by Calixto Badesa

From ancient times to the beginning of the nineteenth century, mathematics was commonly viewed as the general science of quantity, with two main branches: geometry, which deals with continuous quantities, and arithmetic, which deals with quantities that are discrete. Mathematical logic does not fit neatly into this taxonomy. In 1847, George Boole [1] offered an alternative characterization of the subject in order to make room for this new discipline: mathematics should be understood to include the use of any symbolic calculus “whose laws of combination are known and general, and whose results admit of a consistent interpretation.” Depending on the laws chosen, symbols can just as well be used to represent propositions instead of quantities; in that way, one can consider calculations with propositions on par with more familiar arithmetic calculations. Despite Boole’s efforts, logic has always held an uncertain place in the mathematical community. This can partially be attributed to its youth; while number theory and geometry have their origins in antiquity, mathematical logic did not emerge as a recognizable discipline until the latter half of the nineteenth century, and so lacks the provenance and prestige of its elder companions. Furthermore, the nature of the subject matter serves to set it apart; as objects of mathematical study, formulas and proofs do not have the same character as groups, topological spaces, and measures. Even distinctly mathematical branches of contemporary logic, like model theory and set theory, tend to employ linguistic classifications and measures of complexity that are alien to other mathematical disciplines. The Birth of Model Theory, by Calixto Badesa, describes a seminal step in the emergence of logic as a mature mathematical discipline. As its title suggests, the focus is on one particular result, now referred to as the L¨owenheim-Skolem theorem, as presented in a paper by L¨owenheim in 1915. But the book is, more broadly, about the story of the logic community’s gradual coming to the modern distinction between syntax and semantics, that is, between systems of symbolic expressions and the meanings that can be assigned to them..
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