nLab display logic

Display logic


Display logic is a general kind of sequent calculus containing enough structural connectives and structural rules so that every logical formula? appearing in a sequent can be “displayed” all by itself on the left or the right in an equivalent sequent. This enables a simple formulation of the cut rule.

Informal Description

In the simplest sort of display logic, the antecedent and consequent are lists of formulas, some of which are marked with a star **, and there are structural rules allowing formulas to be moved back and forth between the antecedent and consequent by adding or removing a star:

Γ,AΔΓA*,ΔΓ,A*ΔΓA,Δ \frac{\Gamma,A \vdash \Delta}{\Gamma \vdash A*,\Delta} \qquad \frac{\Gamma,A* \vdash \Delta}{\Gamma \vdash A,\Delta}
ΓA*,ΔΓ,AΔΓA,ΔΓ,A*Δ \frac{\Gamma \vdash A*,\Delta}{\Gamma,A \vdash \Delta} \qquad \frac{\Gamma \vdash A,\Delta}{\Gamma,A* \vdash \Delta}

By repeated application, this means that if AA appears anywhere in the antecedent — or in the consequent with a star — then we can rearrange the sequent to look like AΔA \vdash \Delta. Dually, if AA appears anywhere in the consequent, or anywhere in the antecedent with a star, we can rearrange the sequent to look like ΓA\Gamma \vdash A. This enables a simple formulation (and proof) of the cut rule:

ΓAAΔΓΔ \frac{\Gamma \vdash A \quad A \vdash \Delta}{\Gamma\vdash \Delta}

The general form of display logic allows bunches as antecedents and consequents. There are some number of “families” of connectives, each of which comes with a structural connective for joining formulas in a context, like comma or semicolon, and also a structural connective for “negation” like star, with structural rules like those above formulated for each family. (Each “comma” also has a corresponding nullary version, i.e. there is one “empty context” for each family.) The structural comma is internalized on the left by a conjunction and on the right by a disjunction, while the structural negation is internalized on both sides by a negation.

Each family can also have other logical connectives like implication and modal operators. The families are distinguished from each other by the other structural rules that their commas satisfy; for instance, a “boolean family” satisfies contraction and weakening, while a “relevance” family satisfies only contraction.


Any display logic satisfying a list of eight natural conditions automatically satisfies cut admissibility.


  • Nuel D. Belnap, Jr. Display logic, Journal of Philosophical Logic 11 (1982) 375-417. PDF

Created on May 4, 2016 at 15:17:20. See the history of this page for a list of all contributions to it.