8:00 PM on 30 Sep 2008 at The Wheatsheaf
with Wilfrid Hodges
Most of us think it’s a good thing to be rational, but few of us could really say what that means. If pushed, we might say it involves being able to argue coherently for our ideas, not believing contradictory things or things for which we have no evidence. The study of such general patterns of thought is called “logic”, and has in the past century become a vast area of mathematical and philosophical enquiry. Formal logic is also the cornerstone of computer science, and as such it underpins virtually everything these days including the web site you’re reading right now. So do the ideas that fall under the heading of “logic” exhaust the possibilities of rationality? Can one be rational without being logical? Can one be perfectly logical but irrational? Do we miss something of profound importance if we always insist on logic, or rationality, or both? Are we inclined to agree with Boole that logic is one of
the essential standards of truth and correctness, — standards not derived from without, but deeply founded in the constitution of the human faculties. […] To understand the secret laws and relations of those high faculties of thought by which all beyond the merely perceptive knowledge fo the world and of ourselves is attained and matured, is an object which does not stand in need of commendation to a rational mind.
or do we say, with Montaigne, “I had rather be a good horseman than a good logician”? Wilfrid Hodges is Professorial Fellow in the maths department of Queen Mary College. He’s made a huge number of contributions to both algebra and logic and is the author of one of the most popular introductions to model theory. He has a keen interest in the historical and cultural aspects of his discipline as well as the technicalities and will be starting off, we’re told, from an argument due to C S Peirce that logic and reason are the same thing. Absolutely no mathematical knowledge required, although those with some will enjoy filling in the details.