Substitution (logic)

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Substitution is a fundamental concept in logic. Substitution is a syntactic transformation on strings of symbols of a formal language.

In propositional logic, a substitution instance of a propositional formula is a second formula obtained by replacing symbols of the original formula by other formulas. For any formal system that is closed under substitution, any substitution of a tautology will also produce a tautology.


Where Ψ and Φ represent formulas of propositional logic, Ψ is a substitution instance of Φ if and only if Ψ may be obtained from Φ by substituting formulas for symbols in Φ, always replacing an occurrence of the same symbol by an occurrence of the same formula. For example:

(R → S) & (T → S)

is a substitution instance of:

P & Q


(A A) (A A)

is a substitution instance of:

(A A)

In some deduction systems for propositional logic, a new expression (a proposition) may be entered on a line of a derivation if it is a substitution instance of a previous line of the derivation (Hunter 1971, p. 118). This is how new lines are introduced in some axiomatic systems. In systems that use rules of transformation, a rule may include the use of a substitution instance for the purpose of introducing certain variables into a derivation.

In first-order logic, every closed propositional formula that can be derived from an open propositional formula by substitution is said to be a substitution instance of . If is a closed propositional formula we count itself as its only substitution instance.


A propositional formula is a tautology if it is true under every valuation (or interpretation) of its predicate symbols. If Φ is a tautology, and Θ is a substitution instance of Φ, then Θ is again a tautology. This fact implies the soundness of the deduction rule described in the previous section.

See also


  • Hunter, G. (1971). Metalogic: An Introduction to the Metatheory of Standard First Order Logic. University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-01822-2
  • Kleene, S. C. (1967). Mathematical Logic. Reprinted 2002, Dover. ISBN 0-486-42533-9


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