Tuesday, April 1, 2008

"It's simple symbolic logic, captain"

Because I'm kissing administration goodbye but still wanting a regular paycheck of some sort, they need to find something productive for me to do around here. For next fall that will include teaching Symbolic Logic.

Because this blog seems to get more reading as a Facebook note that appears there through the miracle of electronic wizardry, I'm hoping that a small commercial for the course might hit an appropriately targeted audience there of potential PHIL301 students. Also, at the joint Philosophy of Science and Metaphysics class last week with Taliaferro, there was some concern being propagated about Symbolic Logic being a difficult class; I thought I should address this concern as well.

I try to sell the course as a rigorous set of calisthenics for your minds. It is rarely the case that anyone taking it really needs to learn the symbols of first-order predicate logic for utilitarian reasons; but learning to use those symbols trains you to think in a certain way, and learning to think in that way is advantageous to just about anything you do in life (I'm not completely thrilled that I've fallen back on a utilitarian argument of sorts after all, but there it is).

In the interest of full disclosure, I always start my courses by reading some of the student evaluation comments from others who have taken the course from me. I'll give some of that here in order to get the buzz going. These are actual comments from actual people (which contrasts with what you'll get from Prenkert!! (though I'm not unaware that I'm still constructing my own narrative here)). Here is a fair representative sample of what students have said about the class over the last four times I've taught it:

"This class is very challenging. The content is difficult, but Stump is very good at making sure that students are understanding. I find this class interesting and "fun", at least, as fun as it could be. This was a very welcome breath of fresh air as far as difficulty is concerned."

Sometimes I felt as if I were sure to drown like a Viking Child thrown into the water of symbolic logic. Dr. Stump is a very good professor and this class was taught as well as any course I have taken. The class is hard for certain, but it has undoubtedly improved my thinking skills.

"This is the hardest class I've taken in my four years at Bethel.
I've never worked so hard in a class and not done as well as I would have
liked. The one redeeming quality of the class is that Stump teaches it,
but even that has failed to make the class bearable. This is not really
Stump's fault I guess. I just really hate and don't understand the content
of the course. It would be nice if Stump was more accessible--he's too
busy being an important Vice President--again I guess there's not much that can be done about that."

"Pensees are a definite plus--we miss them when they're gone. After
the Friday with the singing, the class has been way too relaxed and
lenient. Before, it was taken more seriously and I learned more."

"Good class; too picky on tests; doesn't give me points back when I whine;
it's better than Greek class; allegiance of professor to Red Sox is

"I enjoyed this class, you did a good job ob of making foreign concepts
understandable. I came in with no logic experience and having no math
since my freshman year, but again you helped make it understandable. The
course was just difficult enough."

As to the difficulty of the course, the overall GPA of the grades I've given for the last several courses is higher than the average GPA of our student body. So, I'll spin that data to say, if everyone would take this class, our overall GPA would go up!!

I look forward to having you in class next fall.


mattmetzger said...

True story. About a week ago, my wife and I were talking about college, and she asked me what my favorite class I took was. I didn't even have to ponder it. Symbolic Logic.
loved. it.

Anonymous said...

Even though it was quite challenging, I also really enjoyed Symbolic Logic. I think the difficulty creates a kind of unity amongst the students in the class as each person is working on a task that no one else around them understands and can really empathize with. Symbolic logic also seemed to take over my life that quarter in a way that I can't remember any other classes at Bethel did (I consider this a positive thing for the most part). For me it paid also paid off for the future as I took a logic course last quarter at the graduate level and got an A. I wouldn't have accomplished this without your class.

David Wright