Four Variables Suffice

Alasdair Urquhart


What I wish to propose in the present paper is a new form of “career induction” for ambitious young logicians. The basic problem is this: if we look at the n-variable fragments of relevant propositional logics, at what point does undecidability begin? Focus, to be definite, on the logic R. John Slaney showed that the 0-variable fragment of R (where we allow the sentential con- stants t and f) contains exactly 3088 non-equivalent propositions, and so is clearly decidable. In the opposite direction, I claimed in my paper of 1984 that the five variable fragment of R is undecidable. The proof given there was sketchy (to put the matter charitably), and a close examination reveals that although the result claimed is true, the proof given is incorrect. In the present paper, I give a detailed and (I hope) correct proof that the four variable fragments of the principal relevant logics are undecidable. This leaves open the question of the decidability of the n-variable fragments for n = 1, 2, 3. At what point does undecidability set in?

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