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Contraposition (traditional logic). For contraposition in

the eld of symbolic logic, see Transposition (logic).

conditional statement is logically equivalent to its con-

trapositive. The contrapositive of the statement has its

B

antecedent and consequent inverted and ipped: the con-

trapositive of P Q is thus Q P . For instance,

the proposition "All bats are mammals" can be restated

as the conditional "If something is a bat, then it is a mam-

mal". Now, the law says that statement is identical to the

A

contrapositive "If something is not a mammal, then it is

not a bat.

The contrapositive can be compared with three other re-

lationships between conditional statements:

"If something is not a bat, then it is not a mammal.

Unlike the contrapositive, the inverses truth value

is not at all dependent on whether or not the original

proposition was true, as evidenced here. The A B

inverse here is clearly not true.

It is also clear that anything that is not within B (the blue

Conversion (the converse), Q P region) cannot be within A, either. This statement,

"If something is a mammal, then it is a bat. The

converse is actually the contrapositive of the

inverse and so always has the same truth value as

B A

the inverse, which is not necessarily the same as

that of the original proposition.

is the contrapositive. Therefore, we can say that

Negation, (P Q)

"There exists a bat that is not a mammal. " If the

negation is true, the original proposition (and by (A B) (B A)

extension the contrapositive) is false. Here, of

course, the negation is false. Practically speaking, this may make life much easier

when trying to prove something. For example, if we want

to prove that every girl in the United States (A) has brown

Note that if P Q is true and we are given that Q is

hair (B), we can try to directly prove A B by checking

false, Q , it can logically be concluded that P must be

all girls in the United States to see if they all have brown

false, P . This is often called the law of contrapositive,

hair. Alternatively, we can try to prove B A by

or the modus tollens rule of inference.

checking all girls without brown hair to see if they are all

outside the US. This means that if we nd at least one girl

without brown hair within the US, we will have disproved

1 Intuitive explanation B A , and equivalently A B .

To conclude, for any statement where A implies B, then

Consider the Euler diagram shown. According to this di- not B always implies not A. Proving or disproving either

agram, if something is in A, it must be in B as well. So one of these statements automatically proves or disproves

we can interpret all of A is in B as: the other. They are fully equivalent.

1

2 5 MORE RIGOROUS PROOF OF THE EQUIVALENCE OF CONTRAPOSITIVES

would have to also be true (given). However, it is given

A proposition Q is implicated by a proposition P when that B is not true, so we have a contradiction. Therefore,

the following relationship holds: A is not true (assuming that we are dealing with concrete

statements that are either true or not true):

(P Q)

(A B) (B A)

This states that, if P, then Q", or, if Socrates is a man,

then Socrates is human. In a conditional such as this, P is We can apply the same process the other way round:

the antecedent, and Q is the consequent. One statement is

the contrapositive of the other only when its antecedent

is the negated consequent of the other, and vice versa. (B A) A

The contrapositive of the example is

We also know that B is either true or not true. If B is

not true, then A is also not true. However, it is given that

A is true; so, the assumption that B is not true leads to

(Q P )

contradiction and must be false. Therefore, B must be

That is, If not-Q, then not-P", or, more clearly, If Q is true:

not the case, then P is not the case. Using our example,

this is rendered If Socrates is not human, then Socrates

is not a man. This statement is said to be contraposed (B A) (A B)

to the original and is logically equivalent to it. Due to

their logical equivalence, stating one eectively states the Combining the two proved statements makes them logi-

other; when one is true, the other is also true. Likewise cally equivalent:

with falsity.

Strictly speaking, a contraposition can only exist in two

(A B) (B A)

simple conditionals. However, a contraposition may also

exist in two complex conditionals, if they are similar.

Thus, x(P x Qx) , or All Ps are Qs, is contraposed

to x(Qx P x) , or All non-Qs are non-Ps. 5 More rigorous proof of the equiv-

alence of contrapositives

3 Simple proof by denition of a Logical equivalence between two propositions means that

conditional they are true together or false together. To prove that

contrapositives are logically equivalent, we need to un-

derstand when material implication is true or false.

In rst-order logic, the conditional is dened as:

(P Q)

A B A B

This is only false when P is true and Q is false. Therefore,

We have:

we can reduce this proposition to the statement False

when P and not-Q" (i.e. True when it is not the case

that P and not-Q"):

A B B A

B A

(P Q)

4 Simple proof by contradiction The elements of a conjunction can be reversed with no

eect (by commutativity):

Let:

(Q P )

(A B) B

We dene R as equal to " Q ", and S as equal to P

It is given that, if A is true, then B is true, and it is also (from this, S is equal to P , which is equal to just P

given that B is not true. We can then show that A must ):

6.2 Truth 3

it is a quadrilateral." Again, in this case, unlike the

(R S) last example, the converse of the argument is true.

This reads It is not the case that (R is true and S is false)", The negation is "There is at least one quadrilat-

which is the denition of a material conditional. We can eral that does not have four sides." This statement

then make this substitution: is clearly false.

(R S) called a biconditional, and can be expressed as "A poly-

gon is a quadrilateral if, and only if, it has four sides."

When we swap our denitions of R and S, we arrive at the

(The phrase if and only if is sometimes abbreviated i.)

following:

That is, having four sides is both necessary to be a quadri-

lateral, and alone sucient to deem it a quadrilateral.

(Q P )

6.2 Truth

6 Comparisons If a statement is true, then its contrapositive is true

(and vice versa).

6.1 Examples

If a statement is false, then its contrapositive is false

(and vice versa).

Take the statement "All red objects have color." This can

be equivalently expressed as "If an object is red, then it

If a statements inverse is true, then its converse is

has color."

true (and vice versa).

The contrapositive is "If an object does not have If a statements inverse is false, then its converse is

color, then it is not red." This follows logically from false (and vice versa).

our initial statement and, like it, it is evidently true.

If a statements negation is false, then the statement

The inverse is "If an object is not red, then it does not is true (and vice versa).

have color." An object which is blue is not red, and

still has color. Therefore, in this case the inverse is If a statement (or its contrapositive) and the inverse

false. (or the converse) are both true or both false, it is

known as a logical biconditional.

The converse is "If an object has color, then it is

red." Objects can have other colors, of course, so,

the converse of our statement is false.

7 Application

The negation is "There exists a red object that does

not have color." This statement is false because the

initial statement which it negates is true. Because the contrapositive of a statement always has

the same truth value (truth or falsity) as the statement

itself, it can be a powerful tool for proving mathemati-

In other words, the contrapositive is logically equivalent cal theorems. A proof by contraposition (contrapositive)

to a given conditional statement, though not sucient for is a direct proof of the contrapositive of a statement.[1]

a biconditional. However, indirect methods such as proof by contradic-

Similarly, take the statement "All quadrilaterals have four tion can also be used with contraposition, as, for example,

sides," or equivalently expressed "If a polygon is a quadri- in the proof of the irrationality of the square root of 2. By

lateral, then it has four sides." the denition ofa rational number, the statement can be

made that "If 2 is rational, then it can be expressed as

The contrapositive is "If a polygon does not have an irreducible fraction". This statement is true because it

four sides, then it is not a quadrilateral." This fol- is a restatement of a denition. The contrapositive of this

lows logically, and as a rule, contrapositives share statement is "If 2 cannot be expressed as an irreducible

the truth value of their conditional. fraction, then it is not rational". This contrapositive, like

the original statement,

is also true. Therefore, if it can

The inverse is "If a polygon is not a quadrilateral, be proven that 2 cannot be expressed as an irreducible

then it does not have four sides." In this case, unlike fraction, then it must be the case that 2 is not a rational

the last example, the inverse of the argument is true. number. The latter can be proved by contradiction.

4 9 REFERENCES

denition to prove a theorem. One can also prove a theo-

rem by proving the contrapositive of the theorems state-

ment. To prove that if a positive integer N is a non-square

number, its square root is irrational, we can equivalently

prove its contrapositive, that if a positive integer N has a

square root that is rational, then N is a square number.

This can be shown by setting N equal to the rational ex-

pression a/b with a and b being positive integers with no

common prime factor, and squaring to obtain N = a2 /b2

and noting that since N is a positive integer b=1 so that N

= a2 , a square number.

8 See also

Reductio ad absurdum

9 References

[1] Smith, Douglas; Eggen, Maurice; St. Andre, Richard

(2001), A Transition to Advanced Mathematics (5th ed.),

Brooks/Cole, p. 37, ISBN 0-534-38214-2

5

10.1 Text

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Thijs!bot, Epbr123, Raeven0, Jheiv, Prgrmr@wrk, Okloster, McSly, Shinju, Jimmaths, Deleet, Synthebot, AlleborgoBot, SieBot, Wil-

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10.2 Images

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