LOGIC AND OTHER PARADOXES

Introduction to Logic fulfills a requirement at the University of Minnesota. John M. Dolan teaches Introduction to Logic.

          Therefore, John Dolan's courses are well-attended. This year is no exception; true to tradition, a couple hundred well-scrubbed freshman turn out on the first day of lectures to hear Professor Dolan's introduction to Introduction to Logic. We tag along for the ride.

          Outside, wet leaves cling to the concrete walks. Dealers in soft drinks and demographically targeted music and Guatemalan sweaters sing to the cheerful jingle of freshly-cashed student loan checks. The usurers hand out free, cheap sunglasses at 21 percent "just to fill out an application!" And the students--generations X, Y, and Z, premium marketing group, blank slates in search of chalk and accessories, seekers of truth and career opportunities--throng by the thousands over the Washington Avenue Bridge.

          But inside Nicholson Auditorium, an aura of scholarship has descended, liberally mixed with the scent of Noxema skin creme, musty seats, and designer cologne. Professor Dolan adjusts the chord of his microphone, and gets down to business. "To the freshman here, I would like to extend a warm welcome. This thing isn't on, is it? It's on? It's barely on. There we go. I would like to extend a welcome to all the freshman here, and an apology. The seats marked off with tape are not suitable for your occupation; there was a leak, and the ceiling is damaged, and I would not sit there. To those of you sitting next to the seats, I commend you. You show a pluck and a dedication to the pursuit of knowledge that I hope the rest of you will take to heart."

          Professor John M. Dolan is a teacher of the old school, a witty lecturer with a hint of the East Coast in his accent. He is Alan Alda playing a philosophy professor. He looks like Peter gone solo without Paul and Mary, with a graying goatee, carefully trimmed sideburns, and balding pate. His required text, Inference and Imagination by J. M. Dolan, is littered with amusing quotes, cartoons, and anecdotes. Before Inference and Imagination by J. M. Dolan came out in print two years ago, Professor Dolan provided his students with a photocopied version. He offers extra credit to students who spot errors in the book. His lectures sometimes stray from this text, but they soon return with the predictability of a well-constructed logic problem.

          Today, for example, he surveys the faces ranged out before him with a smile. "I just want to cherish this moment," he says. "There are 240 of you sitting in this room and not one of you is behind in the homework, or has missed a lecture, or come up with a phony excuse for skipping an exam." None of this is in the text. Back on topic, Professor Dolan builds a case for the study of logic, one of the seven liberal arts required for study under Charlemagne's rule. Logic is the underpinning of every other discipline, the building block of a good education, Dolan says. A graduate student manages the overhead transparencies. Blonde heads silky from a hundred daily brush strokes bend over notebooks, or stare at the wall. A baseball-capped late-comer sits without paper or pencil, calm and peaceful like a Buddha. Someone up in front wears a T-shirt that reads "Give Blood." The minute hand inches by. The transparencies blink on and off the screen hypnotically. Chomsky replaces Charlemagne. In this class, Professor Dolan will ask the class to apply their logical skills to decoding propaganda: "What does the media sell? Newspapers, television, radio, what do they sell?" he asks.

          "News," someone calls out after a pause.

          "No, they don't sell news."

          "Entertainment?"

          "No. They sell audiences. You're the product."

          The first peevish snap of a three-ring binder signals the end of class. A half-dozen more click shut, and, though Professor Dolan continues to lecture, the room seems to inflate and expand with the noise of shifting seats, rustling papers, backpack zippers, and whispers. The collective will to terminate the session dominates. Students are standing up to leave. "Remember," Professor Dolan shouts into the crackling mic above the swelling pandemonium, "Philosophy is careful thinking about little things!" The rest is drowned out. A thick-shouldered scholar in the back of the room stretches, cracks his knuckles, and snorts at his companion: "Boy, aren't you glad you're paying for this class?" *

--Joseph Hart

PUBLICDOMAIN

          We've always entertained an image of veterinarians that must have originated in some pre-memory Disney movie we saw: dreamy girls in love with horses; towheaded boys who speak to the animals. That was before we signed up for a subscription to The College of Veterinary Medicine Reporter. Instead of romantic animal fanciers, the fellows over at the lab have become, in our imaginations at least, gadflies, inadvertently posing again and again such questions as: How much do you love your dog? Why? A recent issue, for example, contains this abstract of cutting-edge research from Iowa State University:

           Disease Conditions of Canine Anal Sacs

          "The specific cause of impaction and sacculitis is unknown. Possible predisposing factors include chronic diarrhea, glandular hypersecretion associated with general seborrhe and poor muscle tone in small and obese dogs. Prolonged retention of secretion in sacs may be the initiating factor..."

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