The Joy of Logic

Tue Dec 3, 9-10pm, BBC4

Whether he’s addressing Aristotle, syllogisms, Boolean logic or paradoxes, computer scientist Professor Dave Cliff does an admirable job of trying to explain ‘The Joy of Logic’.

The only problem is that logic is really, really hard. So while the basic concepts are relatively easy to grasp, the more advanced aspects require a degree of mathematical or logical nous that’s unattainable for most mortals. It’s a shame, because while it’s possible to eventually wrap your head around the fact that ‘this sentence is false’ is a paradox, trying to even vaguely understand how Bertrand Russell used 360 pages of logic in ‘Principia Mathematica’ to prove that 1+1 = 2 feels like a futile exercise.

The result is largely interesting, but has a frustrating tendency to oscillate between insightful information and impenetrable titbits (you can only blankly nod your head at Kurt Godel’s proofs that some mathematical truths are unprovable). Still, by the end of the hour, it’s impossible to deny the impact that logic has had on human progress.

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