Logical Relationships in Conditionals

Grammar questions which are not related to any specific text.

Logical Relationships in Conditionals

Postby Kelly Larsen » March 31st, 2014, 11:49 am

We often think of the logical relationship between the protasis of a conditional sentence and the apodosis as being one of cause and effect. But there may also be an evidence-inference relationship in which the protasis gives the evidence that proves (or at least suggests) the truth of the apodosis. An example of this kind of sentence would be, "If it grows peaches, it is a peach tree." The genus of the tree is suggested by the evidence of peaches. One would assume that the Greek language uses this kind of conditional sentence, but Greek conditional sentences are most commonly discussed in the framework of their classifications, whether they are first or second, etc. class conditionals. Perhaps I am missing the point of these discussions but do not find in them anything that would confirm that conditionals using evidence-inference relationships exist in the Greek. Can anyone direct me to a resource that would be helpful here?
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Re: Logical Relationships in Conditionals

Postby Jonathan Robie » April 1st, 2014, 9:03 am

I do not completely understand your question.

I don't think the grammar in your English example proves or suggests the truth of the protasis. "If it grows peaches, it is a peach tree" can be used as an aid to classify pine trees, without assuming that a pine tree grows peaches. "If a tree grows codfish, it is a codfish tree" uses the same grammatical form, but it does not prove or strongly imply that any kind of tree actually grows codfish.

For what it's worth, I think Funk has a very clear description of Greek conditionals. And I suspect that working from real Greek examples will be clearer - is there a particular verse that you are thinking about, or something that is unclear in a text you are using?
ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
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Re: Logical Relationships in Conditionals

Postby Kelly Larsen » April 1st, 2014, 12:46 pm

In the English, there are at least two different logical relationships between the protasis and apodosis of conditional sentences. The differing relationships germane to my question may be simplistically (probably overly so) described as follows:
i. The potential reality being expressed by the apodosis is primarily dependent upon the condition expressed by the protasis.
ii. The condition being expressed by the protasis is primarily dependent upon the potential reality of what is expressed in the apodosis.

The first is a cause and effect relationship. The second is a reversal of the first, that is, an effect and cause relationship. It is not the grammar per se in the English that determines this relationship, but the logical relationship of the ideas expressed.
Funk wrote, "Conditional sentences are classified fundamentally in accordance with the character of the assumption in the if-clause, i.e. whether the condition is assumed to be true, whether it is assumed to be untrue, or whether its reality or unreality is left undetermined." Since the "reality or unreality" of the condition expressed in the 2nd example above is left undetermined (it is dependent on the potential reality of the apodosis) does this type fit within what would be considered a third class condition? In other words, can a third class conditional be of the second type above?

1 John 4:12 would be a good example of a third class conditional that seems to be of the 2nd type." ἐὰν ἀγαπῶμεν ἀλλήλους, ὁ θεὸς ἐν ἡμῖν μένει..." The love we have for one another does not cause God to abide in us; His abiding in us produces the love we have for one another. The potential reality of what is expressed in the apodosis is the cause of the condition expressed in the protasis. What is expressed in the protasis is evidence of the potential truth expressed in the apodosis, or so it seems. So my question is whether or not this understanding of the logical relationship in a verse like this is consistent with how grammarians classify conditional sentences, and also if this relationship has been discussed along these lines by someone?

Hope this helps to clarify the question.
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Re: Logical Relationships in Conditionals

Postby Jonathan Robie » April 1st, 2014, 2:53 pm

Kelly Larsen wrote:In the English, there are at least two different logical relationships between the protasis and apodosis of conditional sentences. The differing relationships germane to my question may be simplistically (probably overly so) described as follows:
i. The potential reality being expressed by the apodosis is primarily dependent upon the condition expressed by the protasis.
ii. The condition being expressed by the protasis is primarily dependent upon the potential reality of what is expressed in the apodosis.

The first is a cause and effect relationship. The second is a reversal of the first, that is, an effect and cause relationship. It is not the grammar per se in the English that determines this relationship, but the logical relationship of the ideas expressed.


I don't think that's quite how conditionals work in either normal English or in formal logic. I think conditionals really do say "if p then q", and "if p then q" does not imply "if q then p" is true. It might be, but the sentence doesn't tell you that it is. In informal language, though, we aren't always that careful about formal logic.

Greek grammars, like English grammars, assume this, which is why they do not state the principle that you wish to see stated.

Kelly Larsen wrote:Funk wrote, "Conditional sentences are classified fundamentally in accordance with the character of the assumption in the if-clause, i.e. whether the condition is assumed to be true, whether it is assumed to be untrue, or whether its reality or unreality is left undetermined." Since the "reality or unreality" of the condition expressed in the 2nd example above is left undetermined (it is dependent on the potential reality of the apodosis) does this type fit within what would be considered a third class condition? In other words, can a third class conditional be of the second type above?


I don't think Funk is talking about the same thing you are talking about.

Kelly Larsen wrote:1 John 4:12 would be a good example of a third class conditional that seems to be of the 2nd type." ἐὰν ἀγαπῶμεν ἀλλήλους, ὁ θεὸς ἐν ἡμῖν μένει..." The love we have for one another does not cause God to abide in us; His abiding in us produces the love we have for one another. The potential reality of what is expressed in the apodosis is the cause of the condition expressed in the protasis. What is expressed in the protasis is evidence of the potential truth expressed in the apodosis, or so it seems. So my question is whether or not this understanding of the logical relationship in a verse like this is consistent with how grammarians classify conditional sentences, and also if this relationship has been discussed along these lines by someone?


I don't think John is speaking formal logic here. I don't think this part of the text tells you whether our love for each other causes God to abide among us, or is just a sign that God does abide among us. In 1 John 4:7-8, I think the perfect tense γεγέννηται is significant, and says what you are looking for:

1 John 4:7-8 wrote:Ἀγαπητοί, ἀγαπῶμεν ἀλλήλους, ὅτι ἡ ἀγάπη ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ ἐστιν, καὶ πᾶς ὁ ἀγαπῶν ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ γεγέννηται καὶ γινώσκει τὸν θεόν. ὁ μὴ ἀγαπῶν οὐκ ἔγνω τὸν θεόν, ὅτι ὁ θεὸς ἀγάπη ἐστίν.
ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
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Re: Logical Relationships in Conditionals

Postby Kelly Larsen » April 2nd, 2014, 10:32 am

My question about the "logical" relationships between the parts of a conditional sentence is not intended as a question concerning formal logic. I don't think John is speaking syllogistically in an effort to prove a point. Biblical writers are not dependent on the quality of their logic to speak truth.

Conditional sentences are used in normal language to communicate something, and the way in which the idea(s) expressed in the protasis relate to the idea(s) expressed in the apodosis inform how we understand what is being communicated. There are substantive differences in how a speaker intends the hearer to understand the relationship between the parts of conditional sentences used.

The sentence, "If you drop the phone, it will break" presents a different relationship between the protasis and apodosis than, "If it quacks like a duck and walks like a duck, it's a duck." In the first sentence the action of dropping the phone causes the breakage, but this same relationship is not true of the second sentence. The quacking and walking do not cause the duck, they demonstrate or give evidence of "duckness."

John's statement , " ἐὰν ἀγαπῶμεν ἀλλήλους, ὁ θεὸς ἐν ἡμῖν μένει" (if we love one another, God abides in us...") in 1 John 4:12, from an English reader's perspective, can be understood in this second sense. John could be intending the condition of loving one another as a demonstration (an evidence) of God's abiding. The condition of loving one another suggests the reality of God's abiding. [I understand that I am in essence suggesting that the statement, "If God abides in us, we will love one another" is implied and that this does not follow from a purely logical perspective, but John is an inspired writer not a logician depending upon syllogism. I also understand that context informs how this is to be understood.]

My question is simply, does something in the Greek construction of this conditional sentence eliminate this understanding as a possibility?
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Re: Logical Relationships in Conditionals

Postby Jonathan Robie » April 2nd, 2014, 1:09 pm

Kelly Larsen wrote:My question is simply, does something in the Greek construction of this conditional sentence eliminate this understanding as a possibility?


I think you want to interpret the sentence as follows:

Kelly Larsen wrote:The love we have for one another does not cause God to abide in us; His abiding in us produces the love we have for one another.


I don't think the sentence says that. I think you said that, based on your understanding of how this works. This particular sentence is perfectly compatible with either understanding, and does not specify which way it is to be understood.

It needs to be compared with the other sentences in the same book that discuss the relationship between love and God abiding among us.
ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
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Re: Logical Relationships in Conditionals

Postby Stephen Carlson » April 2nd, 2014, 2:53 pm

Kelly Larsen wrote:My question is simply, does something in the Greek construction of this conditional sentence eliminate this understanding as a possibility?

Unfortunately, the study of Greek conditional constructions is not my thing at the moment, so I'm not sure how helpful I can be. Your question reflects a level of sophistication that is not usually brought to traditional analyses of Greek conditional constructions. As a result, I suspect that the answer is not readily available. There is, however, a recent book on conditionals by Gerry Wakker called Conditions and Conditionals. An investigation of Ancient Greek, so there is a chance that someone has gone beyond the traditional approaches.
Stephen C. Carlson, Ph.D. (Duke, New Testament)
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