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!

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.

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.

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.

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)

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},
}

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.

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).

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.

I was interviewed by Nathan Ormond for a discussion on Frege’s philosophy of mathematics for his YouTube channel, Digital Gnosis, on 10 December 2021 at 4pm.

The interview concludes with a public comment and question & answer session.

Abstract. The standard treatment of sets and classes in Zermelo-Fraenkel set theory instantiates in many respects the Fregean foundational distinction between objects and concepts, for in set theory we commonly take the sets as 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 often asserted that there can be no association of classes with objects in a way that fulfills Frege’s Basic Law V, nevertheless, in the ZF framework I have described, it turns out that Basic Law V does hold, and provably so, along with other various Fregean abstraction principles. These principles are consequences of Zermelo-Fraenkel ZF set theory in the context of all its definable classes. Namely, there is an injective mapping from classes to objects, definable in senses I shall explain, 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.

What a pleasure it was to be interviewed by Evelyn Lamb and Kevin Knudson for their wonderful podcast series, My Favorite Theorem, available on Apple, Spotify, and any number of other aggregators.

I had a chance to talk about one my most favorite theorems, the fundamental theorem of finite games.

Theorem.(Zermelo 1913) In any two-player finite game of perfect information, one of the players has a winning strategy, or both players have drawing strategies.

Listen to the podcast here: My Favorite Theorem. A transcript is also available.

I was interviewed 26 August 2021 by mathematician Daniel Rubin on his show, and we had a lively, wideranging discussion spanning mathematics, infinity, and the philosophy of mathematics. Please enjoy!

This will be a talk for the conference Fudan Model Theory and Philosophy of Mathematics, held at Fudan University in Shanghai and online, 21-24 August 2021. My talk will take place on Zoom on 23 August 20:00 Beijing time (1pm BST).

Abstract. Tennenbaum famously proved that there is no computable presentation of a nonstandard model of arithmetic or indeed of any model of set theory. In this talk, I shall discuss the Tennenbaum phenomenon as it arises for computable quotient presentations of models. Quotient presentations offer a philosophically attractive treatment of identity, a realm in which questions of identity are not necessarily computable. Objects in the presentation serve in effect as names for objects in the final quotient structure, names that may represent the same or different items in that structure, but one cannot necessarily tell which. Bakhadyr Khoussainov outlined a sweeping vision for quotient presentations in computable model theory and made several conjectures concerning the Tennenbaum phenomenon. In this talk, I shall discuss joint work with Michał Godziszewski that settles and addresses several of these conjectures.

This is a talk for the Logik Kolloquium at the University of Konstanz, spanning the departments of mathematics, philosophy, linguistics, and computer science. 19 July 2021 on Zoom. 15:15 CEST (2:15 pm BST).

Abstract: An enduring mystery in the foundations of mathematics is the observed phenomenon that our best and strongest mathematical theories seem to be linearly ordered and indeed well-ordered by consistency strength. For any two of the familiar large cardinal hypotheses, one of them generally proves the consistency of the other. Why should this be? Why should it be linear? Some philosophers see the phenomenon as significant for the philosophy of mathematics—it points us toward an ultimate mathematical truth. Meanwhile, the linearity phenomenon is not strictly true as mathematical fact, for we can prove that the hierarchy of consistency strength is actually ill-founded, densely ordered, and nonlinear. The counterexample statements and theories, however, are often dismissed as unnatural. Linearity is thus a phenomenon only for the so-called “naturally occurring” theories. But what counts as natural? Is there a mathematically meaningful account of naturality? In this talk, I shall criticize this notion of naturality, and attempt to undermine the linearity phenomenon by presenting a variety of natural hypotheses that reveal ill-foundedness, density, and incomparability in the hierarchy of consistency strength.

The talk should be generally accessible to university logic students.

Abstract. Zermelo famously proved that second-order ZFC is quasi-categorical—the models of this theory are precisely the rank-initial segments of the set-theoretic universe cut off at an inaccessible cardinal. Which are the fully categorical extensions of this theory? This question gives rise to the notion of categorical large cardinals, and opens the door to several puzzling philosophical issues, such as the conflict between categoricity as a fundamental value in mathematics and reflection principles in set theory. (This is joint work with Robin Solberg, Oxford.)