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LOGICAL EQUIVALENCE

I. Introduction

Statements are materially equivalent when they have the same truth
value. Because two materially equivalent statements are either both true, or
both false, we can readily see that they must (materially) imply one another,
because a false antecedent (materially) implies any statement, and a true
consequent is (materially) implied by any statement. We may therefore read
the three-bar sign, as “if and only if.”

However, statements that are merely materially equivalent most


certainly cannot be substituted for one another. Knowing that they are
materially equivalent, we know only that their truth values are the same.
The statements, “Jupiter is larger than the Earth” and “Tokyo is the capital
of Japan,” are materially equivalent because they are both true, but we
obviously cannot replace one with the other. Similarly, the statements, “All
spiders are poisonous” and “No spiders are poisonous,” are materially
equivalent simply because they are both false, but they certainly cannot
replace one another!

II. What is Logical Equivalence?

There are many circumstances, however, in which we must express the


relationship that does permit mutual replacement. Two statements can be
equivalent in a sense much stronger than that of material equivalence. They
may be equivalent in the sense that any proposition that incorporates one of
them could just as well incorporate the other. If there is no possible case in
which one of these statements is true while the other is false, those
statements are logically equivalent.

Of course, any two statements that are logically equivalent are


materially equivalent as well, for they obviously have the same truth value.
Indeed, if two statements are logically equivalent, they are materially
equivalent under all circumstances.

Two statements are logically equivalent if the statements of their


material equivalence is a tautology.

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Figure 1 Logical Equivalence

A. Double Negation

Some simple logical equivalences that are very commonly used


will make this relation, and its great power, very clear. It is a
commonplace that p and ~~p mean the same thing; “he is aware of that
difficulty” and “he is not unaware of that
difficulty” are two statements with the same
content. In substance, either of these expressions may be replaced by
the other because they both say the same thing. This principle of
double negation, whose truth is obvious to all, may be exhibited in a
truth table, where the material equivalence of two statement forms is
shown to be a tautology:

Figure 2 Double Negation. This truth table proves that p and ~~p are logically equivalent.

As defined earlier, logically equivalent statements have the same


truth value. Suppose that p is true. Its negation is false. The negation
of its negation, as shown in Figure 2, is true. Likewise, suppose p is
false. Its negation is true. The negation of true is false. Therefore, p and
its double negation are logically equivalent. To further explain,
consider the example in Figure 3 below.

Figure 3 Example of Double Negation

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Now, claiming that logically equivalent statements can be
interchanged, p and ~~p can substitute one another. “The accused was
acquitted.” Accepting this statement as true, it can be inferred that its
negation is “The accused was not acquitted” or other similar import
i.e. “The accused was convicted.” The falsity of the negation, “It is not
the case that the accused was not acquitted” or “The accused was not
convicted”, bears the same significance as that of “The accused was
acquitted.”

Furthermore, the statement “No roses are red” is essentially


false. Its negation that “Some roses are red” is true because roses have
undeniably variety of colors, and red is one of such. The negation of
its negation, “It is not the case that some roses are red” is false. Thus,
the principle of double negation as applied in the examples above, if
statements p and ~~p can replace one another, either both true or both
false, present logical equivalence.

Double Negation: A proposition is equivalent of the


falsehood of its negation.

Logical equivalence distinguished from material equivalence:

The difference between material equivalence on the one hand and


logical equivalence on the other hand is very great and very
important. The former is a truth-functional connective, which may
be true or false depending only on the truth or falsity of the elements
it connects. But the latter, logical equivalence, is not a mere
connective, and it expresses a relation between two statements that
is not truth-functional. Two statements are logically equivalent only
when it is absolutely impossible for them to have different truth
values. However, if they always have the same truth value, logically
equivalent statements may be substituted for one another in any
truth-functional context without changing the truth value of that
context. By contrast, two statements are materially equivalent if
they merely happen to have the same truth value, even if there are
no factual connections between them. Statements that are merely
materially equivalent certainly may not be substituted for one
another!

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B. De Morgan’s Theorem

There are two well-known logical equivalences (that is, logically


true biconditionals) of great importance because they express the
interrelations among conjunction and disjunction, and their negations.
Let us examine these two logical equivalences more closely.

First, what will serve to deny that a disjunction is true? Any


disjunction p V q asserts no more than that at least one of its two
disjuncts is true. One cannot contradict it by asserting that at least one
is false; one must (to deny it) assert that both disjuncts are false.
Therefore, asserting the negation of the disjunction (p V q) is logically
equivalent to asserting the conjunction of the negations of p and of q. To
show this in a truth table, we may formulate the biconditional ~(p V q)
≡ (~p • ~q) , place it at the top of its own column, and examine its truth
value under all circumstances, that is, in each row.

Figure 4 De Morgan's Theorem (Negation of Disjunction)

Of course we see that, whatever the truth values of p and of q,


this biconditional must always be true. It is a tautology. Because the
statement of that material equivalence is a tautology, we conclude that
its two component statements are logically equivalent. We have
proved that

Figure 5 Example of De Morgan's Theorem (Negation of Disjunction)

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Figure 6 Example of De Morgan's Theorem (Negation of Disjunction)

Similarly, asserting the conjunction of p and q asserts that both


are true, so to contradict this assertion we need merely assert that at
least one is false. Thus, asserting the negation of the conjunction (p • q)
is logically equivalent to asserting the disjunction of the negations of p
and of q. In symbols, the biconditional, ~(p • q) ≡ (~p V ~q) may be
shown, in a truth table, to be a tautology.

Figure 7 De Morgan's Theorem (Negation of Conjunction)

Such a table proves that

Figure 8 Example of De Morgan's Theorem (Negation of Conjunction)

Figure 9 Example of De Morgan's Theorem (Negation of Conjunction)

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These two tautologous biconditionals, or logical equivalences,
are known as De Morgan’s theorems, because they were formally
stated by the mathematician and logician Augustus De Morgan (1806–
1871).

De Morgan’s theorems can be formulated in English thus:


(a) The negation of the disjunction of two statements is
logically equivalent to the conjunction of the negations of
the two statements;
(b) The negation of the conjunction of two statements is
logically equivalent to the disjunction of the negations of
the two statements.

C. Commutative Laws

 Commutative laws of conjunctions

The commutative laws of conjunction states that conjunction (p


• q) is logically equivalent to conjunction (q • p). Figure 10 proves that
both have the same truth value.

Figure 10 Commutative Laws Truth Table

Figure 11 further proves that the logical equivalence between the


conjunctions (p • q) and (q • p) in which it can be interchanged as both
asserts the same.

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Figure 11 Example of Commutative Laws

 Commutative laws of disjunction

As shown on the truth table below, the disjunctions (p V q) and


(q V p) have the same truth value.

Figure 12 Commutative Law of Disjunction Truth Table

Figure 13 Example of Commutative Law of Disjunction

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Figure 14 Another form of logical equivalence

THE THREE LAWS OF THOUGHT

Some early thinkers, after having defined logic as “the science of the
laws of thought,” went on to assert that there are exactly three basic laws of
thought, laws so fundamental that obedience to them is both the necessary
and the sufficient condition of correct thinking. These three have
traditionally been called:

 The principle of identity.


 The principle of noncontradiction.
 The principle of excluded middle.

A. The principle of identity.

This principle asserts that if any statement is


true, then it is true. Using our notation we may
rephrase it by saying that the principle of identity
asserts that every statement of the form p ⊃ p must be true, that every
such statement is a tautology.

Principle of Identity: A thing is identical with itself.

Everything that exists has a specific nature. Each entity exists as


something in particular and it has characteristics that are a part of what
it is. "This leaf is red, solid, dry, rough, and flammable." "This book is
white, and has 312 pages." "This coin is round, dense, smooth, and has
a picture on it." In all three of these cases we are referring to an entity
with a specific identity; the particular type of identity, or the trait

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discussed, is not important. Their identities include all of their
features, not just those mentioned.

Identity is the concept that refers to this aspect of existence; the


aspect of existing as something in particular, with specific
characteristics. An entity without an identity cannot exist because it
would be nothing. To exist is to exist as something, and that means to
exist with a particular identity.

To have an identity means to have a single identity; an object


cannot have two identities. A tree cannot be a telephone, and a dog
cannot be a cat. Each entity exists as something specific, its identity is
particular, and it cannot exist as something else. An entity can have
more than one characteristic, but any characteristic it has is a part of its
identity. A car can be both blue and red, but not at the same time or
not in the same respect. Whatever portion is blue cannot be red at the
same time, in the same way. Half the car can be red, and the other half
blue. But the whole car can't be both red and blue. These two traits,
blue and red, each have single, particular identities.

The concept of identity is important because it makes explicit


that reality has a definite nature. Since reality has an identity, it is
knowable. Since it exists in a particular way, it has no contradictions.

A is A, the first element of the proposition represents the


subject (thing) and the second element represents the predicate (its
essence), with the copula “is” signifying the relation of “identity”.

The example is a definitive proposition. The subject (LAWYER)


and the predicate (PERSON QUALIFIED AND AUTHORIZED TO
PRACTICE LAW) are declared to be one and the same thing
(IDENTICAL). Consequently, the Law of Identity prohibits us from
rightfully calling anything other than “a person qualified and
authorized to practice law” a “lawyer”.

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B. The principle of noncontradiction.
This principle asserts that no statement
can be both true and false. Using our notation
we may rephrase it by saying that the principle
of noncontradiction asserts that every statement of the form p • ~p
must be false, that every such statement is self-contradictory.

Principle of Non-contradiction: Nothing can both exist


and not exist at the same time and in the same respect; or
no statement is both true and false.

The Law of non-contradiction is one of the basic laws in


classical logic. It states that something cannot be both true and not true
at the same time when dealing with the same context. For example, the
chair in my living room, right now, cannot be made of wood and not
made of wood at the same time. In the law of non-contradiction, where
we have a set of statements about a subject, we cannot have any of the
statements in that set negate the truth of any other statement in that
same set. For example, we have a set of two statements about Judas. 1)
Judas hanged himself. 2) Judas fell down, and his bowels spilled out.
Neither statement about Judas contradicts the other. That is, neither
statement makes the other impossible because neither excludes the
possibility of the other. The statements can be harmonized by stating:
Judas hanged himself, then his body fell down, and his bowels spilled
out.

In order to make the set of statements contradictory, we would


have something like: 1) Judas hanged himself. 2) Judas did not hang
himself. Since either statement excludes the possibility of the other, we
would then have a contradiction since both could not be true.
However, to say that Judas hanged himself and Judas fell are not
contradictory since both could occur.

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C. The principle of excluded middle.

This principle asserts that every


statement is either true or false. Using our
notation we may rephrase it by saying that the
principle of excluded middle asserts that every statement of the form
p V ~p must be true, that every such statement is a tautology.

Principle of Excluded Middle: Something either exists or


does not exist; or every statement is either true or false.

Think of this principle as claiming that there is no middle ground


between being true and being false. Every statement has to be one or
the other. That’s why it’s called the law of excluded middle, because it
excludes a middle ground between truth and falsity. So while the law
of non-contradiction tells us that no statement can be both true and
false, the law of excluded middle tells us that they must all be one or
the other.

Since the law of excluded middle is a tautology, it should hold


no matter what the truth value of p is. In fact, it should be true no
matter what statement we decide p should represent. So the law of
excluded middle tells us that every statement whatsoever must be
either true or false. At first, this might not seem like a very problematic
claim. But before getting too comfortable with this idea, we might
want to consider Bertrand Russell’s famous example: “The present
King of France is bald.” Since the law of excluded middle tells us that
every statement is either true or false, the sentence “The present King
of France is bald” must be either true or false. Which is it?

Since there is no present King of France, it would seem quite


unusual to claim that this sentence is true. But if we accept the law of
excluded middle, this leaves us only one option - namely, to claim that
it is false.

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