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Featured Books

Logic and the Organization of Information

frickeAuthor: Martin Frické
Publisher:  Springer (2012)

This book is not for everyone, but everyone who works with information should know why it is important. The author, an information science professor, believes that logic is fundamental to the field of information science. Most scholars and practitioners do not understand this important fact. He opens with a quote from 1929: “That the study of classification extends into logic… should not deter the educated librarian…”. Frické explains how Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz envisioned the use of logic to organize information in the 17th century, but notes that "The monumental and authoritative Encyclopedia of Library and Information Sciences, Third Edition, 2009, does not have an entry for logic in its 6,856 pages" (p 121).

Modern information scientists do not recognize the value of logic in their field because it is no longer a required subject and few of them have ever studied it. People who manage information should be able to turn to information science for guidance on how to use logic to organize information, but they cannot. Deficiency of logic education has become the root cause of many difficult and costly challenges facing every modern organization.

With the decline of logic education during the 20th century, it has become possible to earn a degree in almost any subject, including a PhD in information science, information management, or even computer science, without taking even a single introductory course in logic. This incredible fact highlights the irony of an advanced society that could not have developed without logic as the cornerstone of its education, but no longer expects it to be studied or understood.

The Trivium: The Liberal Arts of Logic, Grammar, and Rhetoric

triviumAuthor: Miriam Joseph
Publisher: Paul Dry Books; Reissue edition (2002)

This book was written by an English teacher and it is highly regarded by the distinguished artificial intelligence expert John Sowa. Sowa shared a story about teaching a graduate course at Stanford University. He said: "On the first day, I handed out the first homework assignment: Ten sentences in English, which the students were asked to translate to first-order logic (FOL). The sentences did not contain any problematical words or constructions. FOL was sufficient ... But only one person translated all ten sentences correctly. And he happened to be a recent PhD who was just auditing the course."

Knowledge of first-order logic was a known prerequisite for this course. Although this was a course in computer science, Sowa said any student who had gotten an A in the author's English class could have completed the assignment successfully. Through much of modern history, even young grammar school students completed similar assignments successfully. For many centuries the ancient trivium of logic, grammar and rhetoric was considered the starting point for all further education. But this long tradition came to an end with the education reforms of the early 20th century.

Most logic instructors would not consider this book as a primary text for teaching logic today, but it contains interesting examples of the traditional approaches of the past. The subject matter is timeless and universal.

Applied Mathematics for Database Professionals

AM4DPAuthor: Lex de Haan and Toon Koppelaars
Publisher:  Apress (2007)

The title of this book is misleading — it is not about mathematics, it is about symbolic logic, which is usually taught as introductory material in philosophy departments at universities and and even most community colleges. It is not difficult; it teaches how to apply the simple principles of logic to the process of database design.

Logic provides the basic underlying principles behind the millions of databases that form the nervous system of modern commerce and management. But unfortunately the vast majority of database professionals have never studied logic, an ironic fact that co-author Toon Koppelaars discusses in his blog. Knowledge of logic does not come naturally or even from experience. It must be taught.

Logic was eliminated as a required subject in schools during the first half of the 20th century and computers were developed during the second half. But computers do not reduce the value of logic education, they increase it. And no activity relies more heavily on the practical application of logic than designing and querying databases. Deficiency of logic education is without doubt the primary root cause of the most difficult and costly information management challenges facing modern organizations. These challenges could be reduced or eliminated by teaching basic principles of classical logic and how to apply them, which is what this book does.