Methodological Issues for the Logic of Questions and Commands

Methodological Issues for the Logic of Questions and Commands

Roderic A. Girle (Philosophy Department, University of Auckland, New Zealand) and Jonathan McKeown-Green (Philosophy Department, University of Auckland, New Zealand)
DOI: 10.4018/jcini.2012070101


There has been much recent interest in logics for questions and commands. The authors approve, but they argue that methodological issues must be addressed, before it is possible to understand what such logics are for and what they should be like. In particular, the authors deny that the formulas in such logics correspond directly to sentences in ordinary language. Logic is not linguistics. What then are the semantics for the formulas of logics of questions and commands? The focus here is mostly on questions. The authors argue that logics designed to capture the conditions for correct reasoning involving questions require a semantics that treats question-answer pairs as values. They also argue that formal dialogue approaches to the logic of questions should be interpreted in the light of the denial that logic is about language.
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1. Analysing Inferences With Questions And Commands

Consider an arbitrary declarative sentence.

  • (1)

    The figure drawn on the board is obviously a square.

Much can be said, some of it confidently, about what that sentence entails. We can agree that (1) entails the sentence:

  • (2)

    Something is obviously a square.

and logic has much to say about the formal features of (1) and (2) that make this the case. (1) also entails the sentence:
  • (3)

    The figure drawn on the board is a quadrilateral.

though theorists disagree about how to explain this entailment. By contrast, given an interrogative sentence like:
  • (4)

    Is George Washington a capital city?

logic has had little to say over the centuries about which sentences it entails, let alone why. Likewise, for an imperative like:

  • (5)

    Get those dishes washed immediately!

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