June 30, 2007

"Or" as Sheffer Stroke

As you may have noticed, it's been a non-blogging kind of summer, and is likely to largely stay that way (I'm packing but haven't moved yet). But I didn't want to let this (from Steve Benen) go unremarked:

More than half of Americans say they wouldn't consider voting for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton for president if she becomes the Democratic nominee, according to a new national poll made available to McClatchy Newspapers and NBC News....

But... [a] few days before these results were published, a national Newsweek poll showed Clinton (and other top-tier Dems) with healthy leads over all of the leading Republican presidential hopefuls. In each instance, her support topped 50%.
Either a majority of Americans have ruled out backing Clinton under any circumstances, or a majority of Americans are prepared to support her against a GOP rival. It can't be both.

In the penultimate sentence, "or" seems to go beyond the exclusive "or"; because it could be the case that less than half of Americans had ruled out supporting Clinton and less than half of Americans were going to support her against a GOP rival. (From the poll data Benen cites, it seems pretty clear that "are prepared to support" means "says right now they'll support" rather than just "hasn't ruled out supporting.") So Benen is using "either... or" to convey the Sheffer stroke: Not both.

This phenomenon has been remarked before -- I think we often mention examples like this before telling our intro logic students that when we use "or" it's inclusive -- but this seemed like a relatively nice example in the wild.

Posted by Matt Weiner at June 30, 2007 06:39 PM

The "Sheffer stroke" is basically NAND, then?

Posted by: mrh at June 30, 2007 06:49 PM


Posted by: Matt Weiner at July 1, 2007 10:21 AM


Posted by: mrh at July 3, 2007 07:58 PM

Afraid I don't see why Benen's use isn't just ordinary everyday XOR, with added emphasis on the exclusivity. I can't hear his either-or sentence as allowing that neither disjunct is true. Could he really have appended "or neither"?

Posted by: Anders Weinstein at July 7, 2007 05:05 PM

A fellow digital designer mentioned to that "or" sometimes means "NAND" when we were in line at the cafeteria -- if the menu says that the entree comes with "soup or salad", what it really means is that you can't get both without paying extra, not that you are required to take at least one.

Posted by: Alex R at July 18, 2007 04:37 AM

What kind of man are you to create the show, Mad Men? Dissucting to say the least.Pittiful you are.
Degrading women and men in such a way! I went to every sight that I could complian about this show you heve written.And To A.O.L.com to compliain about your sorry state of show.How could you to sorry Wiener. Thank's so much Jana and all the other friend's of mine that will boycott this show and station.

Posted by: Jana Galaktiadis at July 19, 2007 09:38 PM

Jana, there are many Matt(hew) Weiners. You have the wrong one.

Posted by: Matt's mom at July 23, 2007 04:09 PM

Ahh, I was hoping this was the the smae Matt Weiner that did The Sopranos. He seems smart enough.

Posted by: Matt Aquino at August 13, 2007 06:17 PM