formal system

In logic, a formal language together with a deductive apparatus by which some well-formed formulas can be derived from others. Each formal system has a formal language composed of primitive symbols that figure in certain rules of formation (statements concerning the expressions allowable in the system) and a set of theorems developed by inference from a set of axioms. In an axiomatic system, the primitive symbols are undefined and all other symbols are defined in terms of them. In Euclidean geometry, for example, such concepts as “point,” “line,” and “lies on” are usually posited as primitive terms. From the primitive symbols, certain formulas are defined as well formed, some of which are listed as axioms; and rules are stated for inferring one formula as a conclusion from one or more other formulas taken as premises. A theorem within such a system is a formula capable of proof through a finite sequence of well-formed formulas, each of which either is an axiom or is validly inferred from earlier formulas.

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In logic, the procedure by which an entire science or system of theorems is deduced in accordance with specified rules by logical deduction from certain basic propositions (axioms), which in turn are constructed from a few terms taken as primitive. These terms may be either arbitrarily defined or conceived according to a model in which some intuitive warrant for their truth is felt to exist. The oldest examples of axiomatized systems are Aristotle's syllogistic and Euclidean geometry. Early in the 20th century, Bertrand Russell and Alfred North Whitehead attempted to formalize all of mathematics in an axiomatic manner. Scholars have even subjected the empirical sciences to this method, as in J. H. Woodger's The Axiomatic Method in Biology (1937) and Clark Hull's Principles of Behavior (1943).

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