Proposition

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In logic and philosophy, the term proposition (from the word "proposal") refers to either (a) the "content" or "meaning" of a meaningful declarative sentence or (b) the pattern of symbols, marks, or sounds that make up a meaningful declarative sentence. The meaning of a proposition includes having the quality or property of being either true or false, and as such propositions are claimed to be truthbearers.

The existence of propositions in sense (a) above, as well as the existence of "meanings", is disputed by some philosophers. Where the concept of a "meaning" is admitted, its nature is controversial. In earlier texts writers have not always made it sufficiently clear whether they are using the term proposition in sense of the words or the "meaning" expressed by the words.[1] To avoid the controversies and ontological implications, the term sentence is often now used instead of proposition to refer to just those strings of symbols that are truthbearers, being either true or false under an interpretation. Strawson advocated the use of the term "statement", and this is the current usage in mathematical logic.[citation needed]

Contents

Historical usage

Usage in Aristotle

Aristotelian logic identifies a proposition as a sentence which affirms or denies a predicate of a subject. An Aristotelian proposition may take the form "All men are mortal" or "Socrates is a man." In the first example the subject is "men" and the predicate "are mortal". In the second example the subject is "Socrates" and the predicate is "is a man".

Usage by the logical positivists

Often propositions are related to closed sentences to distinguish them from what is expressed by an open sentence. In this sense, propositions are "statements" that are truth bearers. This conception of a proposition was supported by the philosophical school of logical positivism.

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