What is Logical Form?

In Gerhard Preyer & Georg Peter (eds.), Logical Form and Language. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press (2002)
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This paper articulates and defends a conception of logical form as semantic form revealed by a compositional meaning theory. On this conception, the logical form of a sentence is determined by the semantic types of its primitive terms and their mode of combination as it relates to determining under what conditions it is true. We develop this idea in the framework of truth-theoretic semantics. We argue that the semantic form of a declarative sentence in a language L is revealed by a (canonical) proof of its T- sentence in an interpretive truth theory for L. We give a precise characterization of sameness of logical form between any two declarative sentences in any two languages in terms of the notion of corresponding proofs in interpretive truth theories for the languages. We illustrate the utility of this approach with a number of examples. We then extend the characterization to non-declaratives in a generalization of truth-theoretic semantics that appeals to fulfillment conditions, of which truth conditions are one variety. On this approach, logical forms are not reified, and the notion of sameness of logical form is treated as conceptually basic. We discuss the relation of this conception of logical form to the project of identifying logical constants, reviewing two approaches, one of which takes topic neutrality as central, the other recursion. We argue that the project of identifying logical constants for the purposes of classifying together valid arguments is largely independent of that identifying logical form of sentences, and urge an ecumenical approach to extending talk of logical constants beyond where it is currently well-grounded.

Author Profiles

Kirk Ludwig
Indiana University, Bloomington
Ernie LePore
Rutgers - New Brunswick


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