In an earlier essay I mentioned that that meaninglessness is contagious with respect to sentences. One can pretty easily formulate the principle in normal english – if a sentence is meaningless, then so is any more complex sentence of which it is a part of. To get a proper, formal formulation of this we may simply think of the rules in logic systems used to form well-formed formulas (=wff’s) and then formulate some similar principles for the meaninglessness of sentences. Here’s what I have in mind:

Negation. For all sentences, iff it is not the case that a sentence is meaningful, then it is not the case that the negation of that sentence is meaningful.

(∀S)(¬M(S)↔¬M(¬S)

Conjunction part. For all sentences, if it is not the case that a sentence is meaningful, then for all sentences, it is not the case that the conjunction of that sentence with another sentence is meaningful.

(∀S)(¬M(S)→(∀Z)¬M(S∧Z)1

Disjunction part. For all sentences, if it is not the case that a sentence is meaningful, then for all sentences, it is not the case that the disjunction of that sentence with another sentence is meaningful.

(∀S)(¬M(S)→(∀Z)¬M(S∨Z)

Implication/conditional part. For all sentences, if it is not the case that a sentence is meaningful, then for all sentences, it is not the case that the implication of the first sentence to the second is meaningful, and it is not the case that the implication of the second sentence to the first is meaningful.

(∀S)(¬M(S)→(∀Z)¬M(S→Z)∧¬M(Z→S))

Bi-implication/bi-conditional part. For all sentences, if it is not the case that a sentence is meaningful, then for all sentences, it is not the case that the bi-implication of the first sentence to the second is meaningful, and it is not the case that the bi-implication of the second sentence to the first is meaningful.

(∀S)(¬M(S)→(∀Z)¬M(S↔Z)∧¬M(Z↔S))

This should cover propositional logic. It is left to the reader can invent the relevant principles for modal logics and predicate logic.

Notes

1Notice here that the bi-conditional version is false because it could be the other conjunct that is meaningless instead. However, at least one of them is meaningless.

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