Quickly recapping the discussion so far, we started with a data structure called an idea‑form flag and adopted it as a building block for constructing a species of graph-theoretic data structures called painted and rooted cacti. We showed how to code the abstract forms of cacti into character strings called cactus expressions and how to parse the character strings into pointer structures in computer memory.
At this point we had to choose between two expository strategies.
A full account of Theme One’s operation would describe its use of cactus graphs in three distinct ways, called lexical, literal, and logical applications. The more logical order would approach the lexical and literal tasks first. That is because the program’s formal language learner must first acquire the vocabulary its propositional calculator interprets as logical variables. The sequential learner operates at two levels, taking in sequences of characters it treats as strings or words plus sequences of words it treats as strands or sentences.
Finding ourselves more strongly attracted to the logical substance, however, we leave the matter of grammar to another time and turn to Theme One’s use of cactus graphs in its reasoning module to represent logical propositions on the order of Peirce’s alpha graphs and Spencer Brown’s calculus of indications.
Up till now we’ve been working to hammer out a two-edged sword of syntax, honing the syntax of cactus graphs and cactus expressions and turning it to use in taming the syntax of two-level formal languages.
But the purpose of a logical syntax is to support a logical semantics, which means, for starters, to bear interpretation as sentential signs capable of denoting objective propositions about a universe of objects.
One of the difficulties we face is that the words interpretation, meaning, semantics, and their ilk take on so many different meanings from one moment to the next of their use. A dedicated neologician might be able to think up distinctive names for all the aspects of meaning and all the approaches to them that concern us, but I will do the best I can with the common lot of ambiguous terms, leaving it to context and intelligent interpreters to sort it out as much as possible.
The formal language of cacti is formed at such a high level of abstraction that its graphs bear at least two distinct interpretations as logical propositions. The two interpretations concerning us here are descended from the ones C.S. Peirce called the entitative and the existential interpretations of his systems of graphical logics.
Table 1 illustrates the existential interpretation of cactus graphs and cactus expressions by providing English translations for a few of the most basic and commonly occurring forms.
Table 2 illustrates the entitative interpretation of cactus graphs and cactus expressions by providing English translations for a few of the most basic and commonly occurring forms.