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A material conditional (also known as “material implication”, “material consequence”, or simply “implication”) is a logical connective often symbolized by a forward arrow “→”. A single statement formed from the connection of two, for instance “p→q” (called a conditional statement), is typically interpreted as “If p, then q” or “q if p”. The material implication between two sentences p, q is typically symbolized as
- (Although this symbol is confused with the superset symbol used by Algebra of sets.);
- (Although this symbol is often used for logical consequence (i.e. logical implication) rather than for material implication.)
As placed within the material conditionals above, p is known as the antecedent, and q as the consequent, of the conditional. One can also use compounds as components, for example pq → (r→s). There, the compound pq (short for “p and q”) is the antecedent, and the compound r→s is the consequent, of the larger conditional of which those compounds are components.
Implication is one form of logical consequence. In an argument such as “Fred is Mike’s brother’s son", the statement “Fred is Mike’s nephew” is a material consequence of “Fred is Mike’s brother’s son”, but not a formal consequence. This is because the validity of the argument depends on the content of the premise and conclusion (including the meanings of the words “brother”, “son”, and “nephew”) rather than on the logical form or structure of the argument.
In classical logic, the compound p→q is equivalent to the negative compound: not (both p and not q). In particular, it is considered true if p is false, whether or not q is true. The only case in which the statement p→q is false is when p is true and q is false. In everyday English, saying “It is false that if p then q” is not often taken as flatly equivalent to saying “p is true and q is false” but, when used within classical logic, those phrasings are taken as logically equivalent. (Other senses of English “if…then…” require other logical forms.)
Definitions of the material conditional 
Logicians have many different views on the nature of material implication and approaches to explain its sense.
As a truth function 
In classical logic, the compound p→q is logically equivalent to the negative compound: not both p and not q. Thus the compound p→q is false if and only if both p is true and q is false. By the same stroke, p→q is true if and only if either p is false or q is true (or both). Thus → is a function from pairs of truth values of the components p, q to truth values of the compound p→q, whose truth value is entirely a function of the truth values of the components. Hence, the compound p→q is called truth-functional. The compound p→q is logically equivalent also to ¬p∨q (either not p, or q (or both)), and to ¬q → ¬p (if not q then not p). But it is not equivalent to ¬p → ¬q, which is equivalent to q→p.
Truth table 
The truth table associated with the material conditional not p or q (symbolized as p → q) and the logical implication p implies q (symbolized as p → q, or Cpq) is as follows:
As a formal connective 
The material conditional can be considered as a symbol of a formal theory, taken as a set of sentences, satisfying all the classical inferences involving →, in particular the following characteristic rules:
Unlike the truth-functional one, this approach to logical connectives permits the examination of structurally identical propositional forms in various logical systems, where somewhat different properties may be demonstrated. For example, in intuitionistic logic which rejects proofs by contraposition as valid rules of inference, (p → q) ⇒ ¬p ∨ q is not a propositional theorem, but the material conditional is used to define negation.
Formal properties 
When studying logic formally, the material conditional is distinguished from the semantic consequence relation . We say if every interpretation that makes A true also makes B true. However, there is a close relationship between the two in most logics, including classical logic. For example, the following principles hold:
- If then for some . (This is a particular form of the deduction theorem. In words, it says that if Γ models ψ this means that ψ can be deduced just from some subset of the theorems in Γ.)
- The converse of the above
- Both and are monotonic; i.e., if then , and if then for any α, Δ. (In terms of structural rules, this is often referred to as weakening or thinning.)
Other properties of implication (the following expressions are always true, for any logical values of variables):
- truth preserving: The interpretation under which all variables are assigned a truth value of 'true' produces a truth value of 'true' as a result of material implication.
- commutativity of antecedents:
Note also that comparison of the truth table shows that is equivalent to , and it is sometimes convenient to replace one by the other in proofs. Such a replacement can be viewed as a rule of inference.
Philosophical problems with material conditional 
Outside of mathematics, it is a matter of some controversy as to whether the truth function for material implication provides an adequate treatment of conditional statements in English (a sentence in the indicative mood with a conditional clause attached, i.e., an indicative conditional, or false-to-fact sentences in the subjunctive mood, i.e., a counterfactual conditional). That is to say, critics argue that in some non-mathematical cases, the truth value of a compound statement, "if p then q", is not adequately determined by the truth values of p and q. Examples of non-truth-functional statements include: "p because q", "p before q" and "it is possible that p". “[Of] the sixteen possible truth-functions of A and B, material implication is the only serious candidate. First, it is uncontroversial that when A is true and B is false, "If A, B" is false. A basic rule of inference is modus ponens: from "If A, B" and A, we can infer B. If it were possible to have A true, B false and "If A, B" true, this inference would be invalid. Second, it is uncontroversial that "If A, B" is sometimes true when A and B are respectively (true, true), or (false, true), or (false, false)… Non-truth-functional accounts agree that "If A, B" is false when A is true and B is false; and they agree that the conditional is sometimes true for the other three combinations of truth-values for the components; but they deny that the conditional is always true in each of these three cases. Some agree with the truth-functionalist that when A and B are both true, "If A, B" must be true. Some do not, demanding a further relation between the facts that A and that B.”
The truth-functional theory of the conditional was integral to Frege's new logic (1879). It was taken up enthusiastically by Russell (who called it "material implication"), Wittgenstein in the Tractatus, and the logical positivists, and it is now found in every logic text. It is the first theory of conditionals which students encounter. Typically, it does not strike students as obviously correct. It is logic's first surprise. Yet, as the textbooks testify, it does a creditable job in many circumstances. And it has many defenders. It is a strikingly simple theory: "If A, B" is false when A is true and B is false. In all other cases, "If A, B" is true. It is thus equivalent to "~(A&~B)" and to "~A or B". "A ⊃ B" has, by stipulation, these truth conditions.
The meaning of the material conditional can sometimes be used in the natural language English "if condition then consequence" construction (a kind of conditional sentence), where condition and consequence are to be filled with English sentences. However, this construction also implies a "reasonable" connection between the condition (protasis) and consequence (apodosis) (see Connexive logic).
The material conditional can yield some unexpected truths when expressed in natural language. For example, any material conditional statement with a false antecedent is true (see vacuous truth). So the statement "if 2 is odd then 2 is even" is true. Similarly, any material conditional with a true consequent is true. So the statement, "if my password is Swordfish then Paris is in France" is true. These problems are known as the paradoxes of material implication, though they are not really paradoxes in the strict sense; that is, they do not elicit logical contradictions. These unexpected truths arise because speakers of English (and other natural languages) are tempted to equivocate between the material conditional and the indicative conditional, or other conditional statements, like the counterfactual conditional and the material biconditional. It is not surprising that a rigorously defined truth-functional operator does not correspond exactly to all notions of implication or otherwise expressed by 'if...then...' sentences in English (or their equivalents in other natural languages). For an overview of some the various analyses, formal and informal, of conditionals, see the "References" section below.
See also 
Further reading 
- Brown, Frank Markham (2003), Boolean Reasoning: The Logic of Boolean Equations, 1st edition, Kluwer Academic Publishers, Norwell, MA. 2nd edition, Dover Publications, Mineola, NY, 2003.
- Edgington, Dorothy (2001), "Conditionals", in Lou Goble (ed.), The Blackwell Guide to Philosophical Logic, Blackwell.
- Quine, W.V. (1982), Methods of Logic, (1st ed. 1950), (2nd ed. 1959), (3rd ed. 1972), 4th edition, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA.
- Stalnaker, Robert, "Indicative Conditionals", Philosophia, 5 (1975): 269–286.
- "Logical Consequence". Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved 24 May 2013.
- Clarke, Matthew C. (March 1996). "A Comparison of Techniques for Introducing Material Implication". Cornell University. Retrieved March 4, 2012.
- Edgington, Dorothy (2008). "Conditionals". In Edward N. Zalta. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2008 ed.).