Predicate Logic and Popular Culture (Part 27): Les Miserables

Let be the proposition “I know place ,” let be the proposition “ is lost at place ,” and let be the proposition “ cries at place .” Translate the logical statement

,

where the domain for is all people and the domain for is all places.

The clunky way of translating this into English is, “There exists a place that I know so that it is false that there is a person at this place who is lost or who cries.” This is the innocent childish dream of Cosette in Les Miserables as she suffers under the Thenardiers.

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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