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Frequently Asked Questions about Logic I (Phil 279)

General Questions

  1. This is a philosophy course at an introductory level. So it's really easy, right?
  2. So how much work does it require?
  3. How important is it that I pass this course?
  4. What's with the grade scale? 60 points for a D, 93 for an A. That's harsh!
  5. Are the marks curved?
  6. Why can't I buy the textbook used, or sell it after the class is over?
  7. I don't have a computer/I don't like computers. Why do you force me to do all this work on the computer?
  8. How do I get overloaded in this course?
  9. Do I need a University email account?
  10. Who or what are Tarski, Boole, and Fitch?
  11. How do I write all these weird symbols in BlackBoard/in email?

    Course Policies and Procedures

  12. I need an extension/I have a question about the homework mark. Who should I talk to?
  13. I can't make your office hours. Where can I get help?
  14. Can I just email you my assignment?
  15. How do I find out what my current grade is?
  16. Since the worst homework mark is dropped, that means I can miss one, right?
  17. I just submitted my homework, but I found a mistake. Can I resubmit?

    Software Questions

  18. How do I register with the Grade Grinder?
  19. Submit can't connect to the Grade Grinder. What should I do?
  20. The Grade Grinder is really slow. Should I resubmit my files or what?
  21. I've lost my Registration ID. What should I do?
  22. My grade report says that some of my files were "not gradeable"--what gives?
  23. I'm in the Art Faculty Computer Lab. Where's the software? How do I find the exercise files?

1. General Questions

This is a philosophy course at an introductory level. So it's really easy, right?

No. This is a course in formal logic. Some people (especially science, computer science, and math majors) find the material easy. Some people (including, surprisingly, many computer science majors) find the material very hard. In terms of work required and "feel" it is much more like a math course than a philosophy course. You don't need to know (much) math to do well here, though, but you do need a certain ability to think in abstract terms.

The median grade is about a C+. In 2012, roughly 10% of students finishing ended up getting A-range grades; 35% between B– and B+; 35% between C– and C+; 10% D or D+; 10% an F. If you’re worried that only science majors do well here: Some of the top students in previous classes majored in fine art, religious studies, philosophy, and management.

So how much work does it require?

It is not unusual for students to spend 10-15 hours on an assignment. It takes less time if you keep on top of the reading and do the assignments as we cover the material in class. Some students aren't very good at budgeting time and leave assignments to a day before the due date. Then it certainly will take a lot of time, and it will be difficult to complete the assignment.

Even 10-15 hours per assignment isn't that much on average. With six assignments, this works out to about 5-7 hours a week, or about 1.5-2 hours per our spent in class. If you do all the exercises on the homework, you shouldn't need to study much in addition.

How important is it that I pass this course?

Phil 279 is a program requirement for the BA and BSc programs in Computer Science, Philosophy, and History and Philosophy of Science.

It is also a prerequisite for a number of other required courses.  You will not be abe to register in a course for which Phil 279 (or the equivalent, Phil 377) is a perequisite unless you pass with a C- or better.  These courses include:

Phil 279 is also highly recommended for Math majors, satisfies a requirement for Linguistics majors, and counts as one of the "courses outside the faculty" for majors in the Science faculty.

What's with the grade scale? 60 points for a D, 93 for an A. That's harsh!

The scores assigned to the problem sets and exams are not percentages. The point values of individual problems and the conversion scale are designed to produce approximately the “right” marks. 80 points on a test does not mean that you got 80% of the answers right.

In many courses (including other sections of PHIL 279/377) the grade scale is set so that 50 is a D, and sometimes anything over 90 is an A. In these courses, however, it is much harder to attain these percentages, as they rely more heavily on tests and no credit is given for participation.

In this section of 279, your assignments count for 50% of the final grade; in others it is usually much less (24-40%). It is easier in general to score well on homework assignments (and students do): you are not on the clock, you have textbook and notes available, you an work with others, and you can talk to the instructors about the problems. In addition, the final score is the average of your five best assignments, i.e., your lowest score dropped. No other section of 279 does this. Also, since about 75% of the problems are done on the computer, you can have the computer check your solutions before you submit them. Thus, for 75% of your assignments, you can get instant feedback on whether your solution is correct before you hand it in. In addition, 5% of your grade consists in participation (in class, on the website). That is 5%, or one half grade point, which are is essentially "free".

This is not to say that it's easy to get a good grade, just that the grade scale isn't designed to be harder than other courses.

Experience shows that the grade scale results in a grade distribution similar to other sections of 279 with different grade scales, and the final letter grades students receive on the whole correspond closely to the definitions of those letter grades in the University Calendar. For instance, final scores in the 80-90 range represent "clearly above average performance with knowledge of subject matter generally complete" and performance in the 60-70 range are "marginal performance; generally insufficient preparation for subsequent courses in the same subject."

Are the marks curved?

No. The grade scale is fixed.

Why can't I buy the textbook used, or sell it after the class is over?

The textbook comes with a software package and license to use an online grading service called the "Grade Grinder". The license is non-transferable, unfortunately, so whoever buys a used copy can't use the software. For the same reason, the bookstore will not buy back used copies of the text after the term.  However, the textbook is significantly cheaper than even used copies of competing textbooks used in other sections of Phil 279, so your overall expenses will be about the same as in other sections of Phil 279.

I don't have a computer/I don't like computers. Why do you force me to do all this work on the computer?

The software runs on any Windows or Mac OS computer (even versions for Linux are available). This includes the computers in labs on campus and the Information Commons. You can take your CD there, and do the work even if you don't have a computer. Perhaps a case can be made that a university education which didn't require you to become familiar with computers is not worth much in this day and age. But if you feel strongly that you shouldn't have to use a computer in a philosophy course, again, you are free to take the course from an instructor who uses a traditional textbook.

Who or what are Tarski, Boole, and Fitch?

They're logicians.

How do I write all these weird symbols on BlackBoard/in email?

In email, you can use some plain text approximation of the symbols (e.g., '->' for the conditional '?'). On BlackBoard you can also use special codes called "HTML4 Character Entity References." These as well as suggested plain text alternatives for the symbols commonly used are listed on a separate page on logic symbols.

2. Course Policies and Procedures

How do I get overloaded in this course?

Space invariably opens up about a week into the semester. Its best to just come to class and register later.

If you have a really pressing reason to take the course this term (e.g., you cannot graduate otherwise), an exception can be made. You should come to my office hours.

Do I need a University email account?

A course website on U of C’s BlackBoard server has been/will be set up. You should be automatically registered on the first day of class if you’re registered in the class. To access he BlackBoard site, you can either go directly to blackboard.ucalgary.ca and log in with our UCIT account name and password, or you can access it through the myUofC portal at my.ucalgary.ca. To sign up for a UCIT account, see the the Student Computer Support website.

You need an email account for using the Grade Grinder, but any email address is fine. However, you will have to use the same email address for the entire course, so pick an account which you are reasonably sure will work for the entire term (at least).

Note: The BlackBoard site is not where you check @ucalgary.ca email; to check email on your UCS account, go to Webmail or see the IT email page on other options. Hence, if you use your @ucalgary.ca email address for Submit, don't look on BlackBoard for your grade reports. Again, you can use any email address you like for Submit and the Grade Grinder.

I need an extension/I have a question about the homework mark. Who should I talk to?

The homework assignments are graded by the TAs. Please contact your TA if you need an extension or want to talk about the homework mark.

I can't make your office hours. Where can I get help?

If you can't make your TA's or the instructor's regular scheduled office hours, ask for an appointment. With advance notice, this is no problem. However, you are encouraged to post your question on the online discussion board. One of your colleagues will usually be able to answer the question; otherwise, one of the instructors will. Email is of course also fine, but it usually isn't much faster than posting, and others might benefit from the question and/or the answer.

Can I just email you my assignment?

Please don't. If for some reason you can't make it to campus by the deadline, you can email your assignment as proof that you've done it. You should still give a hardcopy to your TA.

How do I find out what my current grade is?

Marks on assignments, exams, and "current earned grades" are added/updated on BlackBoard as they become available.

Since the worst homework mark is dropped, that means I can miss one, right?

No. You should turn in all six assignments. The lowest mark will be dropped, and that might include a mark of 0 if you handed in the assignment late.

I just submitted my homework, but I found a mistake. Can I resubmit?

Yes. The GradeGrinder will display the result of the "best" submission for each problem for grading. However, you might want to have a complete record of what you submitted and that it was submitted to the instructor and not just to yourself.

3. Software Questions

How do I register with the Grade Grinder?

Complete the "You try it" exercise on pp. 8-10 of the text. This will walk you through your first submission to the Grade Grinder using Submit. When you Submit your first file, you'll be asked for:

  • Your name: Enter your name as it appears on your university records. If your last name is more than one word, use a hyphen. You can leave out middle names unless they are the names you go by. E.g., if your name is "Dana Alex van der Linden" then enter your name as "Dana van-der-Linden".
  • Your Registration ID: That's the number on your CD.
  • Your email address: Enter the email address you want your grade reports sent to. Don't enter your @ucalgary.ca address unless you check email on that account.
  • Instructor name: Richard Zach
  • Instructor email address: rzach@ucalgary.ca

Submit can't connect to the Grade Grinder. Why? What should I do?

There are a number of possible causes for this:

  • You're not connected to the internet. Make sure you have an active interet onnection.
  • Your computer is behind a firewall. If your browser connects to the web through a proxy, you will have to tell Submit to connect through proxy as well. To find out what your proxy settings are, do this: In Internet Explorer, go to "Internet options" in the Tools menu. Then select "Connections", then "LAN settings". In Netscape, go to "Preferences" in the Edit menu, then select "Advanced", then "Proxies". Enter the information you find there in "Settings" in the File menu of Submit.
  • Your installation didn't work right. Try reinstalling the software.

If none of this helps, you'll have to bring your files with you on a USB stick (or email them to yourself), and submit them from a computer on campus, or from someone else's computer where Submit can connect to the Grade Grinder.

The Grade Grinder is really slow. Should I resubmit my files or what?

Sometimes, especially in the last few hours before a deadline, GG is under heavy load and may take up to a couple of hours rather than the usual 5-10 minutes to process your submission. If Submit told you that the files were received, there is no need to resubmit them. You can use the "GG Status" button to check on your submission. It's a good idea to make a note of the submission ID reported by Submit, just in case.

I've lost my Registration ID. What should I do?

If you've already used the Grade Grinder, you can find your ID in the grade reports you got back. Look for a line that says

"Submission ID: 02.063.20.44.59.L12-1234534"

The part after the last "." is your Registration ID. If you don't have old grade reports, you can have it emailed to you.

My grade report says that some of my files were "not gradeable"--what gives?

Usually this means that you submitted a file for an exercise where no file of that type was required. If, say, Exercise 3.1 asks you to submit a world file, and you turn in a world file and a sentence file (by mistake), GG won't know what to do with the sentence file and complain that it's "ungradeable". Another possiblity is that you misnamed your file. If you intended to turn in World 2.1.5 but named it World 2.15, GG will complain because there is no World 2.15 to submit for exercise 2.15.

I'm in the Arts Faculty Computer Lab. Where's the software? How do I find the exercise files?

The software and textbook are installed on the computers in the AFCL Lab (018 SS). To start the programs or read the textbook, go to:

Start > All Programs > Math-Stats > LPL Software