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Logic I, Tools for Thinking

by Norman Birkett

Reviewed by Martha Robinson

Purchase details: Logic I, Tools for Thinking by Norman M. Birkett. Spiral bound student text and teacher's manual. Loose leaf test pack. $80. Published by Classical Legacy Press.

Princeton graduate Norman Birkett seeks to provide a broad survey of logic in his book Logic I, Tools for Thinking. Written for seventh graders at a private, Christian school, the program is intended to be the first in a series of logic and rhetoric books that will fill out the high school years. The author's primary goals involve providing a useful overview of logic in an entertaining manner from a Reformed Christian perspective.

The text includes thirty-three chapters and a "Quick Reference" appendix. Using abundant examples from his life and his two cats, Molly and Parsnip, the author makes an informal presentation of material in the following sections:

Part I -- "Thinking and Reasoning" This chapter defines logic as "a study of the works of God." The author offers definitions to words such as "reasoning" and "referent." The student's logic "toolbox" is introduced as a place to store the tools that will be learned, and words such as "reasoning" and "referent" are defined. The basic grammar concepts of types of sentences are reviewed.

Part II -- "Statements and Truth" Here the author defines truth as the opposite of falsehood and discusses how truth is pleasing to God. Contradiction, contrariety, and subcontrariety are explained with the use of flowcharts. Mr. Birkett begins the discussion of logical operators, specifically negation.

Part III -- "Logical Operators" In this section, the author introduces the four logical operators of conjunction, disjunction, equivalence, and implication, as the devices that differentiate a simple atomic statement from a more complex molecular statement. He also covers how to evaluate, or determine the truth value, of the statements. The author explains parse trees, which he calls "Parsnip trees" in honor of his cat.

Part IV -- "The Moleculan Language" The author dubs what others call sentential calculus "Moleculan" because of its usefulness in studying molecular statements and in honor of his other cat. He explains how to read molecular sentences, proper formation of Moleculan grammar, and use of parse trees for molecular sentences. Mr. Birkett then introduces truth tables and explains their use in evaluating Moleculan sentences. Tautologies are also covered in this section.

Part V -- "The Logic of Moleculan Arguments" This section begins by defining "argument" with its two components: premises and a conclusion. After providing more background information, Mr. Birkett moves on to translating arguments into "Moleculan" or symbolic language for further analysis using truth tables. He examines some specific types of arguments such as the Simplification Argument, the Addition Argument, and syllogisms.

Part VI -- "Other Arguments" This part explores arguments that are not "moleculan-analyzable," in other words, inductive and conductive arguments. The appeal to authority, the analogical argument, and the inductive generalization are presented as inductive arguments.

Part VII -- "Questions" Proper terms for rhetorical questions, questions one asks oneself, and questions that one asks and immediately answers are introduced. The author brings a Christian viewpoint to the reader in the section about questions that cannot be answered because of "limitations on our ability to know things." He stresses the importance of walking in faith until Christ provides the answers.

Each lesson has a narrative with frequently lengthy footnotes stating additional examples or rabbit trails of the author's liking, a list of terms covered, exercises, and study suggestions.

Until Mr. Birkett's second book is released, he recommends the use of Martin Cothran's Traditional Logic if a second year of logic is desired. Sample chapters of the program may be viewed on the author's web site.

Support Materials

The teacher's manual has a lengthy introduction as to the purpose of the book and how logic fits into the author's school's teaching plan. Mr. Birkett gives a detailed explanation of the branches of logic and how logic fits into a Christian worldview. In an informal, chatty style, he expounds on many topics including his background, possible plans for the future, how the program came about, the different "camps" among those who write logic books, and his opinions of most of the books on the market. Each chapter has background information to help the teacher present the material and detailed answers to the exercises.

The test packet includes eleven loose-leaf tests with answer keys.

Recommendation: Logic I, Tools for Thinking offers a huge breadth of information in a friendly, non-threatening manner. The student book is easy to read and understand, and the examples and exercises using the author's cats are bound to amuse students and increase interest. The teacher's manual includes much extraneous material that is likely to confuse and frustrate homeschooling parents who do not have many hours to separate the wheat from the chaff; however, it is necessary to purchase because it includes the answer key.

HomeschoolChristian.com resources related to this review:

HomeschoolChristian.com's Classical Education Section
Review of Introductory Logic by Douglas Wilson and James Nance
Review of Introductory Logic Videos
Review of Material Logic by Martin Cothran
Review of Traditional Logic by Martin Cothran
Review of Traditional Logic II by Martin Cothran

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