Be a Formal Logic Superhero!

July 3, 2013
Stuart Kovinsky

July is finally here – that means different things for different people. For example, if you’re a super hero fan, it means awesome summer blockbusters. If you’re a law school hopeful, it means bearing down on the LSAT, including formal logic. If you’re LSAT super-hero chic geek Christine Schrader, it means taking a walk around the block on a beautiful day and combining the best of both.

At this point you might be thinking “super-heroes and formal logic? I’m super-confused!” However, formal logic inundates regular life – we make conditional statements (the “if-then”s that permeate the LSAT) all the time. How often do you look at your watch at the end of your lunch hour and think “if I grab a latte, I’ll be late for class”? You likely don’t realize it at the time (possibly due to caffeine withdrawl), but that’s a classic LSAT formal logic statement.

Super-heroes are no exception to the rule – no matter what colour the sun on their home planets, how many times they’ve been bitten by radioactive arachnae or which of their genes have mutated, they too are bound by the laws of logic – as are their stories. Here are couple of examples from Christine’s stroll through the park!

Are you a Batman fan? I know that I am! Christopher Nolan’s trilogy was awesome (no one misses seeing Michael Keaton in form-fitting pleather), but has sadly come to an end. All true Batman fans would agree that “the end of Nolan’s Batman trilogy makes a series reboot essential”.

Would all Batman fans recognize the formal logic in that statement? Probably not! On the LSAT, however, whenever you see “essential”, you know that you have a necessary condition – and necessary conditions are 1/2 of an if-then statement. Those in the know (that’s you and me) would translate that rule as:

If Nolan’s trilogy is ended –> reboot the series

How about Peter Parker? I know that I love Spider-man because he’s a hero with whom I can identify – just a regular nerd in an extraordinary situation. I can’t be the only person who occasionally hangs around nuclear reactors hoping to get bitten by a uranium-enriched bug! In the most recent Spidey saga, Gwen Stacey was the love interest – but we all know that Mary Jane is somewhere out in NYC, just waiting for her chance at romance. We can only imagine at some point Peter is going to have to make a choice – and since Mr Parker is an honourable guy, he can’t date MJ unless he breaks up with Gwen first.

Hey – there’s some more formal logic! “unless” is another one of those trigger words that draws the LSAT expert’s keen eye. Unless statements almost always include a double negative: he cannot date MJ unless he breaks up with Gwen first. What do logic ninjas do with double negatives? They slash them out and end up with:

If Peter dates MJ –> he breaks up with Gwen

As you’re enjoying a summer box office filled with super-hero fare, keep thinking about conditional statements – that way you won’t feel guilty about enjoying a great flick, since you’ll still be studying for the LSAT! Even if you’re no Logic Girl, practice will make you a formal logic hero.

Stuart Kovinsky

Stuart Kovinsky I'm Stuart Kovinsky, an out-of-the-closet LSAT geek from Toronto. I've been teaching for Kaplan for over 20 years (not counting a 5 year break to practice as a commercial litigator at a big Toronto firm) and, working both as a teacher and an admissions consultant, have coached a lot of students to their top choice schools. I'm also an ultimate frisbee enthusiast - when not in the classroom or behind the keyboard you'll often find me on the field.

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