An Introduction to Partition Logic

Logic Journal of IGPL Advance Access, September 2013

32 Pages Posted: 25 Oct 2013

Date Written: October 24, 2013


Classical logic is usually interpreted as the logic of propositions. But from Boole's original development up to modern categorical logic, there has always been the alternative interpretation of classical logic as the logic of subsets of any given (nonempty) universe set. Partitions on a universe set are dual to subsets of a universe set in the sense of the reverse-the-arrows category-theoretic duality -- which is reflected in the duality between quotient objects and subobjects throughout algebra. Hence the idea arises of a dual logic of partitions. That dual logic is described here. Partition logic is at the same mathematical level as subset logic since models for both are constructed from (partitions on or subsets of) arbitrary unstructured sets with no ordering relations, compatibility or accessibility relations, or topologies on the sets.

Just as Boole developed logical finite probability theory as a quantitative treatment of subset logic, applying the analogous mathematical steps to partition logic yields a logical notion of entropy so that information theory can be refounded on partition logic. But the biggest application is that when partition logic and the accompanying logical information theory are "lifted" to complex vector spaces, then the mathematical framework of quantum mechanics (QM) is obtained. Partition logic models the indefiniteness of QM while subset logic models the definiteness of classical physics. Hence partition logic may provide the backstory so the old idea of "objective indefiniteness" in QM can be fleshed out to a full interpretation of quantum mechanics. In that case, QM will be the "killer application" of partition logic.

Keywords: logic of partitions, Boolean logic of subsets

Suggested Citation

Ellerman, David, An Introduction to Partition Logic (October 24, 2013). Logic Journal of IGPL Advance Access, September 2013, Available at SSRN:

David Ellerman (Contact Author)

University of Ljubljana ( email )

School of Social Science
Ljubljana, CA


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