Existential quantification

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In predicate logic, an existential quantification is the predication[1] of a property or relation to at least one member of the domain. It is denoted by the logical operator symbol ∃ (pronounced "there exists" or "for some"), which is called the existential quantifier. Existential quantification is distinct from universal quantification ("for all"), which asserts that the property or relation holds for any members of the domain.



Consider a formula that states that some natural number multiplied by itself is 25.

0·0 = 25, or 1·1 = 25, or 2·2 = 25, or 3·3 = 25, and so on.

This would seem to be a logical disjunction because of the repeated use of "or". However, the "and so on" makes this impossible to integrate and to interpret as a disjunction in formal logic. Instead, the statement could be rephrased more formally as

For some natural number n, n·n = 25.

This is a single statement using existential quantification.

This statement is more precise than the original one, as the phrase "and so on" does not necessarily include all natural numbers, and nothing more. Since the domain was not stated explicitly, the phrase could not be interpreted formally. In the quantified statement, on the other hand, the natural numbers are mentioned explicitly.

This particular example is true, because 5 is a natural number, and when we substitute 5 for n, we produce "5·5 = 25", which is true. It does not matter that "n·n = 25" is only true for a single natural number, 5; even the existence of a single solution is enough to prove the existential quantification true. In contrast, "For some even number n, n·n = 25" is false, because there are no even solutions.

The domain of discourse, which specifies which values the variable n is allowed to take, is therefore of critical importance in a statement's trueness or falseness. Logical conjunctions are used to restrict the domain of discourse to fulfill a given predicate. For example:

For some positive odd number n, n·n = 25"

is logically equivalent to

For some natural number n, n is odd and n·n = 25".

Here, "and" is the logical conjunction.

In symbolic logic, "∃" (a backwards letter "E" in a sans-serif font) is used to indicate existential quantification.[2] Thus, if P(a, b, c) is the predicate "a·b = c" and \mathbb{N} is the set of natural numbers, then

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