Shining a light on logic

Just as a scientist places a sample beneath a microscope lens to understand its subtlest parts, philosophers minutely examine an argument to determine how its components work together.

Logics that can cope with inconsistent premises are the focus of Dr. Bryson Brown's most recent work. The University of Lethbridge philosophy professor has recently earned a $95,000 Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) grant to pursue his research program, titled Preservationism: Applications and Extensions.

His research, a collaboration with Dalhousie University's Dr. Peter K. Schotch and Simon Fraser University's Dr. Raymond E. Jennings, examines preservationism – a philosophical approach to logic that prioritizes preserving desirable formal properties of premises when we draw conclusions from them.

"We already have a large body of work on two forms of preservationist logic and a number of other side-projects with published results," says Brown.

With this newest project, Brown hopes to look into applications of the logic (to philosophy of science and mathematics, for instance). "Broadly, we're trying to make more people in the field aware of the work and the logical tools we've produced."

To disseminate the work, Brown, Schotch and Jennings are creating a series of books to be published by the University of Toronto Press (the first will be published early in 2009), as well as presenting their research at a number of international conferences.

"Given that we're trying to produce a book and attend several major conferences over the next few years, this help from SSHRC is essential to keeping up the pace of the project."