Monday, May 18, 2009

Book Review: Logic by Gordon Clark

Logic by Gordon Clark is a short (135 pages) introductory text on logic. Clark, a Calvinist theologian and philosopher, writes a more philosophical introduction to logic, many times from his distinct Christian perspective. He writes in a style that is almost conversational, from teacher to student.

Clark structures the content with preliminary introductions, followed by informal fallacies, discussion of definitions, and then on to formal logic. His section on formal logic begins with immediate inference, working through diagrams, rules, and various forms of arguments. The author offers many observations along the way, many philosophical, some scriptural. Standard symbols are employed, moving quickly to equations and on to truth tables.

Clark defines logic as the science of necessary inference. But he does not stop there. His philosophical views and interpretation of the first chapter of John’s Gospel culminate in an interesting, if not controversial, final chapter: God and Logic. “God is a rational being,” writes Clark, “the architecture of whose mind is logic.”1 Clark argues that John chapter one can be translated “in the beginning was the Logic…”

Much of the content is introduced with terms quickly defined before using them abundantly. For an introductory logic text, the ascent is a bit too steep. Ideas could be developed with more clarity and more thoroughly. This book seems more at home as supplemental reading in a history of Calvinist thinkers.

Although Logic by Gordon Clark may hold some interest for those interested in his thought and philosophy, this is not a helpful text for a beginning logic student. A much better logic text written for a Christian audience is Geisler and Brooks’ Come Let Us Reason: An Introduction to Logical Thinking.

1 Gordon Clark, Logic (Jefferson, MD: The Trinity Foundation, 1985), p. 131.


Mike Felker said...

I haven't read anything by Clark, but i've listened to a lot of his lectures, and have found him to be a lot more philosophical than most presuppositionalists that I have encountered. And there seems to be some dissent with those who might categorize themselves as "Van Tillian" who find disagreement with men such as Clark. Are you aware of the differences between the two? And do you think that these differences are really that stark?

Brian said...

If you listen to Phil Fernandes' course on Apologetic Methodologies, he really brings out the difference between Clark and Van Til. They seemed quite opposed on a lot of points. They are both very philosophical - but my guess would be that Clark was a bit more so. I could be wrong on that.

I am not aware of what all their differences are though.

Roberto G said...

Clark's main apologetic concern seemed to be epistemolgy and revelation and a non-empirical basis for knowledge. Van Til's seemed to be a christian metaphysic than encompassed epistemology and the pre-conditions of knowledge, which include an empirical basis. Both maintained Christianity needed a systematic defense. They disagreed on how such a defense would look like. I recommend Clark's Christian Philosophy of Education for a sketch of his apologetic method. Then, Religion,Reason, and Revelation. Van Til's Defense of the Faith and Christian Apologetics are foundational.

Roberto G said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
JLK said...

Clark spent most of his career as a philosophy professor, whereas Van Til was a theology professor. Clark is more philosophical although Van Til's method has many affinities with Continental rather than Analytical philosophy. There are both many similarities and many differences between their apologetic methods. The crux of the issue is whether or not the knowledge of man, though limited, corresponds (Clark) or is simply analogical (Van Til) with God's knowledge. This is a huge philosophical issue that manifests itself in many other sub-issues.

Anonymous said...

I think the most "visible" difference between the two is the use of Laws of Logic. Van Til thought them to be man made, and Clark a reflection of God's mind. There were other differences as well. On that issue, I agree with Clark. I also like Clark better as he is much easier for me to understand what he is trying to say. I like the writings of the pupils of Van Til better then Van Til's writings. Personal preference I suppose.

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