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Maarten Maartensz:    Philosophical Dictionary | Filosofisch Woordenboek   D - Deduction - Natural

Natural Deduction: Technique of writing logical and mathematical proofs in a format that is close to ordinary ('natural') reasoning, in that the proofs rely on rules of reasoning that refer only to the grammatical form (and not to the meaning or interpretation) of formulas.

There are many systems of Natural Deduction (ND), a technique that was first independently conceived of and developed by Gerhard Gentzen and by Stanislaw Jaskowski in the 1930-ies.

Until then, the standard technique of proving in formal logic was in terms of axioms plus some rules, usually modus ponens and substitution, so that the proved theorems were those formulas that could be obtained from the axioms by these rules.

One important difference from the then normal axiomatic style of proof was that in ND one assumed far more rules and no or hardly any axioms, with the result that many proofs were easier to find and to read. In part this is due to the format, and in part to a key-idea of ND: That of sub-ordinate proofs. These are proofs within proofs, that make it possible to compose the proof of a formula from the proofs of several other formulas.

In the following sections I give a number of rules for propositional logic, predicate logic, and set theory and will be mostly following Cartwright, Seebohm, and Tennant.

1. Preliminaries

A proof in ND is supposed to have a specific format, namely that it is a sequence of numbered lines of formulas, each of which has a justification in terms of an assumed rule of inference.

Thus, the general format is

(1)   F1    J1
...
(i)    Fi     Ji
...
(n)   Fn    Jn

where at each line (i) there is a formula Fi followed by a justification of the formula Ji, and the justification either is (a) that Fi is an assumption or else (b) refers to earlier lines in the proof and to some assumed rule of inference or (c) names a theorem of which the formula is an instance.

To start with the case (a), the simplest proof consists of an assumption, which has its own rule AI = Assumption Introduction, which looks like this:

 AI Assumption Introduction n An AI

Assumption Introduction says line n consists of assumption An, which is justified by AI, where "AI" is the justification.

All in all, what the rule amounts to is the freedom to assume what one pleases, as long as it is clearly justified as assumption, and what is assumed is a well-formed formula. To repeat:

A proof is supposed to have a certain format:

• it consists of numbered lines, with one formula per line
• every line has a justification
• every justification, if not AI, refers to previous lines in the proof

Thus schematically it looks like this:

 1 A1 J1... ... ... n An Jn... p Ap Jp, 1,n

Here the line-numbers, that function as names of the formulas that immediately follow them, are on the left, followed by schematic indications of formulas, and schematic indications of their justifications. In the given schema, at line p formula Ap is supposed to be justified by the earlier lines 1 and n.

Also, that this is a rule is indicated by the horizontal line: From lines 1 and n, regardless of whatever other lines there are in the proof, line p may be inferred on the strength of the rule Jp.

Two other simple one-line rules which one often needs in ND-proofs are these, both of which are called Repetition:

 Rep Repetition n An Jn p An Rep,n

Repetition says line p follows from line n by Rep, that simply repeats the earlier line of a proof.

So far, apart from AI and Rep no rules of inference have been given and assumed. This we will proceed to do now.

2. Propositional Logic

There are quite a few different systems of ND for Classical Propositional Logic, for which we will be given rules of inference in this section. The format and rules presented here are given because it is clear and simple.

 II Implication Introduction p A AI q B r A => B II,p,q

Implication Introduction says that one can infer at line q+1 that A=>B (read as: "A implies B") if one has already a subordinate proof of B (by some rules) from the assumption A

Note that at this point we have the rules that enable us to prove that

Theorem: A=>A

Namely: We can assume A by AI, then repeat that by Rep, and thus have a subordinate proof of A from A, for which reason we can use II to infer A=>A.

Note the conventions used in the writing of this rule:

• Each lower line is a later stage in the proof, and therefore lower line numbers must be higher
• At line p the assumption of A is made
• At line q, possibly with many intermediate formulas between p and q, B is concluded
• At line r, A=>B is concluded by II, on the strength of lines p and q

There is one important qualification on the lines that are part of a subordinate proof:

• Rule for subordinate proofs: NO line in a subordinate proof may occur as a justification OUTSIDE the subordinate proof itself

The reason is that the lines in a subordinate proof may and often do depend on the assumption that started the subordinate proof, and this assumption usually is not in force anymore later on in the proof.

 IE Implication Elimination p A => B q A r B IE,p,q

Implication Elimination is the ND-version of the classical rule that is used as the main or only rule in axiomatic proofs, the rule of Modus Ponens. It says that if one has that A=>B and one also has that A, then from these two one can infer B.

It is now already possible to prove theorems about implication, like this

Theorem: (A=>B)=>((B=>C)=>(A=>C))

Here is the proof:

 1 (A=>B) AI 2 (B=>C) AI 3 A AI 4 B IE,1,3 5 C IE,2,4 6 A=>C II,3,5 7 (B=>C)=>(A=C) II,2,6 8 (A=>B)=>((B=>C)=>(A=C)) II,1,7

Note how this proof can be read from the page, as it were: 'Suppose (1) A implies B, and suppose (2) B implies C. Now suppose (3) A. Then from 1 and 3 it follows that B. And then it follows from B and 2 that C. Then it follows from C and 3 that A implies C. Therefore from 2 B implies C implies A implies C, and finally from (1) the theorem'.

This sort of proof also illustrates the name 'Natural Deduction'.

 NI Negation Introduction p A AI q B r ~B r+1 ~A NI,p,q,r

Negation Introduction involves a subordinate proof: To prove that ~A one assumes A in a subordinate proof and derives a contradiction from it, that usually will depend on earlier assumptions or conclusions in the proof, and concludes that since A does entail a contradiction, A must be false.

 NE Negation Elimination p ~~A q A NE,p

Negation Elimination allows the removal of a pair of negations.

Of course, one or both of these negations may have come from NI, or AI or some other rules.

 CI Conjunction Introduction p A q B r A&B CI,p,q

Conjunction Introduction allows the introduction of a conjunction of two statements on condition that each statement has been proved already.

 CE Conjunction Elimination (left) p A&B r A CE,p

Conjunction Elimination allows the inference of one conjunct if one has the conjunction.

The present form gives the rule to infer the left conjunct, and the next rule does the same for the right conjunct:

 CE Conjunction Elimination (right) p A&B r B CE,p

Conjunction Elimination allows the inference of one conjunct if one has the conjunction.

At this point we have the rules to prove

Theorem: ~(A&~A)

Here is the proof:

 1 (A&~A) AI 2 A CE,1 3 ~A CE,1 4 ~(A&~A) NI,2,3

Next, we formulate the rules for disjunction. To introduce a disjunction we have two rules:

 DI Disjunction Introduction (left) p A r AVB DI,p

Disjunction Introduction allows the inference of a disjunction if one has one disjunct.

 DI Disjunction Introduction (right) p B r AVB DI,p

Disjunction Introduction allows the inference of a disjunction if one has one disjunct.

At this point we can infer theorems like

Theorem: A=>(AVB)          (using AI, DI, II)
Theorem: (A&B)=>(AVB)    (using AI, CE, DI, II)

The rule for eliminating a disjunction is more complicated and involves the idea of subordinate proof:

 DE Disjunction Elimination p AVB q A AI r C s B AI t C t+1 C DE,q,r,s,t

Disjunction Elimination allows the inference of a conclusion C from a disjunction AVB if one has subordinate proofs of C from both A and B

This is also known as 'proof by cases': To prove that 'it is cold' from the premiss 'it freezes or it snows' one may prove that if it freezes then it is cold, and if it snows then it is cold.

At this point we have the rules to prove a theorem like

Theorem: ~(AVB) => ~A&~B

Here is the proof:

 1 ~(AVB) AI 2 A AI 3 (AVB) DI,2 4 ~(AVB) Rep,1 5 ~A NI,2,3,4 6 B AI 7 (AVB) DI,6 8 ~(AVB) Rep,1 9 ~B NI,6,7,8 10 ~A&~B CI,5,9

Now we have formulated the rules for most of the standard logical connectives, namely 'not', 'or', 'and' and 'implies'. The one remaining connective is if and only if, abbreviated iff, that is in fact a conjunction of two implications. The rule corresponds to this:

 EI Equivalence Introduction n An p A AI q B r B AI s A s+1 A iff B EI,p,q,r,s

Equivalence Introduction allows the introduction of A iff B from subordinate proofs of B from A and of A from B.

There are again, as for 'or' and 'and' two rules for eliminating either part of an equivalence

 EI Equivalence Elimination p A iff B q A r B EI,p,q

Equivalence Elimination allows the introduction of B from A iff B if one also has A.

 EI Equivalence Elimination p A iff B q B r A EI,p,q

Equivalence Elimination allows the introduction of A from A iff B if one also has B.

The above rules taken together are sufficient to prove all theorems of standard propositional logic. That this is so takes some cleverness, and one way of doing this is by showing the rules allow the derivation of the axioms of some standard system of propositional logic, for if one has derived these one has shown that in the given set of ND-rules for PL one can prove the same as in a standard axiomatic system for PL, since that usually relies on the rule of Modus Ponens, which is the same as the above rule of Implication Elimination.

The point of the present section was merely to give the rules. It remains to be said that each of the rules except AI is valid in the customary sense in terms of the standard truth-table definitions for logical connectives: Given one assumes the standard truth-table definitions for 'not', 'and', 'or', 'implies' and 'if and only if' one can prove that each of the rules of inference given above is valid in the sense that if the assumptions of the rules are true, then so is the conclusion of the rule in each case.

3. Predicate Logic

Predicate Logic extends Propositional Logic by refining the analysis of statements. In Propositional Logic, the smallest unit, so to speak, is that of a statement, which cannot be further analyses in PL. In Predicate Logic, statements are supposed to be made up of subjects and predicates. The subjects are supposed to be like common or individual names, and the predicates are supposed to be what a statement is apart from the terms in it.

Thus, if in 'Romeo loves Juliet' 'Romeo' and 'Juliet' are supposed to be subject-terms, 'loves' is supposed to be a predicate term.

For more, see Logical Notation and Relations. Here I take a subject-predicate analysis of statements for granted, and also the introduction of subject-terms and predicate terms, and the notion of subject-variables.

Given that, the logical terms of Classical Predicate Logic are the quantifiers, namely the expressions 'for all' and its equivalents or near synonyms ('for each', 'for every') and 'for some' and its equivalents or near synonyms ('there exists', 'there is'), and the notion of identity, which allows one to assert that two terms are identical.

Thus, the formulas of predicate logic comprise such forms as

- for every x for every y if x is smaller than y then y is larger than x
- for every x for every y for every z if x=y and y=z then x=z
- for some x for some y x is smaller than y

and very many more.

In this section I give ND-rules for equality and for the quantifiers, and start with the former.

 R= = Reflexivity of identity p t1=t1 R=

Reflexivity of identity allows the assertion of an identity of a term to itself.

This is a rule that does not require any other assumptions and thus is like an axiom: Everything (named by a term) is identical to itself.

 S= = Symmetry of identity p t1=t2 r t2=t1 S=,p

Symmetry of identity allows the inference of t2=t1 from a line with t1=t2.

 T= = Transitivity of identity p t1=t2 q t2=t3 r t1=t3 T=,p,q

Transitivity of identity allows the inference of t1=t3 from two lines to the effect that t1=t2 and t2=t3.

 = = Substitution of identity p Ft1 q t1=t2 r Ft2 =,p,q

Substitution of identity allows the inference of Ft2 from two lines to the effect that Ft1 and t1=t2.

 ≠ = Non-identity introduction p Ft1 q ~Ft2 r t1≠t2 ≠,p,q

Non-identity introduction allows the inference that two terms are not identical from two lines to the effect that one term has and another term lacks some predicate.

 QAI For All Introduction p Ft [*] r (x): Fx QAI,p

For all introduction allows the inference that (x): Fx from the premiss that Ft, provided that the following restrictions [*] hold on t:
 t does not occur in any non-eliminated assumption used in the proof
 if t occurs in F in line p then t is everywhere uniformally substituted by x in line r.

The reason for the restrictions is that without them the inference may be invalid. Thus, if t occurs in a non-eliminated assumption or in a proved line then at these place some restriction may be asserted on t that is not compatible with the conclusion that for every x Fx.

With these restrictions, intuitively speaking to the effect that Ft can be proved for t without any special assumptions about t, the idea of the proof is that if one can prove for any arbitrary t that it satisfies the predicate F - as for example: "Gt V ~Gt", where "F" pans out as "G_ V ~G_" writing an underscore "_" where the variable "t" fits - then one can prove for every x that F.

 QAE For All Elimination p (x): Fx r Ft QAE,p

For all elimination allows the inference of Ft from (x):Fx.

This has no restrictions, and the idea of the proof is simply that if it is true for every x that F, then it must be true for any arbitrary t one can mention, including those that may occur already in the proof, that F.

 QEI For some introduction p Ft r (Ex): Fx QEI,p

For some introduction allows the inference of (Ex):Fx from Ft.

There are no restrictions, and the idea of the proof is simply that if it is true for t that it is F, then it must be true for some variable x replacing t in Ft that it is F: If Bucephalos is a horse, then some x is a horse.

 QEE For some elimination p (Ex): Fx q Ft [*] r C r+1 C QEE,p,q,r

For some elimination allows the inference of C from a conditional proof of C from (Ex):Fx and Ft, provided that the following restrictions [*] hold on t:
 t does not occur in any non-eliminated assumption used in the proof
 t does not occur in C
 t does not occur in (Ex):Fx

The reason for the restrictions is that without them the inference may be invalid. Thus, if t occurs in a non-eliminated assumption or in a proved line then at these place some restriction may be asserted on t that is not compatible with the conclusion that C.

With these restrictions, intuitively speaking, the idea of the proof is that if one can prove that C that does not mention t does follow from (Ex):Fx and Ft (as restricted), then C is true from those assumptions, and does neither include (Ex) nor t.

This may look somewhat abstruse, but allows one to argue e.g. as follows:

p     Some number is greater than 0.
q     1 is greater than zero.
r      There is a positive number.             From q
t+1   There is a positive number.

See also: Basic Logic, Logic, Logic Notation, Logical Terms

Literatuur:

Cartwright, Seebohm, Tennant

Original: May 28, 2005                                                Last edited: 12 December 2011.