguments attempt to support their conclusions in different ways. This second chapter then outlines the different types of arguments found within both philosophy and elsewhere, provides you with some tricks on how to spot which type a particular argument is, and criteria for how to evaluate each type.
While Chapters 1 and 2 give you the concepts necessary to identify and evaluate arguments, Chapters 3 and 4 provide you with some of the practical skills necessary to recognise whether an argument is good or not. Chapter 3, Formal Logic in Philosophy, explains how recognising the underlying form of an argument can help us to evaluate an important type of argument found within philosophy, known as deductive arguments. This quest to identify the underlying forms that some arguments share is one of the fundamental goals of a prominent area of research within logic, known as formal logic. As such, Chapter 3 acts as much as an introduction to what formal logicians aim to provide, and an explanation of why your philosophical education would benefit from further study of formal logic.
Systematic mistakes within arguments are known as fallacies, and the aim of Chapter 4 is to provide you with prominent examples of these mistakes. If we recognise that an argument is bad, it is not enough simply to say so; we wish, also, to say why it is bad. This chapter will allow you to do just that, to categorise and identify particular mistakes made within arguments. By being aware of these common mistakes, the aim is not only to be able to recognise when they are made in the arguments of others, but to ensure we are not drawn into making these mistakes ourselves.
The final chapter, Necessary and Sufficient Conditions, has two aims. First, it explains the philosophically important concepts of necessary and sufficient conditions, which play a prominent role within arguments. Becoming comfortable with these concepts is not only important in understanding many philosophical claims made within the other books of this Introduction series, but also claims made within other academic disciplines, such as mathematics and the sciences, and everyday life. Second, the chapter outlines a traditional and common account of what philosophers aim to do when they consider concepts such as knowledge, justice, and morality. According to this account, philosophers are simply engaged in a process of providing the necessary and sufficient conditions for the correct use of a concept. Whether we ultimately agree with this account of philosophical methodology or not, it is important we understand it if we are going to properly engage with the philosophical theories presented throughout this Introduction to Philosophy series.
Included at the end of this book are also a glossary, providing you with definitions of important concepts mentioned within the chapters. If you are reading the book on the web, you will find glossary terms in the text with hyperlinks to their definitions. Click on the terms and the definition should pop up on the screen. If you are reading the book in another form you may only see the glossary terms in bold, and you will need to go to the glossary at the end of the book to find the definitions of those terms. The book also includes a list of suggestions for further reading, which cover important topics within logic in greater detail than we have been able to do here.
As with every book in the Introduction to Philosophy series, this logic book has been written with the philosophical novice in mind. We hope then that you find its language and content accessible. We ultimately hope for more than that though. Our aspiration is that through reading this book you will come to recognise the importance of gaining these logical skills, and become even more motivated to continue your philosophical education.