First-order Logic

First-order logic is a formal system used in mathematics, philosophy, linguistics, and computer science. It is also known as first-order predicate calculus, the lower predicate calculus, quantification theory, and predicate logic (a less precise term). First-order logic is distinguished from propositional logic by its use of quantified variables.

A theory about some topic is usually first-order logic together with: a specified domain of discourse over which the quantified variables range, finitely many functions which map from that domain into it, finitely many predicates defined on that domain, and a recursive set of axioms which are believed to hold for those things. Sometimes "theory" is understood in a more formal sense, which is just a set of sentences in first-order logic.

The adjective "first-order" distinguishes first-order logic from higher-order logic in which there are predicates having predicates or functions as arguments, or in which one or both of predicate quantifiers or function quantifiers are permitted. In first-order theories, predicates are often associated with sets. In interpreted higher-order theories, predicates may be interpreted as sets of sets.

There are many deductive systems for first-order logic that are sound (all provable statements are true) and complete (all true statements are provable). Although the logical consequence relation is only semidecidable, much progress has been made in automated theorem proving in first-order logic. First-order logic also satisfies several metalogical theorems that make it amenable to analysis in proof theory, such as the Löwenheim–Skolem theorem and the compactness theorem.

First-order logic is of great importance to the foundations of mathematics, because it is the standard formal logic for axiomatic systems. Many common axiomatic systems, such as first-order Peano arithmetic and axiomatic set theory, including the canonical Zermelo–Fraenkel set theory (ZF), can be formalized as first-order theories. No first-order theory, however, has the strength to describe fully and categorically structures with an infinite domain, such as the natural numbers or the real line. Categorical axiom systems for these structures can be obtained in stronger logics such as second-order logic.

For a history of first-order logic and how it came to be the dominant formal logic, see José Ferreirós 2001.

Read more about First-order Logic:  Introduction, Syntax, Semantics, Deductive Systems, Equality and Its Axioms, Metalogical Properties, Limitations, Restrictions, Extensions and Variations, Automated Theorem Proving and Formal Methods

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