The math tea argument—must there be numbers we cannot describe or define? Pavia Logic Seminar

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This will be a talk for the Logic Seminar at the IUSS, Scuola Universitaria Superiore Pavia, 28 September 2022.

(Note: This seminar will be held the day before the related conference Philosophy of Mathematics: Foundations, Definitions and Axioms, Italian Network for the Philosophy of Mathematics, 29 September to 1 October 2022. I shall be speaking at that conference on the topic, Fregean abstraction in set theory, a deflationary account.)

Abstract. According to the math tea argument, perhaps heard at a good afternoon tea, there must be some real numbers that we can neither describe nor define, since there are uncountably many real numbers, but only countably many definitions. Is it correct? In this talk, I shall discuss the phenomenon of pointwise definable structures in mathematics, structures in which every object has a property that only it exhibits. A mathematical structure is Leibnizian, in contrast, if any pair of distinct objects in it exhibit different properties. Is there a Leibnizian structure with no definable elements? We shall discuss many interesting elementary examples, eventually working up to the proof that every countable model of set theory has a pointwise definable extension, in which every mathematical object is definable.

Workshop on the Set-theoretic Multiverse, Konstanz, September 2022

Masterclass of “The set-theoretic multiverse” ten years after

Focused on mathematical and philosophical aspects of the set-theoretic multiverse and the pluralist debate in the philosophy of set theory, this workshop will have a master class on potentialism, a series of several speakers, and a panel discussion. To be held 21-22 September 2022 at the University of Konstanz, Germany. (Contact organizers for Zoom access.)

I shall make several contributions to the meeting.

Master class tutorial on potentialism

I shall give a master class tutorial on potentialism, an introduction to the general theory of potentialism that has been emerging in recent work, often developed as a part of research on set-theoretic pluralism, but just as often branching out to a broader application. Although the debate between potentialism and actualism in the philosophy of mathematics goes back to Aristotle, recent work divorces the potentialist idea from its connection with infinity and undertakes a more general analysis of possible mathematical universes of any kind. Any collection of mathematical structures forms a potentialist system when equipped with an accessibility relation (refining the submodel relation), and one can define the modal operators of possibility $\Diamond\varphi$, true at a world when $\varphi$ is true in some larger world, and necessity $\Box\varphi$, true in a world when $\varphi$ is true in all larger worlds. The project is to understand the structures more deeply by understanding their modal nature in the context of a potentialist system. The rise of modal model theory investigates very general instances of potentialist system, for sets, graphs, fields, and so on. Potentialism for the models of arithmetic often connects with deeply philosophical ideas on ultrafinitism. And the spectrum of potentialist systems for the models of set theory reveals fundamentally different conceptions of set-theoretic pluralism and possibility.

The multiverse view on the axiom of constructibility

I shall give a talk on the multiverse perspective on the axiom of constructibility. Set theorists often look down upon the axiom of constructibility V=L as limiting, in light of the fact that all the stronger large cardinals are inconsistent with this axiom, and furthermore the axiom expresses a minimizing property, since $L$ is the smallest model of ZFC with its ordinals. Such views, I argue, stem from a conception of the ordinals as absolutely completed. A potentialist conception of the set-theoretic universe reveals a sense in which every set-theoretic universe might be extended (in part upward) to a model of V=L. In light of such a perspective, the limiting nature of the axiom of constructibility tends to fall away.

Panel discussion: The multiverse view—challenges for the next ten years

This will be a panel discussion on the set-theoretic multiverse, with panelists including myself, Carolin Antos-Kuby, Giorgio Venturi, and perhaps others.

Pointwise definable end-extensions of the universe, Sophia 2022, Salzburg

This will be an online talk for the Salzburg Conference for Young Analytical Philosophy, the SOPhiA 2022 Salzburgiense Concilium Omnibus Philosophis Analyticis, with a special workshop session Reflecting on ten years of the set-theoretic multiverse. The workshop will meet Thursday 8 September 2022 4:00pm – 7:30pm.

The name of the workshop (“Reflecting on ten years…”), I was amazed to learn, refers to the period since my 2012 paper, The set-theoretic multiverse, in the Review of Symbolic Logic, in which I had first introduced my arguments and views concerning set-theoretic pluralism. I am deeply honored by this workshop highlighting my work in this way and focussing on the developments growing out of it.

In this talk, I shall engage in that discussion by presenting some very new work connecting several topics that have been prominent in discussions of the set-theoretic multiverse, namely, set-theoretic potentialism and pointwise definability.

Abstract. Using the universal algorithm and its generalizations, I shall present new work on the possibility of end-extending any given countable model of arithmetic or set theory to a pointwise definable model, one in which every object is definable without parameters. Every countable model of Peano arithmetic, for example, admits an end-extension to a pointwise definable model. And similarly, every countable model of ZF set theory admits an end-extension to a pointwise definable model of ZFC+V=L, as well as to pointwise definable models of other sufficient theories, accommodating large cardinals. I shall discuss the philosophical significance of these results in the philosophy of set theory with a view to potentialism and the set-theoretic multiverse.

Fregean abstraction in set theory—a deflationary account, Italian Philosophy of Mathematics, September 2022

This will be a talk for the conference Philosophy of Mathematics: Foundations, Definitions and Axioms, the Fourth International Conference of the Italian Network for the Philosophy of Mathematics, 29 September to 1 October 2022.

Abstract. The standard set-theoretic distinction between sets and classes instantiates in important respects the Fregean distinction between objects and concepts, for in set theory we commonly take the universe of sets as a realm of objects to be considered under the guise of diverse concepts, the definable classes, each serving as a predicate on that domain of individuals. Although it is commonly held that in a very general manner, there can be no association of classes with objects in a way that fulfills Frege’s Basic Law V, nevertheless, in the ZF framework, it turns out that we can provide a completely deflationary account of this and other Fregean abstraction principles. Namely, there is a mapping of classes to objects, definable in set theory in senses I shall explain (hence deflationary), associating every first-order parametrically definable class $F$ with a set object $\varepsilon F$, in such a way that Basic Law V is fulfilled: $$\varepsilon F =\varepsilon G\iff\forall x\ (Fx\leftrightarrow Gx).$$ Russell’s elementary refutation of the general comprehension axiom, therefore, is improperly described as a refutation of Basic Law V itself, but rather refutes Basic Law V only when augmented with powerful class comprehension principles going strictly beyond ZF. The main result leads also to a proof of Tarski’s theorem on the nondefinability of truth as a corollary to Russell’s argument. A central goal of the project is to highlight the issue of definability and deflationism for the extension assignment problem at the core of Fregean abstraction.

Nonlinearity and illfoundedness in the hierarchy of consistency strength and the question of naturality, Italy (AILA), September 2022

This will be a talk for the meeting of The Italian Association for Logic and its Applications (AILA) in Caserta, Italy 12-15 September 2022.

Abstract. Set theorists and philosophers of mathematics often point to a mystery in the foundations of mathematics, namely, that our best and strongest mathematical theories seem to be linearly ordered and indeed well-ordered by consistency strength. Why should it be? The phenomenon is thought to carry profound significance for the philosophy of mathematics, perhaps pointing us toward the ultimately correct mathematical theories, the “one road upward.” And yet, we know as a purely formal matter that the hierarchy of consistency strength is not well-ordered. It is ill-founded, densely ordered, and nonlinear. The statements usually used to illustrate these features, however, are often dismissed as unnatural or as Gödelian trickery. In this talk, I aim to rebut that criticism by presenting a variety of natural hypotheses that reveal ill-foundedness in consistency strength, density in the hierarchy of consistency strength, and incomparability in consistency strength.

Set theory inside out: realizing every inner model theory in an end extension, European Set Theory Conference, September 2022

This will be a talk for the European Set Theory Conference 2022 in Turin, Italy 29 August – 2 September 2022.

Abstract. Every countable model of ZFC set theory with an inner model satisfying a sufficient theory must also have an end-extension satisfying that theory. For example, every countable model with a measurable cardinal has an end-extension to a model of $V=L[\mu]$; every model with extender-based large cardinals has an end-extension to a model of $V=L[\vec E]$; every model with infinitely many Woodin cardinals and a measurable above has an end-extension to a model of $\text{ZF}+\text{DC}+V=L(\mathbb{R})+\text{AD}$. These results generalize the famous Barwise extension theorem, of course, asserting that every countable model of ZF set theory admits an end-extension to a model of $\text{ZFC}+{V=L}$, a theorem which was simultaneously a technical culmination of Barwise’s pioneering methods in admissible set theory and infinitary logic and also one of those rare mathematical theorems that is saturated with philosophical significance. In this talk, I shall describe a new proof of the Barwise theorem that omits any need for infinitary logic and relies instead only on classical methods of descriptive set theory, while also providing the generalization I mentioned. This proof furthermore leads directly to the universal finite sequence, a $\Sigma_1$-definable finite sequence, which can be extended arbitrarily as desired in suitable end-extensions of the universe, a result holding important consequences for the nature of set-theoretic potentialism.  This work is joint with Kameryn J. Williams.

  • [DOI] J. D. Hamkins and K. J. Williams, “The $\Sigma_1$-definable universal finite sequence,” Journal of Symbolic Logic, 2021.
    [Bibtex]
    @ARTICLE{HamkinsWilliams2021:The-universal-finite-sequence,
    author = {Joel David Hamkins and Kameryn J. Williams},
    title = {The $\Sigma_1$-definable universal finite sequence},
    journal = {Journal of Symbolic Logic},
    year = {2021},
    volume = {},
    number = {},
    pages = {},
    month = {},
    note = {},
    abstract = {},
    keywords = {},
    eprint = {1909.09100},
    archivePrefix = {arXiv},
    primaryClass = {math.LO},
    source = {},
    doi = {10.1017/jsl.2020.59},
    }

The ontology of mathematics, Japan Association for the Philosophy of Science, June 2022

I shall give the Invited Lecture for the Annual Meeting (online) of the Japanese Association for the Philosophy of Science, 18-19 June 2022.

Abstract. What is the nature of mathematical ontology—what does it mean to make existence assertions in mathematics? Is there an ideal mathematical realm, a mathematical universe, that those assertions are about? Perhaps there is more than one. Does every mathematical assertion ultimately have a definitive truth value? I shall lay out some of the back-and-forth in what is currently a vigorous debate taking place in the philosophy of set theory concerning pluralism in the set-theoretic foundations, concerning whether there is just one set-theoretic universe underlying our mathematical claims or whether there is a diversity of possible set-theoretic conceptions.

Infinite Games, Frivolities of the Gods, Logic at Large Lecture, May 2022

The Dutch Association for Logic and Philosophy of the Exact Sciences (VvL) has organized a major annual public online lecture series called LOGIC AT LARGE, where “well-known logicians give public audience talks to a wide audience,” and I am truly honored to have been invited to give this year’s lecture. This will be an online event, the second of the series, scheduled for May 31, 2022 (note change in date!), and further access details will be posted when they become available. Free registration can be made on the VvL Logic at Large web page.

Abstract. Many familiar finite games admit natural infinitary analogues, which often highlight intriguing issues in infinite game theory. Shall we have a game of infinite chess? Or how about infinite draughts, infinite Hex, infinite Go, infinite Wordle, or infinite Sudoku? Let me introduce these games and use them to illustrate various fascinating concepts in the theory of infinite games.

Come enjoy the lecture, and stay for the online socializing event afterwards. Hope to see you there!

The surprising strength of reflection in second-order set theory with abundant urelements, CUNY Set Theory seminar, April 2022

This was an online talk 15 April 12:15 for the CUNY Set Theory Seminar. Held on Zoom at 876 9680 2366.

Abstract. I shall give a general introduction to urelement set theory and the role of the second-order reflection principle in second-order urelement set theory GBCU and KMU. With the abundant atom axiom, asserting that the class of urelements greatly exceeds the class of pure sets, the second-order reflection principle implies the existence of a supercompact cardinal in an interpreted model of ZFC. The proof uses a reflection characterization of supercompactness: a cardinal $\kappa$ is supercompact if and only if for every second-order sentence $\psi$ true in some structure $M$ (of any size) in a language of size less than $\kappa$ is also true in a first-order elementary substructure $m\prec M$ of size less than $\kappa$. This is joint work with Bokai Yao.

See the article at: Reflection in second-order set theory with abundant urelements bi-interprets a supercompact cardinal

Infinite Wordle and the mastermind numbers, CUNY Logic Workshop, March 2022

This will be an in-person talk for the CUNY Logic Workshop at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York on 11 March 2022.

Abstract. I shall introduce and consider the natural infinitary variations of Wordle, Absurdle, and Mastermind. Infinite Wordle extends the familiar finite game to infinite words and transfinite play—the code-breaker aims to discover a hidden codeword selected from a dictionary $\Delta\subseteq\Sigma^\omega$ of infinite words over a countable alphabet $\Sigma$ by making a sequence of successive guesswords, receiving feedback after each guess concerning its accuracy. For any dictionary using the usual 26-letter alphabet, for example, the code-breaker can win in at most 26 guesses, and more generally in $n$ guesses for alphabets of finite size $n$. Meanwhile, for some dictionaries on an infinite alphabet, infinite play is required, but the code-breaker can always win by stage $\omega$ on a countable alphabet, for any fixed dictionary. Infinite Mastermind, in contrast, is a subtler game than Wordle because only the number and not the position of correct bits is given. When duplication of colors is allowed, nevertheless, the code-breaker can still always win by stage $\omega$, but in the no-duplication variation, no countable number of guesses (even transfinite) is sufficient for the code-breaker to win. I therefore introduce the mastermind number, denoted $\frak{mm}$, defined to be the size of the smallest winning no-duplication Mastermind guessing set, a new cardinal characteristic of the continuum, which I prove is bounded below by the additivity number $\text{add}(\mathcal{M})$ of the meager ideal and bounded above by the covering number $\text{cov}(\mathcal{M})$. In particular, the precise value of the mastermind number is independent of ZFC and can consistently be strictly between $\aleph_1$ and the continuum $2^{\aleph_0}$. In simplified Mastermind, where the feedback given at each stage includes only the numbers of correct and incorrect bits (omitting information about rearrangements), then the corresponding simplified mastermind number is exactly the eventually different number $\frak{d}(\neq^*)$.

I am preparing an article on the topic, which will be available soon.

Pluralism in the ontology of mathematics, MaMuPhi, Paris, February 2022

This will be a talk for the conference L’indépendance mathématique et ses limites logiques, an instance of the MAMUPHI seminar (mathématiques – musique – philosophie), organized by Mirna Džamonja, 12 February 2022. Most talks will be in-person in Paris, but my talk will be on Zoom via https://u-pec-fr.zoom.us/j/86448599486 at 4:30 pm CET (10:30 am EST).


Abstract: What is the nature of mathematical ontology—what does it mean to make existence assertions in mathematics? Is there an ideal mathematical realm, a mathematical universe, that those assertions are about? Perhaps there is more than one. Does every mathematical assertion ultimately have a definitive truth value? I shall lay out some of the back-and-forth in what is currently a vigorous debate taking place in the philosophy of set theory concerning pluralism in the set-theoretic foundations, concerning whether there is just one set-theoretic universe underlying our mathematical claims or whether there is a diversity of possible set-theoretic conceptions.

The model theory of set-theoretic mereology, Notre Dame Math Logic Seminar, February 2022

This will be a talk for the Mathematical Logic Seminar at the University of Notre Dame on 8 February 2022 at 2 pm in 125 Hayes Healy.

Abstract. Mereology, the study of the relation of part to whole, is often contrasted with set theory and its membership relation, the relation of element to set. Whereas set theory has found comparative success in the foundation of mathematics, since the time of Cantor, Zermelo and Hilbert, mereology is strangely absent. Can a set-theoretic mereology, based upon the set-theoretic inclusion relation ⊆ rather than the element-of relation ∈, serve as a foundation of mathematics? How well is a model of set theory ⟨M,∈⟩ captured by its mereological reduct ⟨M,⊆⟩? In short, how much set theory does set-theoretic mereology know? In this talk, I shall present results on the model theory of set-theoretic mereology that lead broadly to negative answers to these questions and explain why mereology has not been successful as a foundation of mathematics. (Joint work with Makoto Kikuchi)

Handwritten lecture notes

See the research papers:

  • Set-theoretic mereology
    • [DOI] J. D. Hamkins and M. Kikuchi, “Set-theoretic mereology,” Logic and Logical Philosophy, Special issue “Mereology and beyond, part II”, vol. 25, iss. 3, p. 285–308, 2016.
      [Bibtex]
      @ARTICLE{HamkinsKikuchi2016:Set-theoreticMereology,
      author = {Joel David Hamkins and Makoto Kikuchi},
      title = {Set-theoretic mereology},
      journal = {Logic and Logical Philosophy, Special issue ``Mereology and beyond, part II''},
      editor = {A.~C.~Varzi and R.~Gruszczy{\'n}ski},
      year = {2016},
      volume = {25},
      number = {3},
      pages = {285--308},
      month = {},
      doi = {10.12775/LLP.2016.007},
      note = {},
      eprint = {1601.06593},
      archivePrefix = {arXiv},
      primaryClass = {math.LO},
      url = {http://jdh.hamkins.org/set-theoretic-mereology},
      abstract = {},
      keywords = {},
      source = {},
      ISSN = {1425-3305},
      MRCLASS = {03A05 (03E70)},
      MRNUMBER = {3546211},
      }
  • The inclusion relations of the countable models of set theory are all isomorphic
    • J. D. Hamkins and M. Kikuchi, “The inclusion relations of the countable models of set theory are all isomorphic,” ArXiv e-prints, 2017.
      [Bibtex]
      @ARTICLE{HamkinsKikuchi:The-inclusion-relations-of-the-countable-models-of-set-theory-are-all-isomorphic,
      author = {Joel David Hamkins and Makoto Kikuchi},
      title = {The inclusion relations of the countable models of set theory are all isomorphic},
      journal = {ArXiv e-prints},
      editor = {},
      year = {2017},
      volume = {},
      number = {},
      pages = {},
      month = {},
      doi = {},
      note = {Manuscript under review},
      eprint = {1704.04480},
      archivePrefix = {arXiv},
      primaryClass = {math.LO},
      url = {http://jdh.hamkins.org/inclusion-relations-are-all-isomorphic},
      abstract = {},
      keywords = {under-review},
      source = {},
      }
Notre Dame campus in snow

Bi-interpretation in set theory, Oberwolfach Set Theory Conference, January 2022

This was a talk for the 2022 Set Theory Conference at Oberwolfach, which was a hybrid of in-person talks and online talks on account of the Covid pandemic. I gave my talk online 10 January 2022.

Abstract: Set theory exhibits a truly robust mutual interpretability phenomenon: in any model of one set theory we can define models of diverse other set theories and vice versa. In any model of ZFC, we can define models of ZFC + GCH and also of ZFC + ¬CH and so on in hundreds of cases. And yet, it turns out, in no instance do these mutual interpretations rise to the level of bi-interpretation. Ali Enayat proved that distinct theories extending ZF are never bi-interpretable, and models of ZF are bi-interpretable only when they are isomorphic. So there is no nontrivial bi-interpretation phenomenon in set theory at the level of ZF or above.  Nevertheless, for natural weaker set theories, we prove, including ZFC- without power set and Zermelo set theory Z, there are nontrivial instances of bi-interpretation. Specifically, there are well-founded models of ZFC- that are bi-interpretable, but not isomorphic—even $\langle H_{\omega_1},\in\rangle$ and $\langle H_{\omega_2},\in\rangle$ can be bi-interpretable—and there are distinct bi-interpretable theories extending ZFC-. Similarly, using a construction of Mathias, we prove that every model of ZF is bi-interpretable with a model of Zermelo set theory in which the replacement axiom fails. This is joint work with Alfredo Roque Freire.

The surprising strength of reflection in second-order set theory with abundant urelements, Konstanz, December 2021

This will be talk for the workshop Philosophy of Set Theory held at the University of Konstanz, 3 – 4 December 2021 — in person!

Update: Unfortunately, the workshop has been cancelled (perhaps postponed to next year) in light of the Covid resurgence.

Abstract. I shall analyze the roles and interaction of reflection and urelements in second-order set theory. Second-order reflection already exhibits large cardinal strength even without urelements, but recent work shows that in the presence of abundant urelements, second-order reflection is considerably stronger than might have been expected—at the level of supercompact cardinals. This is joint work with Bokai Yao (Notre Dame).

Infinite draughts and the logic of infinitary games, Oslo, November 2021

This will be a talk 11 November 2021 for the Oslo Seminar in Mathematical Logic, meeting online via Zoom at 10:15am CET (9:15am GMT) at Zoom: 671 7500 0197

Abstract. I shall give an introduction to the logic of infinite games, including the theory of transfinite game values, using the case of infinite draughts as a principal illustrative instance. Infinite draughts, also known as infinite checkers, is played like the finite game, but on an infinite checkerboard stretching without end in all four directions. In recent joint work with Davide Leonessi, we proved that every countable ordinal arises as the game value of a position in infinite draughts. Thus, there are positions from which Red has a winning strategy enabling her to win always in finitely many moves, but the length of play can be completely controlled by Black in a manner as though counting down from a given countable ordinal. This result is optimal for games having countably many options at each move—in short, the omega one of infinite draughts is true omega one.