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Logicomix: As Good An Explanation of Logic or Insanity as You're Likely to Get

Updated on August 8, 2010

"Logicomix" is a rather strange effort by a team of two Greeks, one a writer and the other a logician: an epic-length comic book that tries to explains logic through the life of famed logician Bertrand Russell. The story alternates between two settings: Russell, delivering a speech about his life and how it illustrates the search for reason to an American anti-war crowd  at the beginning of World War II, and the creators of the comic in modern-day Athens, arguing back and forth how Russell should be represented and helping to clarify some of the finer points of Russell's arguments on logic. 

"Logicomix" actually does OK in its effort to illustrate logical concepts in comics form, unlike something like "Action Philosophers." This is probably helped along by the two narratives, which take the abstractness and complexity of some of the logical arguments that come up and give them context. I found that I could follow along well enough, even if I couldn't understand absolutely everything.

The Athens part of the story really helps set in context the Russell part of the story: as the writer Apostolos and the logician Christos argue back and forth along with their team of artists and researchers, it helps to not only contextualize the logic of the story but also develop the themes of the story, the most important being the struggle between madness and logic. As Russell grew up, he fled first to mathematics and then to logic in order to fend off the insanity that was hereditary in his family, and his quest in life to create a logical basis for mathematics and cut down on the assumptions and unproven axioms that infested the field at the turn of the twentieth century drove him to eternally try to find a logical way to explain the world. At the same time, both Russell in his speech and the creators in their developing the comic note on the many fellow logicians who fell into a variety of insanities (bizarre mysticism, anti-Semetic diatribes, a total rejection of emotions, and extreme depression and melancholia, to give a few examples). Was logic a tool to fend off insanity, or a way of luring it in?

The art style of the comic is very good, simple while retaining a lot of detail. It reminded me a bit of Tom Tomorrow, although without his satiric intentions. the art is the right balance of cartoony and realistic where it is very easy to just slip into the story and flow along on the journey it takes you on.

I also appreciate the "Notebook" in the back, which has profiles and definitions of all of the philosophers and logical concepts mentioned in the main text. this was helpful, as it helped make more clear ideas and people that might have just been brushed over in the main text.

All in all, I quite liked this book. It was fairly easy to understand, and it told a very interesting story about a very interesting man in a very interesting way. Check it out if you happened to see it around.    


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