Boole's criteria for validity and invalidity

Notre Dame Journal of Formal Logic 21 (4):609-638 (1980)
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It is one thing for a given proposition to follow or to not follow from a given set of propositions and it is quite another thing for it to be shown either that the given proposition follows or that it does not follow.* Using a formal deduction to show that a conclusion follows and using a countermodel to show that a conclusion does not follow are both traditional practices recognized by Aristotle and used down through the history of logic. These practices presuppose, respectively, a criterion of validity and a criterion of invalidity each of which has been extended and refined by modern logicians: deductions are studied in formal syntax (proof theory) and coun¬termodels are studied in formal semantics (model theory). The purpose of this paper is to compare these two criteria to the corresponding criteria employed in Boole’s first logical work, The Mathematical Analysis of Logic (1847). In particular, this paper presents a detailed study of the relevant metalogical passages and an analysis of Boole’s symbolic derivations. It is well known, of course, that Boole’s logical analysis of compound terms (involving ‘not’, ‘and’, ‘or’, ‘except’, etc.) contributed to the enlargement of the class of propositions and arguments formally treatable in logic. The present study shows, in addition, that Boole made significant contributions to the study of deduc¬tive reasoning. He identified the role of logical axioms (as opposed to inference rules) in formal deductions, he conceived of the idea of an axiomatic deductive sys¬tem (which yields logical truths by itself and which yields consequences when ap¬plied to arbitrary premises). Nevertheless, surprisingly, Boole’s attempt to imple¬ment his idea of an axiomatic deductive system involved striking omissions: Boole does not use his own formal deductions to establish validity. Boole does give symbolic derivations, several of which are vitiated by “Boole’s Solutions Fallacy”: the fallacy of supposing that a solution to an equation is necessarily a logical consequence of the equation. This fallacy seems to have led Boole to confuse equational calculi (i.e., methods for gen-erating solutions) with deduction procedures (i.e., methods for generating consequences). The methodological confusion is closely related to the fact, shown in detail below, that Boole had adopted an unsound criterion of validity. It is also shown that Boole totally ignored the countermodel criterion of invalid¬ity. Careful examination of the text does not reveal with certainty a test for invalidity which was adopted by Boole. However, we have isolated a test that he seems to use in this way and we show that this test is ineffectual in the sense that it does not serve to identify invalid arguments. We go beyond the simple goal stated above. Besides comparing Boole’s earliest criteria of validity and invalidity with those traditionally (and still generally) employed, this paper also investigates the framework and details of THE MATHEMATICAL ANALYSIS OF LOGIC.

Author's Profile

John Corcoran
PhD: Johns Hopkins University; Last affiliation: University at Buffalo


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