Predicate Logic and Popular Culture (Part 25): Handel’s Messiah


Let V(x) be the proposition “x is a valley,” and let E(x,t) be the proposition “x is exalted at time t.” Translate the logical statement

\exists t \forall x (V(x) \Longrightarrow E(x,t)),

where the domain for x is all things and the domain for t is all times.

The clunky way of translating this into English is, “There exists a time when every valley will be exalted at that time.” This provides the opening lyrics to the third part of Handel’s Messiah.

I’m personally partial to the modern rendition performed by Larnelle Harris.

In any event, Merry Christmas.

green line

Context: This semester, I taught discrete mathematics for the first time. Part of the discrete mathematics course includes an introduction to predicate and propositional logic for our math majors. As you can probably guess from their names, students tend to think these concepts are dry and uninteresting even though they’re very important for their development as math majors.

In an effort to making these topics more appealing, I spent a few days mining the depths of popular culture in a (likely futile) attempt to make these ideas more interesting to my students. In this series, I’d like to share what I found. Naturally, the sources that I found have varying levels of complexity, which is appropriate for students who are first learning prepositional and predicate logic.

When I actually presented these in class, I either presented the logical statement and had my class guess the statement in actual English, or I gave my students the famous quote and them translate it into predicate logic. However, for the purposes of this series, I’ll just present the statement in predicate logic first.

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