While I was busy writing my most recent paper, “Proof Terms for Classical Derivations”, I heard that Raymond Smullyan had died at the age of 97. I posted a tweet with a photo of a page from the draft of the paper I was writing at the time, expressing loss at hearing of his death and gratitude for his life.
There are many reasons to love Professor Smullyan. I learned combinatory logic from his delightful puzzle book To Mock a Mockingbird, and he was famous for many more puzzle books like that. He was not only bright and sharp, he was also warmly humane. However, the focus of my gratitude was something else. In my tweet, I hinted at one reason why I’m especially grateful for Smullyan’s genius—his deep understanding of proof theory. I am convinced that his analysis of inference rules in the tableaux system for classical logic rewards repeated reflection. (See his First-Order Logic, Chapter 2, Section 1 for details.) I’ll try to explain why it’s important and insightful here.
Talking to Jc Beall during his recent visit to Australia, I got thinking about first degree entailment again.
Here is a puzzle, which I learned from Terence Parsons in his “True Contradictions”. First Degree Entailment (fde) is a logic which allows for truth value gaps as well as truth value gluts. If you are agnostic between assigning paradoxical sentences gaps and gluts (and there seems to be no very good reason to prefer gaps over gluts or gluts over gaps if you’re happy with fde), then this looks no different, in effect, from assigning them a gap value? After all, on both views you end up with a theory that doesn’t commit you to the paradoxical sentence or its negation. How is the fde theory any different from the theory with gaps alone?
I think I have a clear answer to this puzzle—an answer that explains how being agnostic between gaps and gluts is a genuinely different position than admitting gaps alone. But to explain the answer and show how it works, I need to spell things out in more detail. If you want to see how this answer goes, read on.
I’m Greg Restall, and this is my personal website. I teach philosophy and logic as Professor of Philosophy at the University of Melbourne. ¶ Start at the home page of this site—a compendium of recent additions around here—and go from there to learn more about who I am and what I do. ¶ This is my personal site on the web. Nothing here is in any way endorsed by the University of Melbourne.