Principle of explosion

The principle of explosion, (Latin: ex falso quodlibet or ex contradictione sequitur quodlibet, "from a contradiction, anything follows") or the principle of Pseudo-Scotus,[citation needed] is the law of classical logic, intuitionistic logic and similar logical systems, according to which any statement can be proven from a contradiction.[1] That is, once a contradiction has been asserted, any proposition (or its negation) can be inferred from it. In symbolic terms, the principle of explosion can be expressed in the following way (where "$\vdash$" symbolizes the relation of logical consequence):

$\{ \phi , \lnot \phi \} \vdash \psi$
or
$\bot \to P$.

This can be read as, "If one claims something is both true ($\phi\,$) and not true ($\lnot \phi$), one can logically derive any conclusion ($\psi$)."

Arguments for explosion

An informal argument

Consider two inconsistent statements - “All lemons are yellow” and "Not all lemons are yellow" - and suppose for the sake of argument that both are simultaneously true. If that's the case we can prove anything, for instance that "Santa Claus exists", by using the following argument: 1) We know that "All lemons are yellow". 2) From this we can infer that (“All lemons are yellow" OR "Santa Claus exists”) is also true. 3) If "Not all lemons are yellow", however, this proves that "Santa Claus exists" (or the statement ("All lemons are yellow" OR "Santa Claus exists") would be false).

In more formal terms, there are two basic kinds of argument for the principle of explosion, semantic and proof-theoretic.

The semantic argument

The first argument is semantic or model-theoretic in nature. A sentence $\psi$ is a semantic consequence of a set of sentences $\Gamma$ only if every model of $\Gamma$ is a model of $\psi$. But there is no model of the contradictory set $\{\phi , \lnot \phi \}$. A fortiori, there is no model of $\{\phi , \lnot \phi \}$ that is not a model of $\psi$. Thus, vacuously, every model of $\{\phi , \lnot \phi \}$ is a model of $\psi$. Thus $\psi$ is a semantic consequence of $\{\phi , \lnot \phi \}$.

The proof-theoretic argument

The second type of argument is proof-theoretic in nature. Consider the following derivations:

1. $\phi \wedge \neg \phi\,$
assumption
2. $\phi\,$
from (1) by conjunction elimination
3. $\neg \phi\,$
from (1) by conjunction elimination
4. $\phi \vee \psi\,$
from (2) by disjunction introduction
5. $\psi\,$
from (3) and (4) by disjunctive syllogism
6. $(\phi \wedge \neg \phi) \to \psi$
from (5) by conditional proof (discharging assumption 1)

This is just the symbolic version of the informal argument given above, with $\phi$ standing for "all lemons are yellow" and $\psi$ standing for "Santa Claus exists". From "all lemons are yellow and not all lemons are yellow" (1), we infer "all lemons are yellow" (2) and "not all lemons are yellow" (3); from "all lemons are yellow" (2), we infer "all lemons are yellow or Santa Claus exists" (4); and from "not all lemons are yellow" (3) and "all lemons are yellow or Santa Claus exists" (4), we infer "Santa Claus exists" (5). Hence, if all lemons are yellow and not all lemons are yellow, then Santa Claus exists.

Or:

1. $\phi \wedge \neg \phi\,$
hypothesis
2. $\phi\,$
from (1) by conjunction elimination
3. $\neg \phi\,$
from (1) by conjunction elimination
4. $\neg \psi\,$
hypothesis
5. $\phi\,$
reiteration of (2)
6. $\neg \psi \to \phi$
from (4) to (5) by deduction theorem
7. $( \neg \phi \to \neg \neg \psi)$
from (6) by contraposition
8. $\neg \neg \psi$
from (3) and (7) by modus ponens
9. $\psi\,$
from (8) by double negation elimination
10. $(\phi \wedge \neg \phi) \to \psi$
from (1) to (9) by deduction theorem

Or:

1. $\phi \wedge \neg \phi\,$
assumption
2. $\neg \psi\,$
assumption
3. $\phi\,$
from (1) by conjunction elimination
4. $\neg \phi\,$
from (1) by conjunction elimination
5. $\neg \neg \psi\,$
from (3) and (4) by reductio ad absurdum (discharging assumption 2)
6. $\psi\,$
from (5) by double negation elimination
7. $(\phi \wedge \neg \phi) \to \psi$
from (6) by conditional proof (discharging assumption 1)
↑Jump back a section

Paraconsistent logics have been developed that allow for sub-contrary forming operators. Model-theoretic paraconsistent logicians often deny the assumption that there can be no model of $\{\phi , \lnot \phi \}$ and devise semantical systems in which there are such models. Alternatively, they reject the idea that propositions can be classified as true or false. Proof-theoretic paraconsistent logics usually deny the validity of one of the steps necessary for deriving an explosion, typically including disjunctive syllogism, disjunction introduction, and reductio ad absurdum.

↑Jump back a section