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If and only if

If and only if

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Published by Patrick Mugo
Being specific
Being specific

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Published by: Patrick Mugo on Aug 15, 2012
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If and only if 1
If and only if 
↔ ⇔ ≡
Logical symbolsrepresenting
iff 
.In logic and related fields such as mathematics and philosophy,
if and only if 
(shortened
iff 
) is a biconditionallogical connective between statements. In that it is biconditional, the connective can be likened to the standardmaterial conditional ("only if," equal to "if ... then") combined with its reverse ("if"); hence the name. The result isthat the truth of either one of the connected statements requires the truth of the other, i.e., either both statements aretrue, or both are false. It is controversial whether the connective thus defined is properly rendered by the English "if and only if", with its pre-existing meaning. Of course, there is nothing to stop us
stipulating
that we may read thisconnective as "only if and if", although this may lead to confusion.In writing, phrases commonly used, with debatable propriety, as alternatives to "if and only if" include
Q isnecessary and sufficient for P
,
 P is equivalent (or materially equivalent) to Q
(compare material implication),
 P precisely if Q
,
 P precisely (or exactly) when Q
,
 P exactly in case Q
, and
 P just in case Q
. Many authors regard "iff"as unsuitable in formal writing; others use it freely.In
logic formulae
, logical symbols are used instead of these phrases; see the discussion of notation.
Definition
The truth table of 
 p
q
is as follows:
[1]
Iff 
p q p
 
q
TTTTFFFTFFFT
Note that it is equivalent to that produced by the XNOR gate, and opposite to that produced by the XOR gate.
Usage
Notation
The corresponding logical symbols are "
", "
" and "
", and sometimes "iff". These are usually treated asequivalent. However, some texts of mathematical logic (particularly those on first-order logic, rather thanpropositional logic) make a distinction between these, in which the first,
, is used as a symbol in logic formulas,while
is used in reasoning about those logic formulas (e.g., in metalogic).Another term for this logical connective is exclusive nor.
 
If and only if 2
Proofs
In most logical systems, one proves a statement of the form "P iff Q" by proving "if P, then Q" and "if Q, then P" (orthe inverse of "if P, then Q", i.e. "if not P, then not Q"). Proving this pair of statements sometimes leads to a morenatural proof, since there are not obvious conditions in which one would infer a biconditional directly. An alternativeis to prove the disjunction "(P and Q) or (not-P and not-Q)", which itself can be inferred directly from either of itsdisjuncts
 —
that is, because "iff" is truth-functional, "P iff Q" follows if P and Q have both been shown true, or bothfalse.
Origin of iff 
Usage of the abbreviation "iff" first appeared in print in John L. Kelley's 1955 book 
General Topology.
[2]
Itsinvention is often credited to the mathematician Paul Halmos.
Distinction from "if" and "only if"
1.
"If the pudding is a custard, then Madison will eat it."
or
"Madison will eat the pudding if it is a custard."
(equivalent to
"Only if Madison will eat the pudding, is it a custard.")
This states only that Madison will eat custard pudding. It does not, however, preclude the possibility thatMadison might also have occasion to eat bread pudding. Maybe she will, maybe she will not
 —
the sentencedoes not tell us. All we know for certain is that she will eat any and all custard pudding that she happens upon.That the pudding is a custard is a
sufficient 
condition for Madison to eat the pudding.2.
"Only if the pudding is a custard, will Madison eat it."
or
"Madison will eat the pudding only if it is acustard."
(equivalent to
"If Madison will eat the pudding, then it is a custard.")
This states that the only pudding Madison will eat is a custard. It does not, however, preclude the possibilitythat Madison will refuse a custard if it is made available, in contrast with (1), which requires Madison to eatany available custard. In this case, that a given pudding is a custard is a
necessary
condition for Madison to beeating it. It is not a sufficient condition since Madison might not eat any and all custard puddings she is given.3.
"If and only if the pudding is a custard will Madison eat it."
or
"Madison will eat the pudding if and only if it is a custard."
This, however, makes it quite clear that Madison will eat all and only those puddings that are custard. She willnot leave any such pudding uneaten, and she will not eat any other type of pudding. That a given pudding iscustard is both a necessary and a sufficient condition for Madison to eat the pudding.Sufficiency is the inverse of necessity. That is to say, given
 P
Q
(i.e. if 
 P
then
Q
),
 P
would be a sufficient conditionfor
Q
, and
Q
would be a necessary condition for
 P
. Also, given
 P
Q
, it is true that
¬Q
¬P
(where ¬ is thenegation operator, i.e. "not"). This means that the relationship between
 P
and
Q
, established by
 P
Q
, can beexpressed in the following, all equivalent, ways:
 P
is sufficient for
QQ
is necessary for
 P¬Q
is sufficient for
¬P¬P
is necessary for
¬Q
As an example, take (1), above, which states
 P
Q
, where
 P
is "the pudding in question is a custard" and
Q
is"Madison will eat the pudding in question". The following are four equivalent ways of expressing this veryrelationship:If the pudding in question is a custard, then Madison will eat it.Only if Madison will eat the pudding in question, is it a custard.If Madison will not eat the pudding in question, then it is not a custard.
 
If and only if 3Only if the pudding in question is not a custard, will Madison not eat it.So we see that (2), above, can be restated in the form of 
if...then
as "If Madison will eat the pudding in question, thenit is a custard"; taking this in conjunction with (1), we find that (3) can be stated as "If the pudding in question is acustard, then Madison will eat it; AND if Madison will eat the pudding, then it is a custard".
Advanced considerations
Philosophical interpretation
A sentence that is composed of two other sentences joined by "iff" is called a
biconditional
. "Iff" joins two sentencesto form a new sentence. It should not be confused with logical equivalence which is a description of a relationbetween two sentences. The biconditional "A iff B"
uses
the sentences
 A
and
 B
, describing a relation between thestates of affairs which
 A
and
 B
describe. By contrast "
 A
is logically equivalent to
 B
"
mentions
both sentences: itdescribes a logical relation between those two sentences, and not a factual relation between whatever matters theydescribe. See use-mention distinction for more on the difference between
using
a sentence and
mentioning
it.The distinction is a very confusing one, and has led many a philosopher astray. Certainly it is the case that when
 A
islogically equivalent to
 B
, "A
iff 
B" is true. But the converse does not hold. Reconsidering the sentence:If and only if the pudding is a custard will Madison eat it.There is clearly no logical equivalence between the two halves of this particular biconditional. For more on thedistinction, see W. V. Quine's
 Mathematical Logic
, Section 5.One way of looking at "A if and only if B" is that it means "A if B" (B implies A) and "A only when B" (not Bimplies not A). "Not B implies not A" means A implies B, so then we get two way implication.
Definitions
In philosophy and logic, "iff" is used to indicate definitions, since definitions are supposed to be universallyquantified biconditionals. In mathematics and elsewhere, however, the word "if" is normally used in definitions,rather than "iff". This is due to the observation that "if" in the English language has a definitional meaning, separatefrom its meaning as a propositional conjunction. This separate meaning can be explained by noting that a definition(for instance: A group is "abelian" if it satisfies the commutative law; or: A grape is a "raisin" if it is well dried) isnot an equivalence to be proved, but a rule for interpreting the term defined. (Some authors,
[3]
nevertheless,explicitly indicate that the "if" of a definition means "iff"!)
Examples
Here are some examples of true statements that use "iff" - true biconditionals (the first is an example of a definition,so it should normally have been written with "if"):A person is a bachelor
iff 
that person is a marriageable man who has never married."Snow is white" in English is true
iff 
 
"Schnee ist weiß" 
in German is true.For any
 p
,
q
, and
: (
 p
&
q
) &
iff 
 p
& (
q
&
). (Since this is written using variables and "&", the statement wouldusually be written using "
", or one of the other symbols used to write biconditionals, in place of "iff").For any real numbers
 x
and
 y
,
 x
=
 y
+1
iff 
 
 y
=
 x
1.A subset containing n elements of an n-dimensional vector space is linearly independent iff it spans the vectorspace.

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