This is a continuation of a series of posts on three valued logic that began with “The Learned Professors”.

Logic doesn’t get very far without the ability to combined sentences and expressions. As with classical two valued logic, the principal means of combining are two binary operations; the logical “and” and the logical “or”. If the truth values T, U, and F, are ordered from “Most true” to “least true”, the value of “P and Q”, P & Q, is the least true of the two expressions, while “P or Q”, p \/ Q is the most true.

There is nothing new here; most of the three valued logics that have been created take this approach, and it seems entirely reasonable.

It becomes more interesting when negation and the modal operators becomes involved. De Morgan’s laws apply so that ~ (P & Q) = ~P \/ !Q and ~ (P \/ Q) = ~P & ~Q. The modal operators [] and <> are distributive, so that [](P & Q) = []P & []Q; <>(P \/ Q) = <>P \/ <>Q. [](P \/ Q) = []P \/ []Q; <>(P & Q) = <>P & <>Q.

This is a significant difference from the modal logic of C. I. Lewis, who argued that if P and Q are mutually exclusive so that Q = ~P, <>P & <>Q should be true, while <>(P & Q) should be false. However intuitively appealing this might be, it doesn’t work here. Once we are committed to using the truth value U for P, we are also committed to accepting that <> (P & ~P), for instance. “It is possible that the cat is black and the cat is white”. Fortunately, we are not required to accept such contradictions as true; [] (P & ~P) “It is definitely the case that P and ~P” is false. It is sufficient to refrain from denying that they are ever possible. Sometimes, there are intermediate states for which a such description makes sense. Even if there are not, it is inconsistent to relax the law of the excluded middle on one side, and then assert it strongly on the other.

It is a basic assertion that <>P & <> ~P “It is possible for both P and ~P” signifies that P is an equivocal statement and has the truth value U. If, on the other hand, you assert ~<> (P & ~P), “It is not possible for both P and not P”, this a commitment to dichotomy. If it holds for all statements involved, the three valued logic simply reduces to the two valued case. If P and Q really are mutually exclusive, <>(P & Q) can be considered a vacuous possibility that vanishes as soon as either P or Q is known.

As it works out, the similar behavior of dichotomous uncertainty and equivocal uncertainty means that you can get away with using U for either type, as long as you observe decorous restraint and refrain from asserting that the principle of the excluded middle is a law that cannot be violated. The laws of the logic are perfectly general and apply equally and indifferently to both cases.