Logic in Wonderland

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Abstract

Lewis Carroll's novel Alice's Adventures in Wonderland is often characterized as illogical. This paper strives to prove this claim false. The fantastical dynamics and puzzling interactions often lead to the conclusion that there are no rules or logic in Wonderland. However, this paper proposes that this confusion is attributable to the difference between surface and depth within this novel. As Alice falls below the surface below into Wonderland, the world changes. This difference between the surface and the depth is attributable to incomplete signs and variable understandings of logic, as informed by Ferdinand de Saussure's theory of linguistic signs and the distinction between logica utens and logica docens. The surface world has complete signs where signifiers and objects being signified neatly pair, giving onlookers access to logica utens. Wonderland, however, is full of incomplete signs—objects with no known signifier, signifiers with no known objects to signify—which consequently necessitates the use of more formal logic to validate interactions. To prove this claim, this project first identifies the pedestrian nature of logic and language in the surface world of the novel. This project also contrasts the surface's nature with the deeper levels of this landscape and outlines how this deeper world calls for predicate or symbolic logic. To prove the logical nature of Wonderland's "madness," this essay also includes a discussion of symbolic logic and provides proofs of validity and model interactions in a mix of first-order and predicate logic. At the conclusion of this paper it should be evident that Wonderland actually invites a deeper, not weaker, form of logic.

The paper

The Presentation