# What does it mean that a philosophy class is labeled as "math-based"?

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shared3 (

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March 19th, 2010

I was reading some course reviews for a philosophy class, “Intro to Logic”. I’ve never taken a course in logic before; what does it mean that it is “math-based”? Does that mean that a lot of time is spent on symbolic statements (just a wild guess)? Or does that mean there is like, say, calculus involved?

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## 22 Answers

The former, not the latter!

it means philosophy is real.

@ninjacolin: Do you mean that it is “rigorous”? I’m not sure how to explain it, but basically that philosophy isn’t just all BS/empty drivel?

exactly. logic *really* applies to life. to physics as we know and understand it.

Here’s a Wikipedia article on logic to give you a glimpse of the whole subject, and another page on philosophical logic. Here’s a table of logic symbols.

Philosophy is not empty drivel. If you think it is, perhaps that’s not the field for you.

You, in theory, should never see a number in that course. It’s just a way of thinking, well, logically. The way that it’s mathematical is in the sense that the way it teaches you to think is directly applied in mathematics to derive and prove theorems (which, again, have nothing to do with numbers).

It also does not necessarily use symbolic statements, though it is very likely that it does, especially given that it’s described as “math-based.”

A formal logic class is similar to when you do proofs in geometry, or trig., etc. You learn rules such as:

if A then B,

if B then C,

therefore if A then C.

You can combine logical rules such as these together to basically prove that someone’s full of shit.

@gorillapaws Which in turn, may I add, can be sometimes useful on Fluther when taking part in intense debates!

I’ll just note the symbolic logic class at my university can fulfill a math requirement and it is known for being really, really hard and more difficult than calc for some people. It sounds easier than it is.

I know nothing of maths nor philosophy, however, I met a Philosophy Professor the other day and he told me he did his Masters in maths in order to fully understand philosophy. I would imagine like any complex science particularly the psychologies, philosophy’s etc. need to be measurable in order to be put forward as a theory. calculable and measurable. Other wise philosophy could be relegated to simply “day dreaming” or a series of random thoughts. My answer is based on logic not fact.

@Just_Justine You’re kind of on the right track, but you have it a little backwards. Basically, disciplines such as math, music-theory, art, medicne and science evolved from philosophy. Philosophy was the beginning. Before people had instruments to measure and calculate the world around them, they had to use logic to focus their ideas to understand the nature of things. As the tools became available and the answers became more concrete to that problem domain, they branched off into their own schools of knowledge.

For example, there’s a branch of philosophy called the “philosophy of mind” and they deal with questions of what the mind is and how it works. The reason it’s still a philosophical discipline is because Science doesn’t really have the necessary tools to conclusively answer these questions. As Science begins to form definitive answers to these questions through research and better tools, the philosophy of mind questions will be given definitive answers and will therefore shift into the realm of concrete science.

It’s math based, as opposed to belief-based. With logic, you can actually prove statements, just like working proofs in geometry. (Do they still teach geometry by teaching proofing?)

@gorillapaws interesting stuff, I would never have thought that, thanks :)

The Logical Analytical tradition adopts a very rigorous approach to philosophy, that strives for absolute certainty, with emphasis on tidying up the unruly ambiguity of Language, amongst other things, systematically weeding out the truth, from the falsehood of a given statement. Logical analysis was stronger in some areas of philosophy and weaker in others, notably ethics and aesthetics.

Mathematics, however, and the validity of principles underlying it’s function were very amenable to logical analysis, with such affinity so as to become integral to a contemporary study of mathematics.

…In a large part, due to the abstract nature of both Logic and Mathematics. which also begs the question…. *is an abstract truth actually a universal truth?*

@mammal There’s plenty of logic in ethics and aesthetics, I’m not sure what you’re driving at there. Aesthetics and Ethics without logic is like Math without numbers. Logic is the fundamental building block (or maybe the mortar) of all philosophical argument and discussion. Philosophy isn’t really about sitting in a circle thinking up random shit, it’s a rigorous systematic deconstruction of ideas.

“The Logical Analytical tradition adopts a very rigorous approach to philosophy, that strives for absolute certainty, with emphasis on tidying up the unruly ambiguity of Language, amongst other things, systematically weeding out the truth, from the falsehood of a given statement.” This is really well said.

It means action reaction. 1+1 is an action to a reaction of 2.

Such is life.

@hug_of_war It’s difficult because thinking logically is a cognitive shift from everyday decision making that takes training for most people to be able to do. Such a course (ideally) shouldn’t be about teaching you about basic principles of logic, but about trying to train the student such that they can make the shift successfully and easily. Once you have the latter down, picking up some axioms takes but a moment.

It’s like working out a muscle you’ve never used. It’s extraordinarily difficult and painful, but seems like it should be so easy. It’s very tempting to just give up and say it’s impossible (most people do). Really, though, just like exercise you have to stick with it, because eventually you’ll get it with diligent work and attention (I know, because I taught proving things in Linear Algebra back in the day, and I suffered in this way back when I was learning how to do this). There’s really a concept called productive failure and it is *all over* learning to think with logic.

EDIT: @gorilla_paws Haha, and back when the Greeks had only logic to work with, they came up with some *wacky* stuff. I love it. Good answer, btw.

Philosophers who maintain their philosphy is based on math usually mean that they have given the basic elements a mathematical symbol and are juggling those symbols in an attempt to derive a more “scientific” approach to philosophy. IMHO, they are either whistling in the dark, or are self-delusional. Unless you consider things like quantum mechanics and chaos theory “philosophies,” there is no way to subject philosopy ( in the pure, classical sense ) to mathematical rigor.

Very likely it is a course in symbolic logic, the study of formal deductive systems. Elementary courses usually teach one to construct formal deductions in some formal system, and to translate natural language arguments into their formal counterparts in order to verify that the reasoning is sound. More advanced courses study the properties of the formal systems themselves using informal mathematics. This article provides an overview of the topic.

Since this is an intro course it won’t be much in the calculus range… but there is a whole school of philosophy that follows behind this kind of logic course that gets into deep deep math that makes differential equations look like 2nd grade arithmetic.

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