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Logic can get us from statements to further statements. So, to go back to the syllogism:

Socrates is a man.

_________________

The first two statements, or claims, are called the premises, while claim below the horizontal rule is called the conclusion. In an argument, the

premises are things which you hope your interlocutor has already accepted - they may be empirical observations, for example.

Notice the convention of separating the conclusion of an argument from the premises with a horizontal rule. An alternative is to use the

{\displaystyle \vdash } {\displaystyle \vdash } symbol. A, B {\displaystyle \vdash } {\displaystyle \vdash } C means that C follows from A and B.

Alternative locutions are 'A and B entail C', 'C is a consequence of A and B', 'A and B derive C'.

An argument is valid if the conclusion follows from the premises. In logic, truth is a property of statements, i.e. premises and conclusions, whereas

validity is a property of the argument itself. If you talk of 'valid premises' or 'true arguments', then you are not using logical jargon correctly.

True premises and a valid argument guarantee a true conclusion. An argument which is valid and has true premises is said to be sound (adjective)

or have the property of soundness (noun).

I suppose I ought to say what an argument is in this context. An argument is a progression from premises to conclusion. Each statement in the

argument is either a premise, or else follows from the previous statements in the argument. So two kids shouting "'tis" and "'tisn't" at each other

does not constitute an argument, neither do two teenagers swearing at each other. This book is here to help you behave like civilized adults.

Now sometimes you may see two adults pointing out facts to each other, and making inferences from those facts. We might say that these two

adults are 'having an argument'. To be technical, it is a dialectic in which each side advances an argument in the sense meant here.

A mathematical argument is called a proof, and the conclusion of the argument is called a theorem. Sometimes only the really interesting

conclusions are known as theorems, and the less important ones are given another name like lemma. Compare how we use the words 'lady' or

'gentleman' - these words can be reserved to refer only to people of status, or they can be used to refer to everyone.

Euclid, in The Elements, starts off with a set of premises from which he derives several volumes of conclusions, all in a rigorous manner. Such

premises are known as 'axioms'. Logicians are trying to do something similar with arguments. We are reasoning about reasoning.

In arguments, mathematical or otherwise, each statement should be intuitively obvious given what has been said before - this is what is meant

when we say that one statement follows from its predecessors. Logicians have tried to replace this appeal to the 'intuitively obvious' with a set of

rules, called rules of inference, which form a special class of axiom. Of course the rules of inference should themselves be 'intuitively obvious' - we

can't eliminate intuition completely.

So to abstract from our example about Socrates, we can write down a rule of inference:

From the premises 'all x are y' and 'a is x', we can infer 'a is y'.

So now we have a project: can reason be reduced to a small list of simple rules like this? Compare this with Euclid's project of showing that the

mathematics of his day can be derived from a set of rules.

In a while we shall see how far we can get with a simple set of rules called propositional calculus. This is a very simple system, in which it is not

possible even to properly express the deduction made about Socrates. But in presenting the propositional calculus I shall introduce some concepts

and procedures which are useful for talking about any kind of logical calculus, in particular the predicate calculus, which I'll talk about later on.

Truth and validity are two different notions. Truth is predicated of propositions whereas validity is predicated of arguments.

Propositions are either true or false.

Deductive arguments are either valid or invalid. We have noted earlier that a deductive argument claims to provide conclusive proof for

its conclusion.

A deductive argument is valid if and only if the premises provide conclusive proof for its conclusion. This notion of validity of deductive

argument can also be expressed in either of the following two ways.

(i) If the premises of a valid argument are all true, then its conclusion must also be true.

(ii) It is impossible for the conclusion of a valid argument to be false while its premises are true.

Any deductive argument that is not valid is called invalid. So, a deductive argument is invalid if its preemies are all true but the

conclusion is false. Note that in some cases, even if the premises and the conclusion are all true yet the argument may be invalid. In all

cases invalid arguments some of our rules of inference are violated.

The above remark on deductive validity shows the connection between validity of an argument and the truth or falsity of its premises

and conclusion. But the connection is not a simple one. Of the eight possible combinations of truth or falsity of premises and the

conclusion and validity or invalidity of arguments, only one is completely ruled out.

The only thing that cannot happen is that the premises are all true, the conclusion is false and the argument is deductively valid.

Given below are the other seven combinations of true and false premises and conclusion with example;

(i) There are valid arguments whose premises as well as the conclusions are all true.

Example:

(ii) There are valid arguments whose premises as well as the conclusions are all false.

Example:

(iii) There are valid arguments where the premises are all false but the conclusion is true.

Example:

(iv) An argument may have true premises and a true conclusion and nevertheless the argument may be invalid.

Example:

(v) There are invalid arguments whose premises are false but the conclusion is true.

Example:

(vi) There are invalid arguments in which premises and conclusion are all false.

Example:

All cats are biped.

(vii) Lastly, an argument in which the premises are true and the conclusion is false will be invalid.

Example:

T T Valid

Invalid

T F XXX

Invalid

F T Valid

Invalid

F F Valid

Invalid

The above examples show that invalid arguments allow for all possible combinations true or false premises and true or false conclusion.

We cited examples of valid arguments with false conclusion as well as invalid arguments with true conclusions. Thus, it can be noticed

that the truth or falsity of the conclusion does not by itself determine the validity or invalidity of the argument. So also the validity of an

argument does not by itself guarantee the truth of its conclusion.

We also noticed that valid arguments may have only three out of the four possible truth contributions. A valid argument cannot have

true premises and a false conclusion. In other words if an argument is valid and its premises are true, then we can be sure that the

conclusion is true.

Truth of Statements, Validity of Reasoning

Peter Suber, Philosophy Department, Earlham College

True Premises, False Conclusion

0. Valid Impossible: no valid argument can have true premises and a false conclusion.

1. Invalid Dogs are mammals.

Therefore, dogs are cats.

2. Valid Tigers are cats.

Therefore, tigers are mammals.

3. Invalid Tigers are mammals.

Therefore, tigers are cats.

4. Valid Cats are birds.

Therefore, dogs are birds.

5. Invalid Dogs are birds.

Therefore, dogs are cats.

6. Valid Birds are mammals.

Therefore, cats are mammals.

7. Invalid Tigers are birds.

Therefore, tigers are cats.

The distinction between truth and validity is the fundamental distinction of formal logic. You cannot understand how logicians see things until this

distinction is clear and familiar.

The seven sample arguments above help us establish the following general principles of logic:

(Proved by cases #1 and #3 in the table above.)

A true conclusion does not guarantee validity.

(Proved by cases #3 and #7.)

True premises and a true conclusion together do not guarantee validity.

(Proved by case #3.)

Valid reasoning does not guarantee a true conclusion.

(Proved by case #4.)

False premises do not guarantee invalidity.

(Proved by cases #4 and #6.)

A false conclusion does not guarantee invalidity.

(Proved by case #4.)

False premises and a false conclusion together do not guarantee invalidity.

(Proved by case #4.)

Invalid reasoning does not guarantee a false conclusion.

(Proved by cases #3 and #5.)

Therefore, while the truth of propositions and the validity of reasoning are distinct, the relationship between them is not entirely straightforward. We

cannot say that truth and validity are utterly independent because the impossibility of "case zero" (a valid argument with true premises and false

conclusion) shows that one combination of truth-values is an absolute bar to validity. When an argument has true premises and a false conclusion,

it must be invalid. In fact, this is how we define invalidity.

On the other hand, this partial reliance of validity on truth-value only exists for what logicians call the semantic concept of validity. In a few weeks

we'll encounter a syntactic concept of validity which makes no reference to truth at all.

Despite these wrinkles, we should never be misled by true premises or true conclusions to suppose (automatically) that an argument is valid. Nor

should we be misled by false premises or false conclusions to suppose that it is invalid. Nor should we be misled by valid reasoning to suppose that

statements are true, or by invalid reasoning to suppose that statements are false. If we recognize this, then we have already far surpassed "common

sense" in protecting ourselves from deception.

Truth and validity are combined in the concept of soundness. An argument is sound if (and only if) all its premises are true and its reasoning is valid;

all others are unsound. It follows that all sound arguments have true conclusions.

Here's another version of our table, this time showing that only one of the argument types is sound.

Type All premises true? Conclusion true? Reasoning valid? Possible? Sound?

5 no no no possible unsound

Empirical scientists and private detectives tell us whether statements are true. Logicians tell us whether reasoning is valid.

How do logicians test validity? Basically, they test for invalidity. We know exactly what invalidity in an argument is: to have true premises and a

false conclusion. An argument is valid in a weak sense if it simply is not invalid. This weak sense of validity turns out to suffice for all the purposes

of rigorous reasoning in science, mathematics, and daily life.

But to test for invalidity, we must know when we are dealing with true premises and a false conclusion. However, logicians do not know whether

statements are true or false. (They are not empirical scientists or private detectives.) But despite this ignorance, logicians can still test validity. One

way is to assume that an argument's premises are all true and the conclusion false (i.e. assume invalidity) and see whether we can get away with it.

Another way is to make all possible assumptions about the truth and falsity of those statements. If there is a "possible universe" in which the premises

are all true and the conclusion is false, then the argument is invalid for all universes. (Can you see why?)

THE ROLE OF LOGIC IN LAW

Ever since Justice Holmes asserted that [t]he life of the law has not been logic: it has been experience, lawyers and judges in the

United States have minimized the importance of formal logic for understanding law and legal reasoning. Many legal scholars and

practitioners have feared that to acknowledge that logic is central to law would risk a return to the rationalistic excesses of the

formalistic jurisprudences that dominated nineteenth century legal thought. It was, after all, against that formalist tradition that

Holmes wrote. And it was in spirited opposition to that tradition that members of the Legal Realist movement in America, as well as the

Free Law movement in Europe, directed much of their energies early in the twentieth century.

There is good reason to remain skeptical of overly rationalistic accounts of law and judicial practice. The weave of historical doctrine,

legal principle, and factual nuances that goes into each judicial decision is far too intricate to permit critical appraisal under any single

evaluative method, including the principles of logic. So we are rightfully apprehensive when we recollect the formalistic visions of

nineteenth century jurists visions which found the essence of adjudication in the logical derivation of conclusions necessarily

required by predetermined legal principles.

Yet it is somewhere between strict formalistic jurisprudence and an outright disregard for logic and argumentative form where the law

and judicial practice really find repose. Though all that is typically repeated of Justice Holmes view is the pithy remark quoted above,

his jurisprudential writings together with his judicial opinions show clearly that he never intended to suggest that logic is not a central

aspect of law or judicial decision making. He, as well as the legal realists and other critics of legal formalism, well recognized that

evaluating and creating arguments lie at the heart of the crafts of lawyering and judging.

It is thus worthwhile for practitioners and students of the law alike to possess an understanding of the basic principles of logic that are

used regularly in legal reasoning and judicial decision making. This understanding requires, in important part, skill in navigating the

processes of inductive reasoning the methods of analogy and inductive generalization by which inferences are drawn on the basis

of past experience and empirical observation. The common law method of case law development, as well as the general prescript often

referred to as the Rule of Law that like cases be decided alike are grounded logically in inductive reasoning.

Equally important is a second basic category of argumentation deductive logic, especially the deductive argument forms known as

syllogisms. These are the classic forms of deductive argument consisting of a major premise, a minor premise, and a conclusion. It was

this aspect of logic that a century ago stirred such virulent opposition to formalism. And it is this aspect of logic which was so severely

downplayed throughout the twentieth century. Yet even a rudimentary understanding of deductive logic gives lawyers, judges, and

students of the law a valuable tool for determining whether an argument in a legal opinion or brief is valid or fallacious.

In essence, the domain of the law and, within that domain, perhaps most especially the practice of judicial decision making are exercises

in practical reasoning. Law, to be sure, involves more than logic. Yet the myriad of factors that contribute to good lawyering and fair

judging suggest that the life of the law, while not logic alone, is a manifold of activities that all use and depend upon reason in

specialized ways. The precision of detail required in the drafting of contracts, wills, trusts, and other legal documents is a rational

precision; the care in planning and strategizing demanded of trial attorneys in deciding how to present their cases is a rational care; the

skill in written and oral argumentation required for appellate practice is, quite obviously, a rational skill; the talent expected of

administrative law judges in crafting coherent findings of fact and conclusions of law is a rational talent; and the ability of trial and

appellate court judges to separate, dispassionately and without bias, the kernel of argument from the rhetorical and emotive chaff of

adversarial presentation, so as to render judgments that are justified under the law, is a rational ability.

While it is true that many other factors from self-interest to moral values, from psychology to science enter into the decision

making of lawyers and judges, all such factors bear the ever-present tincture of reason and logic. Trial attorneys may appeal to the

psychology or sentiments of the jury, but only so far as they reasonably expect to influence the jury to draw rational inferences in their

clients favor. Self-interest may be the sole driving motive for each party in the drafting of a contract, yet the recognition, grounded in

reason, that insisting on onerous provisions will likely undermine the entire contractual arrangement has the tendency to hold

everyones self-interest in check. And while adjudicative practice calls for a good deal of value judgment in the choice, interpretation,

and application of legal principles, such value judgments are not free of the constraints of reason. As stated by one appellate court,

[E]very legal analysis should begin at the point of reason, continue along a path of logic and arrive at a fundamentally fair result.

(Sunrise Lumber v. Johnson, Appeal No. 165). To criticize, reverse, or overrule an administrative or judicial decision as arbitrary,

capricious, unsupported by law, or contrary to precedent is to say nothing more, but nothing less, than that the decision is

deficient in logic and reason.

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