Online Encyclopedia
Semantics of logic
The truth conditions of various sentences we may encounter in arguments will depend upon their meaning, and so conscientious logicians cannot completely avoid the need to provide some treatment of the meaning of these sentences. The semantics of logic refers to the approaches that logicians have introduced to understand and determine that part of meaning in which they are interested; the logician traditionally is not interested in the sentence as uttered but in the proposition, an idealised sentence suitable for logical manipulation.
Until the advent of modern logic, Aristotle's Organon, especially On Interpretation, provided the basis for understanding the significance of logic. The introduction of quantification, needed to solve the problem of multiple generality, rendered impossible the kind of subject-predicate analysis that governed Aristotle's account, although there is a renewed interest in term logic, attempting to find calculi in the spirit of Aristotle's syllogistic but with the generality of modern logics based on the quantifier.
The main modern approaches to the semantics of logic divide into two families:
- Model-theoretic, of which the archetype is Alfred Tarski's semantic theory of truth, based on his T-schema, and is one of the founding concepts of model theory. This is the most widepsread approach, and is based on the idea that the meaning of the various parts of the propositions are given by the possible ways we can give a recursively specified group of interpretation functions from them to some predefined mathematical domains: an interpretation of first-order predicate logic is given by a mapping from terms to a universe of individuals , and a mapping from propositions to the truth values "true" and "false". Model-theoretic semantics provides the foundations for an approach to the theory of meaning known as Truth-conditional semantics, which was pioneered by Donald Davidson. Kripke semantics introduces innovations, but is broadly in the Tarskian mold.
- Proof-theoretic, which associate the meaning of propositions with the roles that they can play in inferences. Gerhard Gentzen, Dag Prawitz and Michael Dummett are generally seen as the founders of this approach; it is heavily influenced by Ludwig Wittgenstein's later philosophy, especially his aphorism "meaning is use".