[FOM] Logicomix

Sara L. Uckelman S.L.Uckelman at uva.nl
Thu Apr 22 09:35:48 EDT 2010

Alasdair Urquhart wrote:
> Whether the book would attract younger readers to logic is debatable,
> since one the main themes of the novel is that there is a close
> connection between logic and madness.

I think precisely that connection is one of the things that intrigues
younger readers.  Madness is closely related to passion, and it is
something dangerous and exciting, and that kind of drama is what
young readers look for in graphic novels.

I was fortunate enough to host Apostolos Doxiadis last fall when he
came to my class and gave a lecture on the making of the Logicomix.
We opened the lecture to the entire department and so we had a mix
of master's and Ph.D. students, post-docs, and senior staff in logic,
mathematics, linguistics, and philosophy.  (I'd say that probably
half of the audience had, before the lecture, read and/or purchased a
copy of it; about half of the remaining went away with the intention
of buying/reading it.)  In the Q&A session afterwards, a significant
amount of the questions related to the madness and logic connection.
It might be said in return that since the audience was primarily
logicians of some flavor that this reflected not so much something
that might interest outsiders and bring them in to logic as much as
insiders worrying about what their fates might be :), but the extreme
popularity of the book in the Netherlands (it became a best-seller in
its first week of release, and while I don't remember the exact numbers,
the amount of Dutch copies that have sold is something like enough so
that nearly every household in the country could own a copy) shows that
it is widely attractive outside of academia.  And completely
anecdotally, when I received a copy for Christmas, it was my 5-year-old
nephew who kept accosting family members to get them to read more of it
to him, since he's not quite old enough to read all the words himself.

I will be using Logicomix tomorrow in a lecture to Dutch high school
math teachers on philosophy of mathematics, as I think it's a good
introduction to the non-specialist to the concepts of some of the issues
in foundations of mathematics, and I think that it is far more likely to
get high schoolers interested in the same than an ordinary textbook on
philosophy of math.


Dr. Sara L. Uckelman
Institute for Logic, Language, & Computation
Universiteit van Amsterdam

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