In logic, a logical framework provides a means to define (or present) a logic as a signature in a higher-order type theory in such a way that provability of a formula in the original logic reduces to a type inhabitation problem in the framework type theory. This approach has been used successfully for (interactive) automated theorem proving. The first logical framework was Automath; however, the name of the idea comes from the more widely known Edinburgh Logical Framework, LF. Several more recent proof tools like Isabelle are based on this idea. Unlike a direct embedding, the logical framework approach allows many logics to be embedded in the same type system.
A logical framework is based on a general treatment of syntax, rules and proofs by means of a dependently typed lambda calculus. Syntax is treated in a style similar to, but more general than Per Martin-Löf's system of arities.
To describe a logical framework, one must provide the following:
- A characterization of the class of object-logics to be represented;
- An appropriate meta-language;
- A characterization of the mechanism by which object-logics are represented.
This is summarized by:
‘Framework = Language + Representation’.
In the case of the LF logical framework, the meta-language is the -calculus. This is a system of first-order dependent function types which are related by the propositions as types principle to first-order minimal logic. The key features of the -calculus are that it consists of entities of three levels: objects, types and families of types. It is predicative, all well-typed terms are strongly normalizing and Church-Rosser and the property of being well-typed is decidable. However, type inference is undecidable.
A logic is represented in the LF logical framework by the judgements-as-types representation mechanism. This is inspired by Per Martin-Löf's development of Kant's notion of judgement, in the 1983 Siena Lectures. The two higher-order judgements, the hypothetical and the general, , correspond to the ordinary and dependent function space, respectively. The methodology of judgements-as-types is that judgements are represented as the types of their proofs. A logical system is represented by its signature which assigns kinds and types to a finite set of constants that represents its syntax, its judgements and its rule schemes. An object-logic's rules and proofs are seen as primitive proofs of hypothetico-general judgements .
- a logic programming engine
- meta-theoretic reasoning about logic programs (termination, coverage, etc.)
- an inductive meta-logical theorem prover
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