AskDefine | Define inconsistent

Dictionary Definition

inconsistent adj
1 displaying a lack of consistency; "inconsistent statements"; "inconsistent with the roadmap" [ant: consistent]
2 not capable of being made consistent or harmonious; "inconsistent accounts"
3 not in agreement [syn: discrepant]

User Contributed Dictionary



  • /ˌɪnkənˈsɪstənt/ˌ /ˌɪŋ-/
  • /%Ink@n"sIst@nt/, /%IN-/



Extensive Definition

In traditional Aristotelian logic, consistency is a semantic concept meaning that two or more propositions are simultaneously true under some interpretation.
In modern logic there is a syntactic definition that also fits the complex mathematical theories developed since Frege's Begriffsschrift (1879): a set of statements are called consistent with respect to a certain logical calculus (also called a logical system or a formal system), if no formula of the form 'P and not-P' is derivable from those statements by the rules of the calculus. That is to say that the theory is free from contradictions and that P and not-P are not both theorems of that system.
If these two definitions are equivalent for a particular logical calculus, then the system is said to have a complete set of rules. The crucial step in the proofs of completeness of the sentential calculus by Paul Bernays in 1918 and Emil Post in 1921, and the proof of the completeness of predicate calculus by Kurt Godel in 1930 is to show that the system's syntactic consistency implies its semantic consistency.
A consistency proof is a mathematical proof that a logical system is consistent. The early development of mathematical proof theory was driven by the desire to provide finitary consistency proofs for all of mathematics as part of Hilbert's program. Hilbert's program fell to Gödel's insight, as expressed in his two incompleteness theorems, that sufficiently strong proof theories cannot prove their own consistency.
Although consistency can be proved by means of model theory, it is often done in a purely syntactical way, without any need to reference some model of the logic. The cut-elimination (or equivalently the normalization of the underlying calculus if there is one) implies the consistency of the calculus: since there is obviously no cut-free proof of falsity, there is no contradiction in general.

Consistency and completeness

The fundamental results relating consistency and completeness were proven by Kurt Gödel:
By applying these ideas, we see that we can find first-order theories of the following four kinds:
  1. Inconsistent theories, which have no models;
  2. Theories which cannot talk about their own provability relation, such as Tarski's axiomatisation of point and line geometry, and Presburger arithmetic. Since these theories are satisfactorily described by the model we obtain from the completeness theorem, such systems are complete;
  3. Theories which can talk about their own consistency, and which include the negation of the sentence asserting their own consistency. Such theories are complete with respect to the model one obtains from the completeness theorem, but contain as a theorem the derivability of a contradiction, in contradiction to the fact that they are consistent;
  4. Essentially incomplete theories.
In addition, it has recently been discovered that there is a fifth class of theory, the self-verifying theories, which are strong enough to talk about their own provability relation, but are too weak to carry out Gödelian diagonalisation, and so which can consistently prove their own consistency. However as with any theory, a theory proving its own consistency provides us with no interesting information, since inconsistent theories also prove their own consistency.


A set of formulas \Phi in first-order logic is consistent (written Con\Phi) if and only if there is no formula \phi such that \Phi \vdash \phi and \Phi \vdash \lnot\phi. Otherwise \Phi is inconsistent and is written Inc\Phi.
\Phi is said to be simply consistent iff for no formula \phi of \Phi are both \phi and the negation of \phi theorems of \Phi.
\Phi is said to be absolutely consistent or Post consistent iff at least one formula of \Phi is not a theorem of \Phi.
\Phi is said to be maximally consistent if and only if for every formula \phi, if Con \Phi \cup \phi then \phi \in \Phi.
\Phi is said to contain witnesses if and only if for every formula of the form \exists x \phi there exists a term t such that (\exists x \phi \to \phi ) \in \Phi. See First-order logic.

Basic results

1. The following are equivalent:
(a) Inc\Phi
(b) For all \phi,\; \Phi \vdash \phi.
2. Every satisfiable set of formulas is consistent, where a set of formulas \Phi is satisfiable if and only if there exists a model \mathfrak such that \mathfrak \vDash \Phi .
3. For all \Phi and \phi:
(a) if not \Phi \vdash \phi, then Con \Phi \cup \;
(b) if Con \Phi and \Phi \vdash \phi, then Con \Phi \cup \;
(c) if Con \Phi, then Con \Phi \cup \ or Con \Phi \cup \.
4. Let \Phi be a maximally consistent set of formulas and contain witnesses. For all \phi and \psi :
(a) if \Phi \vdash \phi, then \phi \in \Phi,
(b) either \phi \in \Phi or \lnot \phi \in \Phi,
(c) (\phi \or \psi) \in \Phi if and only if \phi \in \Phi or \psi \in \Phi,
(d) if (\phi\to\psi) \in \Phi and \phi \in \Phi , then \psi \in \Phi,
(e) \exists x \phi \in \Phi if and only if there is a term t such that \phi\in\Phi.

Henkin's theorem

Let \Phi be a maximally consistent set of formulas containing witnesses.
Define a binary relation on the set of S-terms t_0 \sim t_1 \! if and only if \; t_0 = t_1 \in \Phi; and let \overline t \! denote the equivalence class of terms containing t \!; and let T_ := \ where T^S \! is the set of terms based on the symbol set S \!.
Define the S-structure \mathfrak T_ over T_ \! the term-structure corresponding to \Phi by:
(1) For n-ary R \in S, R^ \overline \ldots \overline if and only if \; R t_0 \ldots t_ \in \Phi,
(2) For n-ary f \in S, f^ (\overline \ldots \overline ) := \overline ,
(3) For c \in S, c^:= \overline c.
Let \mathfrak I_ := (\mathfrak T_,\beta_) be the term interpretation associated with \Phi, where \beta _ (x) := \bar x.
(*) \; For all \phi,\; \mathfrak I_ \vDash \phi if and only if \; \phi \in \Phi.

Sketch of proof

There are several things to verify. First, that \sim is an equivalence relation. Then, it needs to be verified that (1), (2), and (3) are well defined. This falls out of the fact that \sim is an equivalence relation and also requires a proof that (1) and (2) are independent of the choice of t_0, \ldots ,t_ class representatives. Finally, \mathfrak I_ \vDash \Phi can be verified by induction on formulas.

See also


portalpar Logic
inconsistent in German: Widerspruchsfreiheit
inconsistent in Hebrew: עקביות (לוגיקה)
inconsistent in Russian: Непротиворечивость
inconsistent in Chinese: 形式系統相容性

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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