Fractal images of formal systems

Journal of Philosophical Logic 26 (2):181-222 (1997)
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Abstract
Formal systems are standardly envisaged in terms of a grammar specifying well-formed formulae together with a set of axioms and rules. Derivations are ordered lists of formulae each of which is either an axiom or is generated from earlier items on the list by means of the rules of the system; the theorems of a formal system are simply those formulae for which there are derivations. Here we outline a set of alternative and explicitly visual ways of envisaging and analyzing at least simple formal systems using fractal patterns of infinite depth. Progressively deeper dimensions of such a fractal can be used to map increasingly complex wffs or increasingly complex 'value spaces', with tautologies, contradictions, and various forms of contingency coded in terms of color. This and related approaches, it turns out, offer not only visually immediate and geometrically intriguing representations of formal systems as a whole but also promising formal links (1) between standard systems and classical patterns in fractal geometry, (2) between quite different kinds of value spaces in classical and infinite-valued logics, and (3) between cellular automata and logic. It is hoped that pattern analysis of this kind may open possibilities for a geometrical approach to further questions within logic and metalogic
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