George Boole’s An Investigation of the Laws of Thought is, of course, one of the most important books in the history of mathematics. All one needs to do is check the table of contents of Landmark Writings in Mathematics to confirm that. George Boole wrote several other books, as one would expect, including books on differential and difference equations. He also wrote many papers, and a selection of those is included in this book.
The papers collected here deal with the laws of thought and of probability, which Boole saw as related. The arrangement is roughly topical, with the papers on logic coming first and those on probability presented next. Each section is in roughly chronological order.
Perhaps the most interesting paper is the third, “Sketch of a Theory and Method of Probabilities, founded upon the Calculus of Logic,” in which we can see how the two subjects were related in Boole’s mind. There are also several papers that reflect then-current debates, for example in reply to a paper by Henry Wilbraham which is helpfully included as an appendix.
All of this material is covered in depth in Boole’s Laws of Thought, so the interest of this collection seems to be limited to those who want to understand the development of Boole’s ideas. It includes, for example, The Mathematical Analysis of Logic, a book Boole published in 1847, with many of Boole’s later notes and revisions. There are also a few papers which were published after the Laws of Thought.
As far as I can tell, there is no modern critical edition of Boole’s works. Failing that, this collection from Dover will be useful to historians of logic and those interested in Boole’s life and thought.
Fernando Q. Gouvêa, who is Carter Professor of Mathematics at Colby College, sometimes describes himself as a “historian wannabe.”