At first glance Canon Press Logic may not look very exciting—to which many will say, "Duh, it's logic." But before you try to find some super happy fun-filled romp through syllogisms and fallacies, remember that logic is about form more than it is about content. That's not to say an argument's statements don't matter (they do, a lot), but if an argument is put together wrong it's invalid whether the statements composing it are true or false.
You'll learn this and more (much, much, much more) in James Nance's Introductory Logic and Intermediate Logic beginning with informal and progressing to fairly advanced formal logic. Nance makes even the most difficult concepts understandable, though that's not to suggest you can zone out and absorb the information; this is a rigorous course, and while rewarding, not the kind to be approached haphazardly or casually.
How Do These Work?
Each level (Introductory and Intermediate) includes a student textbook, answer key, test booklet, and DVD lectures. Both cover a single year's worth of study for a total of two years, though you could conceivably stretch the content to last longer; due to the difficult nature of many of the concepts, it's not a good idea to try to compress either course to less than a year. Designed for middle and high school students, most parents will want to wait till their kids are in upper high school to begin (and some may want to complete the course themselves).
Lessons are pretty spare and are grouped in units according to major themes. There is a minimum of text—Nance (and Doug Wilson, who co-authored the first volume) wastes no words, instead presenting exactly the information students are to learn. Exercises at the end of each lesson both reinforce the material and give students occasion to practice on their own, while unit reviews help them tie large amounts of content together and refresh before moving on to new ideas. Answers to all lesson exercises and select review exercises are included in the answer key.
The test booklets include consumable tests and test answer keys, and an essential element available in none of the other materials included in the course—a guide linking textbook lessons with the corresponding DVD lectures. For each level there are 20 video lectures on two DVDs in which James Nance stands in front of a whiteboard and tells you about logic. He makes frequent use of the whiteboard. He has a pleasant voice with no discernible weird quirks. Most importantly, he explains often terribly difficult ideas thoroughly and carefully. (Update: in 2018, lectures were re-recorded with instructor Brian Kohl. We have not compared these as yet, but you should note that Classical Conversations, which has adopted these texts, recommend the Kohl versions. The Nance lectures are now out of print, though we still get them used.)
This is one instance where the video lectures are truly worth the price. For one thing, while a really really devoted student could probably learn logic from the textbooks alone, it's not likely. For another, Nance's spoken content is actually supplementary to what is included in the books. This isn't just a repetition of read content, these are genuine classroom-style lectures intended to elaborate on and cohere information. For the first few lectures he looks down and away from the camera too much, but he soon corrects this and speaks directly to the camera, clearly and sagely as a teacher of logic should. (see sample)
Before you buy this and complain because there aren't bells and whistles—there aren't. It's stripped down logic, suitable for consumption but still in concentrated form and likely to hurt your head if you try to take in too much at once. Likely to hurt your head no matter what, but also (if you're committed to learning) guaranteed to teach you and your kids genuine bona fide logic. Introductory Logic focuses on informal logic and is easier to understand; it is a necessary prerequisite before jumping into the quite difficult formal logic of Intermediate Logic.
Our Honest Opinion:
If it's logic you want, Canon Press Logic will deliver. This is the best logic program we carry, hands down, but make sure you get the whole package—watching the lectures without the books, or reading the books without watching the lectures, won't yield the same excellent results as using them together as they were intended.
You don't need any prerequisites before using this course. It might not be a bad idea to read something like The Thinking Toolbox or The Fallacy Detective before jumping in to Nance's treatment, but honestly the level at which he operates is much higher and will quickly render most preparatory reading unnecessary.
Perhaps most importantly, Nance approaches the whole subject as a Christian, describing logic as an attribute of God mirrored and imitated throughout creation. He even gives some anthropological underpinnings for its study from a Christian perspective. And while these books are filled with symbols and confusing stuff, his God-centered emphasis never gets lost in modus ponens or discussions of truth-functional completeness.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he's a husband and father who loves church, good food, and weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here
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