this is phil 160...


  • Instructor: Dr. Max Weiss

  • Email:

  • Office hours: by appointment

  • Class meetings: Th 6-9pm, Fuller 134 (808 Commonwealth Ave)


Some diamonds were stolen by one of Alice, Bob, and Carol. Alice said she was innocent, while Bob said that Carol was innocent. Curiously, Carol confessed. As it happens, two of them turned out to have lied. Who stole the diamonds?

Reasoning is a skill, and improving a skill takes practice. In this course, we will pursue a practical study of reasoning. Beginning with elementary puzzles like the ones above, we will develop principles of reasoning which will allow you to solve such puzzles systematically. From this study, you can expect to develop an arsenal of party tricks. You can also expect to improve the clarity of your thought and writing, which will be helpful in numerous practical situations throughout life.


The course website is at


Course resources, including readings, assignments and solutions, scheduling information, etc., will all be posted here. To access these you’ll need to sign up at the site. It’s pretty straightforward, but here's the routine:

  1. from the course homepage, click signup
  2. at the /signup page, click google or facebook
  3. at the subsequent affiliate page, enter the code hmm


For the purpose of evaluation, coursework is divided into components. The components will be weighted as follows:

  • Attendance: 1 unit

  • Homework: 2 units

  • Midterm: 1 unit

  • Final exam: 2 units

You will get a letter grade on each component. In your final grade, one unit will be dropped from the component on which your letter grade was lowest.

In the assignment of letter grades for each component, you have the following guarantees:

  • If you get at least \(90\%\), then you are guaranteed an \(A\);

  • if you get at least \(80\%\), then you are guaranteed at least a \(B\); and

  • if you get at least \(70\%\), then you are guaranteed at least a \(C\).

In each case these are lower bounds on the letter grade you may get. If an assignment turns out to be trickier than expected, your letter grade may be higher.


All reading assignments will be posted on the course website. The readings will in general be short by number of pages—perhaps six to ten pages per week—but you should expect to spend some time with them. Some concepts in the course will be subtle, and it is important for you to master all details.


There will be a total of ten homework assignments. Each is due, in hard copy, at the beginning of a scheduled class meeting. I encourage you to submit the assignments handwritten.

Learning logic is like learning a musical instrument: you have to practice. So in this course, working through exercises for yourself will be the essential means by which you make progress.

If you get stuck on some question or concept, please let me know! I’m happy to help. I actually enjoy talking about logic, and it is very useful for me to learn how things are going with you.


The midterm is scheduled for 1 March.

The final exam will be given on 10 May, at 6pm in the same place as the ordinary class meetings.

Exam questions will resemble questions from previous homework. To ensure that students have an equal chance to prepare, the instructor will answer questions of the form “what will be on the exam” only in class.


This is a small class, and it meets only once a week. This means that we can choose our pace, and that you’ll get a lot more feedback.

It also means that the class will not work unless everybody shows up, on time. The attendance mark reflects this.

If you show up to every class, and are late at most once, then you will get a perfect attendance mark. Beyond that, each unexcused absence will result in the deduction from the attendance mark of a whole letter grade, and late arrivals will result in a deduction from the attendance mark of one third of a letter grade.


Late assignments

I will post homework solutions on the course website shortly after their due date. Homework will not be accepted after solutions have been posted.

Your grade on the homework will be the average of your top nine homework assignment marks.

Academic conduct

Students must observe the MET Code of Academic conduct, posted at All suspected violations of the code will be referred to the Dean’s Office for adjudication. Students are encouraged to discuss course material with each other, but students must submit only what is theirs as theirs.


Note that this is subject to revision!

Unit 0

  • Thu, 18 Jan - introduction

Unit 1 - informal logic

  • 25 Jan - argumentation and deduction

Unit 2 - truth-functional logic

  • 01 Feb - introdution; syntax
  • 08 Feb - semantics 1: the definition of truth
  • 15 Feb - semantics 2: semantic evaluation
  • 22 Feb - natural deduction
  • 01 Mar - midterm

Unit 3 - predicate logic

  • 15 Mar - possible worlds as structures
  • 22 Mar - the language of predicate logic
  • 29 Mar - translations
  • 05 Apr - semantic evaluation

Unit 4 - probability

  • 12 Apr - the calculus of probability
  • 19 Apr - discrete probability distributions
  • 26 Apr - puzzles in probability