Sequent calculus is one of several extant styles of proof calculus for expressing line-by-line logical arguments.
In other words, natural deduction and sequent calculus systems are particular distinct kinds of Gentzen-style systems. Hilbert-style systems typically have a very small number of inference rules, relying more on sets of axioms. Gentzen-style systems typically have very few axioms, if any, relying more on sets of rules.
are equivalent in the strong sense that a proof of either one may be extended to a proof of the other.
Finally, sequent calculus generalizes the form of a natural deduction judgment to
are equivalent in the strong sense that a proof of either sequent may be extended to a proof of the other sequent.
At first sight, this extension of the judgment form may appear to be a strange complication—it is not motivated by an obvious shortcoming of natural deduction, and it is initially confusing that the comma seems to mean entirely different things on the two sides of the turnstile. However, in a classical context the semantics of the sequent can also (by propositional tautology) be expressed either as
(it cannot be the case that all of the As are true and all of the Bs are false).
In these formulations, the only difference between formulae on either side of the turnstile is that one side is negated. Thus, swapping left for right in a sequent corresponds to negating all of the constituent formulae. This means that a symmetry such as De Morgan's laws, which manifests itself as logical negation on the semantic level, translates directly into a left-right symmetry of sequents—and indeed, the inference rules in sequent calculus for dealing with conjunction (∧) are mirror images of those dealing with disjunction (∨).
Again the right hand side includes an implication, whose premise can further be assumed so that only its conclusion needs to be proven:
Since the arguments in the left-hand side are assumed to be related by conjunction, this can be replaced by the following:
This is equivalent to proving the conclusion in both cases of the disjunction on the first argument on the left. Thus we may split the sequent to two, where we now have to prove each separately:
The second sequent is done; the first sequent can be further simplified into:
The items to the left of the turnstile are understood to be connected by conjunction, and those to the right by disjunction. Therefore, when both consist only of atomic symbols, the sequent is accepted axiomatically (and always true) if and only if at least one of the symbols on the right also appears on the left.
Starting with any formula in propositional logic, by a series of steps, the right side of the turnstile can be processed until it includes only atomic symbols. Then, the same is done for the left side. Since every logical operator appears in one of the rules above, and is removed by the rule, the process terminates when no logical operators remain: The formula has been decomposed.
Thus, the sequents in the leaves of the trees include only atomic symbols, which are either provable by the axiom or not, according to whether one of the symbols on the right also appears on the left.
This can be shown as follows: Every proof in propositional calculus uses only axioms and the inference rules. Each use of an axiom scheme yields a true logical formula, and can thus be proven in sequent calculus; examples for these are shown below. The only inference rule in the systems mentioned above is modus ponens, which is implemented by the cut rule.
Note that, contrary to the rules for proceeding along the reduction tree presented above, the following rules are for moving in the opposite directions, from axioms to theorems. Thus they are exact mirror-images of the rules above, except that here symmetry is not implicitly assumed, and rules regarding quantification are added.
These derivations also emphasize the strictly formal structure of the sequent calculus. For example, the logical rules as defined above always act on a formula immediately adjacent to the turnstile, such that the permutation rules are necessary. Note, however, that this is in part an artifact of the presentation, in the original style of Gentzen. A common simplification involves the use of multisets of formulas in the interpretation of the sequent, rather than sequences, eliminating the need for an explicit permutation rule. This corresponds to shifting commutativity of assumptions and derivations outside the sequent calculus, whereas LK embeds it within the system itself.
Weakening (W) allows the addition of arbitrary elements to a sequence. Intuitively, this is allowed in the antecedent because we can always restrict the scope of our proof (if all cars have wheels, then it's safe to say that all black cars have wheels); and in the succedent because we can always allow for alternative conclusions (if all cars have wheels, then it's safe to say that all cars have either wheels or wings).
The extra effort of using sequences, however, is justified since part or all of the structural rules may be omitted. Doing so, one obtains the so-called substructural logics.
There is some freedom of choice regarding the technical details of how sequents and structural rules are formalized. As long as every derivation in LK can be effectively transformed to a derivation using the new rules and vice versa, the modified rules may still be called LK.
First of all, as mentioned above, the sequents can be viewed to consist of sets or multisets. In this case, the rules for permuting and (when using sets) contracting formulae are obsolete.
Or if, as described above, weakening is to be an admissible rule, then with the axiom:
The resulting system is called LJ. It is sound and complete with respect to intuitionistic logic and admits a similar cut-elimination proof. This can be used in proving disjunction and existence properties.