Logical form

In Edward Craig (ed.), Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Genealogy to Iqbal. New York: Routledge (1996)
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Abstract

Consider the following argument: All men are mortal; Socrates is a man; therefore, Socrates is mortal. Intuitively, what makes this a valid argument has nothing to do with Socrates, men, or mortality. Rather, each sentence in the argument exhibits a certain logical form, which, together with the forms of the other two, constitute a pattern that, of itself, guarantees the truth of the conclusion given the truth of the premises. More generally, then, the logical form of a sentence of natural language is what determines both its logical properties and its logical relations to other sentences. The logical form of a sentence of natural language is typically represented in a theory of logical form by a well-formed formula in a ‘logically pure’ language whose only meaningful symbols are expressions with fixed, distinctly logical meanings (e.g., quantifiers). Thus, the logical forms of the sentences in the above argument would be represented in a theory based on pure predicate logic by the formulas ‘∀x(Fx ⊃ Gx)’, ‘Fy’, and ‘Gy’, respectively, where ‘F’, ‘G’, and ‘y’ are all free variables. The argument’s intuitive validity is then explained in virtue of the fact that the logical forms of the premises formally entail the logical form of the conclusion. The primary goal of a theory of logical form is to explain as broad a range of such intuitive logical phenomena as possible in terms of the logical forms that it assigns to sentences of natural language.

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Christopher Menzel
Texas A&M University

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