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Rafael De Clercq
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Jack Alan Reynolds
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Notre Dame Journal of Formal Logic 39 (4):581-599 (1998)
Mario Savio is widely known as the first spokesman for the Free Speech Movement. Having spent the summer of 1964 as a civil rights worker in segregationist Mississippi, Savio returned to the University of California at a time when students throughout the country were beginning to mobilize in support of racial justice and against the deepening American involvement in Vietnam. His moral clairty, his eloquence, and his democratic style of leadership inspired thousands of fellow Berkeley students to protest university regulations that had severely limited political speech and activity on campus. The nonviolent campaign culminated in the largest mass arrest in American history, drew widespread faculty support, and resulted in a revision of university rules to permit political speech and organizing. This significant advance for student freedom rapidly spread to countless other colleges and universities across the country. Mario Savio went on to become a college teacher of physics, logic, and philosophy, to speak and organize in favor of immigrant rights and affirmative action and against U.S. intervention in Central America. He died on November 6, 1996, in the middle of a struggle against California State University fee hikes that hurt working-class students. Savio had submitted this article to the Notre Dame Journal of Formal Logic before he died. Final revisions were made by Philip Clayton with the assistance of Mario's colleagues at Sonoma State University. As reader for the Journal, George Englebretsen not only provided an extensive commentary on the article--much of which has been incorporated here--but also assisted in the difficult task of making revisions without changing the substance of Mario's style or thought. It is fitting that this, Savio's final publication, would be pedagogical in orientation. For him, moral considerations were no less pertinent in logic than in philosophy's less abstract fields. The usual student confusion with Venn diagrams led him to develop the new pictorial device presented in the following pages, which he believed was more sensitive to user psychology. It is hard to miss the political overtones in Savio's closing worry that in Venn diagrams "information of real significance may occasionally appear hidden and distorted." The decision by the Notre Dame Journal of Formal Logic to publish this piece posthumously is a testimony that logic, no less than other fields of philosophy, can be a tool of free speech and political change--as powerful in its way as the rhetorical brilliance of that young man standing on top of a police car who launched a worldwide movement with the words, "There is a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, you can't take part."
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