Let slip the dogs of logic

My open access logic textbook, forall x, has been forked into numerous custom editions. This means that problem sets which I wrote years ago have been picked up and adapted.

The formal exercises are not especially distinctive, but the exercises translating from English into formal logic are about specific topics. Some of these were arbitrary inventions, like the sentences about Eli and Francesca who might or might not be bringing guacamole to a potluck. Guacamole was salient to me when I was writing the book, but I think I chose Eli and Francesca just because they started with E and F.

One of the problem sets is about animals (dogs in particular) who might or might not like samurai movies. In the original edition of the book, the three named dogs are Bertie, Fergis, and Emerson. These were pets of professors at UCSD when I was a grad student: Bertie was the Kitcher’s little terrier, Fergis was one of the Churchlands’ retrievers, and Emerson was Sandy Mitchell’s corgi. The latter two were often brought into campus, Fergis along with his sibling Maxie. I don’t recall ever seeing Bertie at the department.

However, I house sat for the Kitchers one Christmas. My primary responsibility was caring for Bertie. I rented several movies.1 One was The Seven Samurai, which I hadn’t seen before. I watched it in the rec room, where Bertie was allowed up on the furniture. He sat calmly next to me for the whole movie, head lolled to one side as he slowly licked the leather cushion of the couch. I’m not sure what it was about the movie that he found fascinating. Do dogs even register the difference between black&white and colour TV? I’m told he was extraordinarily calm when they returned from break, though, and I attribute it to watching samurai movies.

I was recently looking at the Calgary edition of forall x. Naturally, it has the exercises from my edition. So students are posed sentences about Eli, Francesca, and guacamole. For the problem set about dogs, however, the names are changed to Rave, Shane, and Daisy. Those are probably dogs the author knows, which is a nice touch. But I wonder if Rave, Shane, or Daisy have ever seen a samurai movie— and if they did, did they find it calming?

  1. This was back in the day when people rented movies. It was sort of like streaming, but with more driving to strip malls.

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