Ordinary Language and Formal Logic

Take the following sentence:  “If you are as angry as I am, we should cancel our lunch appointment today.”  In formal logic, the antecedent of a hypothetical does not have a determined truth value; it could be possible that the person being addressed is not as angry as the speaker, meaning that it may be safe to meet for lunch. 

What I find interesting about this proposition is the information communicated in ordinary language that is missed by the formal logic.  In formal logic, it is not possible to derive from the antecedent the proposition, “the speaker is angry”; and yet, in ordinary language that proposition seems to be implied.  If someone actually spoke that statement, I wouldn’t expect to see him wearing a happy face if I ate lunch with him in the near future.

The more philosophy I take, the more I realize how valuable, and yet how limited, formal logic can be.

Explore posts in the same categories: Philosophy, Uncategorized

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