In propositional logic, modus ponendo ponens (Latin for "the way that affirms by affirming"; generally abbreviated to MP or modus ponens) or implication elimination is a rule of inference. It can be summarized as "P implies Q and P is asserted to be true, so therefore Q must be true." The history of modus ponens goes back to antiquity.
Modus ponens is closely related to another valid form of argument, modus tollens. Both have apparently similar but invalid forms such as affirming the consequent, denying the antecedent, and evidence of absence. Constructive dilemma is the disjunctive version of modus ponens. Hypothetical syllogism is closely related to modus ponens and sometimes thought of as "double modus ponens."
The modus ponens rule may be written in sequent notation:
where P, and Q are propositions expressed in some formal system.
The argument form has two premises (hypothesis). The first premise is the "if–then" or conditional claim, namely that P implies Q. The second premise is that P, the antecedent of the conditional claim, is true. From these two premises it can be logically concluded that Q, the consequent of the conditional claim, must be true as well. In artificial intelligence, modus ponens is often called forward chaining.
An example of an argument that fits the form modus ponens:
- If today is Tuesday, then John will go to work.
- Today is Tuesday.
- Therefore, John will go to work.
This argument is valid, but this has no bearing on whether any of the statements in the argument are true; for modus ponens to be a sound argument, the premises must be true for any true instances of the conclusion. An argument can be valid but nonetheless unsound if one or more premises are false; if an argument is valid and all the premises are true, then the argument is sound. For example, John might be going to work on Wednesday. In this case, the reasoning for John's going to work (because it is Wednesday) is unsound. The argument is not only sound on Tuesdays (when John goes to work), but valid on every day of the week. A propositional argument using modus ponens is said to be deductive.
In single-conclusion sequent calculi, modus ponens is the Cut rule. The cut-elimination theorem for a calculus says that every proof involving Cut can be transformed (generally, by a constructive method) into a proof without Cut, and hence that Cut is admissible.
Justification via truth table
The validity of modus ponens in classical two-valued logic can be clearly demonstrated by use of a truth table.
|p||q||p → q|
In instances of modus ponens we assume as premises that p → q is true and p is true. Only one line of the truth table—the first—satisfies these two conditions (p and p → q). On this line, q is also true. Therefore, whenever p → q is true and p is true, q must also be true.
While modus ponens is one of the most commonly used argument forms in logic it must not be mistaken for a logical law; rather, it is one of the accepted mechanisms for the construction of deductive proofs that includes the "rule of definition" and the "rule of substitution". Modus ponens allows one to eliminate a conditional statement from a logical proof or argument (the antecedents) and thereby not carry these antecedents forward in an ever-lengthening string of symbols; for this reason modus ponens is sometimes called the rule of detachment or the law of detachment. Enderton, for example, observes that "modus ponens can produce shorter formulas from longer ones", and Russell observes that "the process of the inference cannot be reduced to symbols. Its sole record is the occurrence of ⊦q [the consequent] . . . an inference is the dropping of a true premise; it is the dissolution of an implication".
A justification for the "trust in inference is the belief that if the two former assertions [the antecedents] are not in error, the final assertion [the consequent] is not in error". In other words: if one statement or proposition implies a second one, and the first statement or proposition is true, then the second one is also true. If P implies Q and P is true, then Q is true.
- Stone, Jon R. (1996). Latin for the Illiterati: Exorcizing the Ghosts of a Dead Language. London, UK: Routledge: 60.
- Enderton 2001:110
- Susanne Bobzien (2002). The Development of Modus Ponens in Antiquity, Phronesis 47, No. 4, 2002.
- Alfred Tarski 1946:47. Also Enderton 2001:110ff.
- Tarski 1946:47
- Enderton 2001:111
- Whitehead and Russell 1927:9
- Whitehead and Russell 1927:9
- Jago, Mark (2007). Formal Logic. Humanities-Ebooks LLP. ISBN 978-1-84760-041-7. External link in
- Alfred Tarski 1946 Introduction to Logic and to the Methodology of the Deductive Sciences 2nd Edition, reprinted by Dover Publications, Mineola NY. ISBN 0-486-28462-X (pbk).
- Alfred North Whitehead and Bertrand Russell 1927 Principia Mathematica to *56 (Second Edition) paperback edition 1962, Cambridge at the University Press, London UK. No ISBN, no LCCCN.
- Herbert B. Enderton, 2001, A Mathematical Introduction to Logic Second Edition, Harcourt Academic Press, Burlington MA, ISBN 978-0-12-238452-3.