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In mathematics literature, one often talks about implications and inferences. Several times I have seen "whence" used for this purpose. For instance:

"Aristotle is a human, whence Aristotle is mortal."

It's certaninly not common, and it's probably either archaic or used in an attempt to imitate the native language of the author.

Is this usage actually correct? I'm not a native speaker, and having consulted dictionaries I'm still not quite sure.

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Merriam-Webster gives the definition and example:

whence ...

b: by reason of which fact [, from which]

  • [N]othing broke—whence I infer that my bones are not yet chalky.
  • Aristotle is a human, whence I/we can deduce that Aristotle is mortal.

follows this form, and 'I/we can deduce that' has been deleted in the example you give.

Collins seems to license the 'which mandates [entails, means] that' (or 'which gives rise to') (causative) sense, but does not give an example:

whence [conjunction] ...

  1. from which place, source, or cause

YourDictionary gives the odd example:

  • For the world as a whole, however, he postulated a beginning in time (whence his use of the word creation), and further supposed that the impulse of organization which was conveyed to chaotic matter by the Creator issued from a central point in the infinite space spreading gradually outwards.
  • Let 0 be the angle which the standard magnet M makes with the meridian, then M'/R = sin 0, and M/R = cos 0, whence M' = M tan 0.

I've seen this deletion (and 'hence') reasonably frequently in books on trigonometry and numerical algebra, and on geometry. But I'd agree that it's uncommon nowadays, and at least bordering on the archaic. I'd avoid using it in non-technical registers.

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  • Thanks! I think what was causing my confusion was the deletion of 'I/we can deduce that'. Oct 26, 2020 at 15:57
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    In my experience, this metaphor--inference as locomotion--much more commonly employs hence than whence. Oct 26, 2020 at 16:07
  • Yes; 'this leads to the fact that' rather than ' this leads to the fact that'. Oct 26, 2020 at 16:23
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    @BrianDonovan: The use of "hence" is indeed quite common when writting mathematics. However, as far as I understand, it's incorrect to say "Aristotle is a human, hence Aristotle is mortal."; you can only say "Aristotle is a human. Hence Aristotle is mortal.", which you sometimes don't want to do. Oct 26, 2020 at 16:53
  • ... No. The comma splice is considered quite acceptable in certain cases by many nowadays. Barbara Wallraff in her book "Word Court" goes further than 'a comma may on occasion be acceptable', commenting on the sentence It's not a comet, it's a meteor: '[P]unctuating this sentence with a semicolon would be like using a C-clamp to hold a sandwich together.' See here. And consider 'I came, I saw, I conquered.' Oct 26, 2020 at 19:27
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Hence means Causation-
his shoes were wet, hence they wet his socks :-

Whence is Origination-
his shoes were wet from whence he walked across the farm.

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