A proof procedure for the logic of hereditary Harrop formulas

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A proof procedure is presented for a class of formulas in intuitionistic logic. These formulas are the so-called goal formulas in the theory of hereditary Harrop formulas. Proof search in intuitionistic logic is complicated by the nonexistence of a Herbrand-like theorem for this logic: formulas cannot in general be preprocessed into a form such as the clausal form, and the construction of a proof is often sensitive to the order in which the connectives and quantifiers are analyzed. An interesting aspect of the formulas we consider here is that this analysis can be carried out in a relatively controlled manner in their context. In particular, the task of finding a proof can be reduced to one of demonstrating that a formula follows from a set of assumptions, with the next step in this process being determined by the structure of the conclusion formula. An acceptable implementation of this observation must utilize unification. However, since our formulas may contain universal and existential quantifiers in mixed order, care must be exercised to ensure the correctness of unification. One way of realizing this requirement involves labelling constants and variables and then using these labels to constrain unification. This form of unification is presented and used in a proof procedure for goal formulas in a first-order version of hereditary Harrop formulas. Modifications to this procedure for the relevant formulas in a higher-order logic are also described. The proof procedure that we present has a practical value in that it provides the basis for an implementation of the logic programming language λProlog.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)115-145
Number of pages31
JournalJournal of Automated Reasoning
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1993


  • hereditary Harrop formulas
  • intuitionistic logic
  • logic programming
  • proof procedure


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