User Tools

(Material) Biconditional

A compound logical statement which is true exactly when both sides have the same truth value.

Example of a biconditional statement:

A number is even exactly when it is divisible by two without remainder.

Other names

  • Logical biconditional

Description

A biconditional is true if both sub-statements have identical truth values.

A B A ≡ B
true true true
true false false
false true false
false false true

This is a special case ofthe conditional: For every true biconditional statement A ≡ B, it holds that both A → B and B → A must be true.

It follows that:

A → B if A, then B
B → A and, if B, then A

A ≡ B Therefore: B if and only if A

Logical symbol

In the context of this website, the identity sign (, pronounced: “if and only if” or also: “is identical to”) is used for biconditionals. In other publications, symbols like , , or occasionally the tilde symbol (~) are used. Especially in computer sciences and related fields, the neologism iff, (short for: “if and only if”) is common.

Application

The biconditional is a very expressive logical operator, which also means that outside of formal systems (such as mathematics and logic) there are actually very few practical uses where such statements would hold.

In particular, this includes the following situations:

1. Tautological statements

Obviously, biconditional statements are always valid if antecedent and consequent (A and B) are identical (e.g. “if it rains, it rains”).

This also applies to situations where the tautology only exists indirectly, for example through the definitions of the terms. An example from mathematics was already stated above: “if a number is divisible by 2, it is even”, which also entails: “if a number is not even, it is not divisible by 2”, since “even” and “divisible by 2” are synonymous by definition.

Such tautologies can be constructed via several intermediate steps, as the following example shows:

If today is Monday, then the day after tomorrow is Wednesday.

This is tautological, because “Wednesday” can be defined as “the day after Tuesday” and Tuesday in turn as “the day after Monday”. It follows that Wednesday is by definition “two days after Monday”. Thus the statement is tautological; Consequently the converse is also true:

If the day after tomorrow is Wednesday, then today is Monday.

2. Empty complementary set

Even independently of a true tautology, A and B can describe identical sets: In set theory this can be described as follows: 𝔸 ∖ 𝔹 = ∅ (the difference set of A with B is empty).

For example, the following sets:

𝔸 = All astronauts who flew to the moon.
𝔹 = Everybody who has taken rock samples from the moon.

Even though 𝔸 and 𝔹 do not necessarily describe the same set (it is possible to fly to the moon without bringing rock samples), the difference set between these groups is empty*. Therefore, the biconditional A ≡ B is valid.

* Note: I suspect that these groups are identical, but have not found a source for this. This is therefore only meant to be a (purely theoretical) example. If you have more information about this, please contact me.

Relevance

The formal logical fallacy “Denying the antecedent” is based on a confusion of conditional and biconditional.

See also

More information

About this site

Ad Hominem Info is a project to explain and categorize the most common systematic fallacies and fallacies. On this page, you will find a background article that briefly explains an important logical concept, which may be needed to better understand another article in this area.
For more information, please see the main category “logic

This website uses cookies. By using the website, you agree with storing cookies on your computer. Also, you acknowledge that you have read and understand our Privacy Policy. If you do not agree, please leave the website.

More information