30 Jun 2015

Priest, “Preface” of Logic: A Very Short Introduction, Summary

by Corry Shores

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Summary of

Graham Priest

Logic: A Very Short Introduction


Brief Summary:
Logic is an ancient discipline that was revolutionized in the 20th century with mathematical techniques and is currently very useful in information and computational sciences. This book will give a brief, broad, and non-technical overview.


Priest writes:

Logic is one of the most ancient intellectual disciplines, and one of the most modern. Its beginnings go back to the 4th century BC. The only older disciplines are philosophy and mathematics, with both of which it has always been intimately connected.

In the turn from the 19th to the 20th centuries, mathematical techniques were applied to logic, causing a major revolution in its development. More recently it has been very important for the fields of computation and information processing. “It is thus a subject that is central to much human thought and endeavor” (xi).

This book is not a textbook in logic; rather, it will give a brief introduction to logic as it is now understood. It will also provide some explanation of formal logic (xi).

Priest will begin each main chapter by addressing a philosophical problem or a logical puzzle. He proceeds by examining a particular approach to the problem or puzzle. That approach may not be a standard one, as in cases where logicians disagree on the proper solution, and “Nearly all the approaches, whether standard or not, may be challenged” (xi). Priest ends each chapter by addressing problems for the examined approach. “The aim is to challenge you to figure out what you make of the matter” (xii).

As he noted above, modern logic has become highly mathematical. But Priest will try to explain the ideas with little or no mathematics. However, the reader will need to master some new symbolism, which is inevitable when learning any new language. “And the perspicuity that the symbolism gives to difficult questions makes any trouble one may have in mastering it well worth it” (xii). Priest then warns the reader that reading logic books is not like reading novels where the pace is brisk and steady, for the most part. Rather, we will need to read slowly and carefully at some points in order to grasp the concepts (xii).

The last chapter is about logic’s historical development. It will “show that logic is a living subject, which has always evolved, and which will continue to do so” (xii). This final chapter also offers suggestions for further reading.

In the first of the two appendices there is a glossary of logic terms and symbols that we may consult as needed. The second appendix offers further questions related to each chapter for testing our understanding of the main concepts (xi).

“The book goes for breadth rather than depth” (xi). Each chapter could itself be further developed into a book of its own. “And even so, there are very many important issues in logic that I have not even touched on here. But if you hang in there till the end of the book, you will have a pretty good idea of the fundamentals of modern logic, and why people find it worth thinking about the subject” (xi).


Priest, Graham. Logic: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University, 2000.

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