Whether this latter statement is true or not, Whitehead and Russell's Principia Mathematica was a landmark achievement: it almost completed the first step in an absolute proof of consistency of arithmetic, since it led to the formalization of an axiomatic system for arithmetic.

In section V, Nagel and Newman describe a formalization of propositional (or sentential) logic, that is, a subset of the logic system in Principia Mathematica (but not a large enough subset to represent arithmetic). The bulk of this section first describes the formalization process, which yields the standard syntax and inference rules of propositional logic (including modus ponens) and then outlines an absolute proof of consistency of this formalized axiomatic system.

This absolute proof of consistency is a proof by contrapositive, which relies on the following true conditional statement: