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Syllogistic Logic

A term is any word or phrase (an arrangement of words) that can serve as the subject of a

proposition.

Singular Terms

Proper Nouns: Napoleon, North Dakota, The United States, The Senate, Toni Morrison. Definite Descriptions: the president of the United States, the author of Hamlet.

General Terms

Common Nouns: animal, Greek, mortal, restitution, house, activity, person. Other Descriptive Phrases: books in my library, blue things, those who study hard.

An argument is a series of propositions in which one group of propositions (the premises) are claimed to support some other proposition (the conclusion).

A syllogism is an argument consisting of exactly two premises and one conclusion; and a

categorical syllogism is a syllogism that contains only categorical propositions as its premises and conclusions.

A categorical proposition is a proposition about a class (e.g. general terms).

Example: All humans are mortal. This asserts that all members of the class of humans are members of the class of mortals.

A singular proposition is a proposition about an individual (e.g. singular terms).

Example: Socrates is mortal. This asserts that the individual Socrates is a member of the class of mortals.

Drill 1: Identify whether or not the following are categorical or singular propositions.

1. Napoleon was a fascist.

2. Everyone is human.

3. Any student enrolled in this class is smart.

5.

Some books are fun to read.

Aristotle (384-22 B.C.E.) was the first to systematize correct forms of reasoning. His formal system remained dominant for two thousand years, until it was extended in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century by Gottlob Frege.

Aristotle’s system is picked out by many names: Aristotelian logic (for obvious reasons), syllogistic logic (since it’s limited to syllogisms), traditional logic (because it was the standard form for two thousand years), and term logic (because it’s variables only range over terms).

Our concern (as was Aristotle’s) is primarily with categorical syllogisms. Categorical propositions have two important properties: quantity and quality.

Quantity

Universal: Universal propositions are those propositions that quantify over (i.e. are about) every member of the class denoted by the subject term.

Particular: Particular propositions are those propositions that quantify over some members of the class denoted by the subject term.

Quality

Affirmative: Affirmative propositions are those propositions that affirm an attribute of the class denoted by the subject term.

Negative: Negative Propositions are those propositions that deny an attribute of the class denoted by the subject term.

This engenders four possible combinations:

A

Universal Affirmative

All A are B

I

Particular Affirmative

Some A are B

E

Universal Negative

No A are B

O

Particular Negative

Some A are not B

The designations “A, E, I, and O” come from the Latin AffIrmo (I affirm) and nEgO (I deny). Thus the only quantifiers are “All”, “No”, and “Some”, and all propositions in syllogistic logic contain either of the copula forms “is” or “are”.

Drill 2: Identify the quantity and quality of the following categorical propositions.

1. Everybody is happy.

2. Any student enrolled in this class is smart.

3. Some books are fun to read.

4. No animals are fast.

5. Some Greeks are not mortal.

6. Some billionaires are ugly.

7. No tests are easy.

8. All tests are not easy.

9. Some people are Italians.

There are many expressions in English (or any other natural language) that translate into the same proposition, as expressed in syllogistic logic.

Example: All A are B. All sins are lies.

Sins are lies. The one who sins, lies. Sinning is lying. To sin is to lie. Anyone who sins, lies. Whoever sins, lies.

Drill 3: Translate the following sentences into equivalent A, E, I, or O propositions.

1. Whoever is rich is a sinner.

2. The poor are lazy.

3. Most children aren’t naughty.

4. Albino crows are known to exist.

5. Amateurs aren’t professionals.

6. There are plenty of immodest failures.

7. Most prescription drugs are harmful.

8. Humans beings are omnivorous.

9. Most movie stars aren’t happy.

10. Omnivores occassionally are vegetarians.

11. None who have dry wits drink.

12. Some drinkers have wet whistles.

13. Those who forget the past suffer from amnesia.

15.

Show me an officer and I’ll show you a dandy.

16. Vanity is a universal condition.

17. The gods have no mercy.

18. Lots of rivers have wide mouths.

A proposition (usually A or E propositions) has existential import if and only if its subject and predicate terms denote classes that are nonempty. Assume existential import for

“All angels are without moral blemish.”

This thereby entails that there are such things as angels. Aristotle’s logic assumes that all the propositions to be dealt with have existential import. This severely limits its application. For consider that, whereas Aristotelian logic can capture (1), it cannot capture (2):

(1) All pheasants are birds.

(2) All unicorns are one-horned animals.

Implies the existence of pheasants.

Does not imply the existence of unicorns.

As we’ll see later, modern logic does not assume existential import. Since we’re on the topic of discussing the limitations of Aristotelian logic, consider this syllogism:

1. Socrates is taller than Plato.

2. Plato is taller than Aristotle.

3. Therefore, Socrates is taller than Aristotle.

Aristotelian logic cannot capture the validity of syllogisms of this sort (namely, those involving relations). According to Aristotelian logic, the argument’s form is:

1. S (Socrates) is T (taller than Plato).

2. P (Plato) is A (taller than Aristotle).

3. Therefore, S (Socrates) is A (taller than Aristotle).

This form is invalid, but our original argument is clearly valid. Modern logic (namely, predicate logic) can properly capture the validity of this argument.

Drill 4: Which of the following have existential import (as used in everyday language):

1.

All of the students in this room are smart.

2. Elvis was the king.

3. Some of Stephen Colbert’s children are not funny.

4. No decent people are lawyers.

The square of opposition illustrates a number of fundamental relationships between A, E, I, and O propositions.

relationships between A , E , I , and O propositions. Two propositions are contradictories if

Two propositions are contradictories if and only if both propositions cannot be true at the same time, and both propositions cannot be false at the same time. For instance:

and

A

O

All humans are mortal”

“Some humans are not mortal”

are contradictories. They cannot both be true (it cannot be the case that every human is mortal and that some humans are not mortal), and they cannot both be false (it cannot be false that all humans are mortal and false that some humans are not mortal, since the falsity of “All humans are mortal” entails that some humans are not mortal).

A and O propositions are contradictories. As are E and I propositions.

Two propositions are contraries (or inconsistent) if and only if both propositions cannot be true at the same time, but both can be false at the same time.

and

A

E

“All scientists are philosophers”

“No scientists are philosophers”

are contraries. Both happen to be false, but they cannot both be true.

Only A and E propositions are contraries.

Two propositions are subcontraries if and only if both propositions cannot be false at the same time, but both can be true at the same time.

 

I

“Some scientists are philosophers”

and

 

O

“Some scientists are not philosophers”

are subcontraries. Both of these propositions happen to be true, but both cannot be false. If “Some scientists are philosophers” is false, then “No scientists are philosophers” must be true. But, if “No scientists are philosophers” is true, then “Some scientists are not philosophers” must be true. This is just our second proposition above (and thus cannot be false when the first is false).

Only I and O propositions are subcontraries.

Two propositions are subalternates if and only if one of these propositions is a universal proposition that, if true, entails the truth of the second (particular) proposition.

A “All humans are mortal”

and

I “Some humans are mortal”

are subalternates. This is because A, if true, entails that I is true. But observe that if A is false, this does not entail that I is true or false.

A and I propositions are subalterns. As are E and O propositions.

Drill 5: Determine whether or not the following pair of A, E, I, and O propositions are contradictories, contraries, subcontraries, or subalterns.

1. “All men are mortal” and “Some men are mortal.”

2. “All men are mortal” and “No men are mortal.”

3. “All men are mortal” and “Some men are not mortal.”

4. “Some men are mortal” and “Some men are not mortal.”

5. “All Bluth’s are crazy” and “Some Bluth’s are not crazy.”

6. “No politician is honest” and “Some politician’s are honest.”

7. “Some hobbits are not hairy” and “All hobbit’s are hairy.”

8. “Some celebrities are people” and “Some musicians are not people.”

Drill 6: Complete the following exercises.

(1) Suppose that “All wars are hellish” is true. What can you infer about the following:

1. No wars are hellish.

2. Some wars are hellish.

3. Some wars are not hellish.

(2) Suppose that “All wars are hellish” is false. What can you infer about the following:

1. No wars are hellish.

2. Some wars are hellish.

3. Some wars are not hellish.

(3) Suppose that “Some congressmen are gluttons” is true. What can you infer about the following:

1. No congressmen are gluttons.

3.

All congressmen are gluttons.

(4) Suppose that “Some congressmen are gluttons” is false. What can you infer about the following:

1. No congressmen are gluttons.

2. Some congressmen are not gluttons.

3. All congressmen are gluttons.

The square of opposition tells you what you can correctly infer from the kind of categorical proposition that you are dealing with—A, E, I, or O.

In addition, there are certain operations one can perform on A, E, I, or O propositions so as to infer other propositions: namely, conversion, obversion, and contraposition.

Conversion: Switch the subject and predicate terms.

This works only on E and I propositions.

E “No humans are mortals”

converts to (entails)

E “No mortals are humans.”

The latter is sometimes called the converse of the former (and vice versa). If it is true that no humans are mortals, one can immediately infer that it is true that no mortals are humans.

Similarly, from the truth of the I proposition “Some humans are mortals,” one can immediately infer that it is true that some mortals are humans.

This does not work for A or O propositions. “All humans are mortals” does not entail that “All mortals are humans” (since bears, e.g., are mortal), nor does “Some mortals are not humans” entail “Some humans are not mortals.”

Conversion by Limitation: Switch the subject and predicate terms of an A proposition, and then change the quantity of the proposition from A to I.

Thus take

A “All humans are mortal”

and, first, switch subject and predicate

A “All mortals are human”

and then, second, change to an I proposition

I “Some mortals are human.”

Thus one can validly infer from “All humans are mortal” to “Some mortals are human.” Note that this is not subalternation. A and I propositions are subalterns only when they share the same subject and predicate terms; they do not in conversion by limitation.

Obversion: Switch the quality and replace the predicate with its complement.

The complement of a predicate is simply adding non- to it. Thus the complement of “… entities” is “… nonentities.” Thus take

I “Some shadows are entities”

and, first, change the quality

O “Some shadows are not entities”

and then, second, replace the predicate with its complement

O “Some shadows are not nonentities.”

Thus one can validly infer “Some shadows are not nonentities” from “Some shadows are entities.” Note that “switching the quality” just means that, depending upon whether or not you’re starting from an affirmative or negative proposition, switching to the opposite (e.g. affirmative to negative or negative to affirmative).

This is applicable to A, E, O, and I propositions.

Contraposition: Replace the subject and predicate terms with their complements, and then switch them.

Thus

A “All humans are mortals”

has the contrapositive

A “All nonmortals are nonhumans.”

Contraposition only works for A and O propositions. (As we’ll see when we get to propositional logic, contraposition works when applied to entire propositions as well.)

Contraposition by Limitation: Take the subaltern of an E proposition and then perform contraposition (always end with an O proposition).

Thus

E “No hems are mended”

has the subaltern

O “Some hems are not mended”

and, then, by contraposition

O “Some unmended things are hems (not nonhems).”

So “No hems are mended” entails “Some unmended things are hems.”

Note that conversion, obversion, and contraposition are equivalence inference rules: they work in both directions; but that conversion by limitation and contraposition by limitation are implicational inference rules: they work in only one direction.

Drill 7: Perform any possible operation (conversion, conversion by limitation, obversion, contraposition, or contraposition by limitation) on the following propositions.

1. No quitters are winners.

2. No monkey wrenches are left-handed.

3. Some SS men were not involved in atrocities.

Drill 8: Assume that the first sentence in each set is true. What can be said about the truth values of the remaining sentences in the set?

 

(1)

1. No quitters are winners.

2. All winners are nonquitters.

3. Some quitters are not winners.

4. Some winners are quitters.

5. Some winners are nonquitters.

 

(2)

1. No monkey wrenches are left-handed.

2. Some left-handed things are not monkey wrenches.

3. No left-handed things are monkey wrenches.

4. All monkey wrenches are left-handed.

5. Some monkey wrenches are left-handed.

(3)

2.

Some who were involved in atrocities were SS men.

3. No SS men were involved in atrocities.

4. All SS men were involved in atrocities.

5. Some who were not involved in atrocities were SS men.

Recall that, in explicating the above operations (conversion, obversion, contraposition, etc.), some of these operations only applied to certain kinds of categorical propositions. Thus, applying these operations to any proposition that does not fall under one of these kinds is a fallacy.

The fallacy of illicit conversion is the application of conversion to A or O propositions.

All A are B. Therefore, no B are A.

Some A are not B. Therefore, some B are not A.

The fallacy of illicit contraposition is the application of contraposition to E or I propositions.

Some A are B. Therefore, some non-B are non-A.

No A are B. Therefore, no non-B are non-A.

There are also fallacies corresponding to illegitimate inferences based on the square of opposition.

The fallacy of illicit subcontrary is the kind of inference that infers that the subcontrary of a true proposition is either true or false. But, since subcontraries can both be true but not both false, this is invalid.

It is true that some A are B. Therefore, it is true that some A are not B.

It is true that some A are B. Therefore, it is false that some A are not B.

The fallacy of illicit contrary is the kind of inference that infers that the contrary of a false proposition is either true or false. Since contraries can both be false but both true, this is invalid.

It is false that no A are B. Therefore, it is true that all A are B.

It is false that no A are B. Therefore, it is false that all A are B.

The fallacy of illicit subalternation is the kind of inference that infers the truth of a universal proposition from the truth of its subalternate particular proposition, or the falsity of a subalternate particular proposition from the falsity of its corresponding universal proposition.

It is true that some A are not B. Therefore, it is true that no A are B.

It is false that all A are B. Therefore, it is false that some A are B.

It is time to start looking at some syllogisms. Take the following as our example:

1. All humans are mortal.

2. All Greeks are humans.

3. Therefore, all Greeks are mortal.

The major term of the syllogism refers to the predicate of the conclusion (“mortal” in this case), and the minor term of the syllogism is the subject of the conclusion (“Greeks”).

Lastly, the middle term is that term which occurs once in each premise, but not in the conclusion (“humans” in this case). Every syllogism has exactly three terms, each used twice (but never twice in the same proposition).

Drill 9: Identify the major, minor, and middle terms in the following syllogisms.

(1)

2.

All Greeks are humans.

3. Therefore, some humans are not mortals.

(2)

1. No mortals are Greeks

2. Some humans are Greeks.

3. Therefore, some humans are not mortals.

(3)

1. No Greeks are mortals.

2. No Greeks are humans.

3. Therefore, no humans are mortals.

The mood of a syllogism is determined by the kind of propositions it contains. For example, the syllogism given as an example above:

1. All humans are mortal.

2. All Greeks are humans.

3. Therefore, all Greeks are mortal.

contains all A propositions (the quantifier “all” occurs in all of the propositions). In syllogistic logic, its mood is said to be AAA. An example of a syllogism with mood AII is:

1. All morticians are philosophical.

2. Some sadists are morticians.

3. Therefore, some sadists are philosophical.

The figure of a syllogism is the particular arrangment of its middle terms in the premises. Given this definition (and given that there are always two premises in a syllogism), a syllogism is always one of four possible figures.

I:

1. MP 2. S M 3. S P

S” – minor term. “M” – middle term. “P” – major term.

II:

1. PM

2.

S M

3. S P

III:

1. MP

2.

M S

3. S P

IV:

1. PM

2. M S

3. S P

The order of the premises is important in determining the mood and figure of a syllogism. The rule is that the major term must occur in the first premise. A syllogism with its premises in the proper order (and that contains only three terms) is said to be in standard form.

Drill 10: Identify the mood and figure of the following syllogisms.

 

(1)

1. All mortals are Greeks.

2. No Greeks are humans.

3. Therefore, no humans are mortals.

 

(2)

1. All Greeks are mortals.

2. Some humans are Greeks.

3. Therefore, no humans are mortals.

 

(3)

1. No Greeks are mortals.

2. Some humans are Greeks.

3. Therefore, some humans are not mortals.

Finally, the form of a syllogism is the combination of mood and figure. Thus for instance:

1. All Greeks are mortals.

2. No Greeks are humans.

3. Therefore, no humans are mortals.

has the form AEE-II, because its mood is AEE and its figure is II. (This syllogisms also happens to be invalid, but it is no less of a syllogism on that account. Aristotle’s next step is to determine which forms, rigorously understood as that above, are valid and which invalid.) To summarize:

Mood: The kind of propositions that constitute the syllogism’s premises and conclusion.

Figure: The particular arrangement of middle terms in the syllogism’s premises.

Form: The combination of mood and figure of a given syllogism.

Drill 11: Symbolize the following arguments and put them into standard form. Then determine their mood and figure (and thus form).

(1)

1. Some Beatles are musicians.

2. All musicians are rhythmic.

3. Therefore, Some Beatles are rhythmic.

(2)

1. No Republicans are donkeys.

2. Some politicians are not Republicans.

3. Therefore, some politicians are not donkeys.

(3)

1. All Democrats are donkeys.

2. Some politicians are Democrats.

(4)

1. All men whose sons are named after them are seniors.

2. No women are men whose sons are named after them.

3. Therefore, no women are seniors.

 

(5)

1. No skiers are bathing lions.

2. All bathing lions are cool cats.

3. Therefore, no cool cats are skiers.

 

(6)

1. No rules have exceptions

2. Some rules are exceptional.

3. Therefore, some exceptional things are not exceptions.

We are nearly in a position to discuss whether or not certain syllogism forms (e.g. AAA-I) are valid or invalid. For, if a syllogism can be represented in at least one valid syllogism form, then the syllogism itself is valid. In the Middle Ages, students memorized a chant for all valid moods in each figure. Thus consider mood AAA in the first figure:

1. All turtles are atheletes.

2. All geniuses are turtles.

3. Therefore, all geniuses are atheletes.

This syllogism form is called Barbara and students memorized it by way of a chant (alongside all

of the other valid moods in all figures). The name occurred in the chant for the first figure, and

contains three “a”’s—bArbArA, representing each of the A propositions in the syllogism.

Thankfully, you don’t need to memorize the chant. Instead, we’ll look at five rules for validity and invalidity. But we need to discuss the concept of distribution first.

A term in a proposition is distributed if (roughly) it says something about all members of the

class designated by the term. The A proposition, for instance:

A “All scientists are mathematicians”

distibutes its subject term (“scientists”) because it says something about all scientists—namely, it claims that they are all mathematicians. However, it does not say something about all mathematicians (the predicate term), and thus the predicate term is not distributed.

Instead of working out all of the distribution properties for each kind of proposition, we can simply memorize the following summary:

A

propositions distribute the subject term.

E

propositions distibute subject and predicate terms.

I propositions distribute neither subject or predicate terms.

O propositions distribute the predicate term.

Drill 12: Identify which term(s) (if there be any) are distributed in the following propositions.

1. “Some men are mortal.”

2. “All hurricanes are harsh.”

3. “Some superheroes are not good-looking.”

4. “No poems are funny.”

5. “All men are lazy.”

6. “Some things worth dying for are not worth dying for.”

7. “Some dimes are two-legged.”

8. “Nothing is boring.”

9. “People are boring.” As they say, there are no boring or interesting subjects, only boring or interesting people.

There are five rules for determining validity and invalidity. All valid syllogisms must meet all of these rules. Thus, if a syllogism fails just one rule, it is automatically invalid.

Rule #1: The syllogism must have a middle term that is distributed at least once.

1. Some mathematicians are scientologists.

2. All philosophers are mathematicians.

The middle term in this syllogism is “mathematicians.” The first premise is an I proposition, and I propositions do not distribute either of their terms. So this premise does not satify our first rule.

The second premise is an A proposition, and A propositions distribute only the subject term. However, the middle term (“mathematicians”) occurs in the predicate of this premise. So this premise does not satisfy our first rule.

Since neither premise distributes the middle term, our first rule is violated: the syllogism is invalid.

Rule #2: No term distributed in the conclusion that is not distributed in a premise.

1. All hats in hand are worth two in the closet.

2. All bowlers in hand are hats in hand.

3. Therefore, all things worth two in the closet are bowlers.

The conclusion is an A proposition. And so only the subject term is distributed (“things worth two in the closet”); but, this isn’t distributed in any of the premises. The syllogism therefore violates our second rule, and thus is invalid.

Rule #3: At least one affirmative premise.

1. Some umbrellas in hand are not worth two in the closet.

2. No things worth two in the closet are better left there.

3. Therefore, some umbrellas in hand are not better left there.

All of the above propositions are negative (i.e. not affirmative in quality). They therefore violate our third rule, and the syllogism is therefore invalid.

Rule #4: A negative conclusion if one of its premises is negative, and a negative premise if the conclusion is negative.

1. Some shrinks are not expansive.

2. All who are expansive are expensive.

3. Therefore, some shrinks are expensive.

One of the premises—premise (1)—is negative. Thus the conclusion must be negative, but it is not. The syllogism is invalid.

Rule #5: One particular premise if the conclusion is particular.

1. No expansive people are shrinks.

2. All shrinks are expensive.

3. Therefore, some expansive people are not expensive.

The conclusion is particular but the premises are both universal. The syllogism is invalid.