Language in action

Journal of Philosophical Logic 20 (3):225 - 263 (1991)
A number of general points behind the story of this paper may be worth setting out separately, now that we have come to the end.There is perhaps one obvious omission to be addressed right away. Although the word “information” has occurred throughout this paper, it must have struck the reader that we have had nothing to say on what information is. In this respect, our theories may be like those in physics: which do not explain what “energy” is (a notion which seems quite similar to “information” in several ways), but only give some basic laws about its behaviour and transmission.The eventual recommendation made here has been to use a broad type-theoretic framework for studying various more classical and more dynamic notions of proposition in their interaction. This is not quite the viewpoint advocated by many current authors in the area, who argue for a whole-sale switch from a ‘static’ to a ‘dynamic’ perspective on propositions. This is not the place, however, to survey the conceptual arguments for and against such a more radical move.This still leaves many questions about possible reductions from one perspective to another. For instance, it would seem that classical systems ought to serve as a ‘limiting case’, which should still be valid after procedural details of some cognitive process have been forgotten. There are various ways of implementing the desired correspondence: e.g. by considering extreme cases with ⫅ equal to identity, or, in the pure relational algebra framework by considering only pairs (x, x). What we shall want then are reductions of dynamic logics, in those special cases, to classical logic. But perhaps also, more sophisticated views are possible. How do we take a piece of ‘dynamic’ prose, remove control instructions and the like, and obtain a piece of ‘classical’ text, suitable for inference ‘in the light of eternity’?There is also a more technical side to the matter of ‘reduction’. By now, Logic has reached such a state of ‘inter-translatability’ that almost all known variant logics can be embedded into each other, via suitable translations. In particular, once an adequate semantic has been given for a new system, this usually induces an embedding into standard logic: as we know, e.g., for the case of Modal Logic. Like-wise, all systems of dynamic interpretation or inference proposed so far admit of direct embedding into an ordinary ‘static’ predicate logic having explicit transition predicates (cf. van Benthem 1988b). Thus, our moral is this. The issue is not whether the new systems of information structure or processing are essentially beyond the expressive resources of traditional logical systems: for, they are not. The issue is rather which interesting phenomena and questions will be put into the right focus by them.The next broad issue concerns the specific use of the perspective proposed here, vis-à-vis concrete proposals for information-oriented or dynamic semantics. The general strategy advocated here is to locate some suitable base calculus and then consider which ‘extras’ are peculiar to the proposal. For instance, this is the spirit in which modal S4 would be a base logic of information models, and intuitionistic logicthe special theory devoting itself to upward persistent propositions. Or, with the examples in Section 4.1, the underlying base logic is our relational algebra, whereas, say, ordinary updates then impose special properties, such as ‘idempotence’: $$xRy \Rightarrow yRy$$ Does this kind of application presuppose the existence of one distinguished base logic, of which all others are extensions? This would be attractive-and some form of relational algebra or linear logic might be a reasonable candidate. Nevertheless, the enterprise does not rest on this outcome. What matters is an increased sensitivity to the ‘landscape’ of dynamic logics, just as with the ‘Categorial Hierarchy’ in Categorial Grammar (cf. van Benthem 1989a, 1991) where the family of logics with their interconnections seems more important than any specific patriarch.Finally, perhaps the most important issue in the new framework is the possibility of new kinds of questions arising precisely because of its differences from standard logic. Notably, given the option of regarding propositions as programs, it will be of interest to consider systematically which major questions about programming languages now make sense inside logic too.EXAMPLE. Correctness. When do we have $$\left[\kern-0.15em\left[ \pi \right]\kern-0.15em\right](\left[\kern-0.15em\left[ A \right]\kern-0.15em\right]) \subseteq \left[\kern-0.15em\left[ B \right]\kern-0.15em\right]$$ for (s, t) propositions A, B and a dynamic (s, (s, t)) proposition π?Program Synthesis. Which dynamic proposition will take us from an information state satisfying A to one satisfying B? (This question needs refinement, lest there be trivial answers.)Determinism. Which propositions as programs are deterministic, in the sense of defining single-valued functions from states to states?Querying. What does it mean to ask for information in the present setting? (Again, individual types referring to e will be crucial here.)This is not merely an agenda for wishful thinking. Within Logic, there are various ways of introducing such concerns into semantics, especially, using tools from Automata Theory. (See van Benthem 1989c for further discussion of such computational perspectives in ‘cognitive programming’.)At least if one believes that ‘dynamics’ is of the essence in cognition (rather than a mere interfacing problem between the halls of eternal truth and the noisy streets of reality), the true test for the present enterprise is the development of a significant new research program not merely copying the questions of old
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    References found in this work BETA
    Johan Benthem (1990). Categorial Grammar and Type Theory. Journal of Philosophical Logic 19 (2):115 - 168.
    Johan Benthem (1989). Polyadic Quantifiers. Linguistics and Philosophy 12 (4):437 - 464.

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    Citations of this work BETA
    Jaap Does (1993). Sums and Quantifiers. Linguistics and Philosophy 16 (5):509 - 550.
    Jaap Does (1993). Sums and Quantifiers. Linguistics and Philosophy 16 (5):509--550.
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