I know that you know that I know that you know…. Oxford, October 2019

This will be a fun start-of-term Philosophy Undergraduate Welcome Lecture for philosophy students at Oxford in the Mathematics & Philosophy, Physics & Philosophy, Computer Science & Philosophy, and Philosophy & Linguistics degrees. New students are especially encouraged, but everyone is welcome! The talk is open to all. The talk will be Wednesday 16th October, 5-6 pm in the Mathematical Institute, with wine and nibbles afterwards.

Abstract. In this talk, we shall pose and solve various fun puzzles in epistemic logic, which is to say, puzzles involving reasoning about knowledge, including one’s own knowledge or the knowledge of other people, including especially knowledge of knowledge or knowledge of the lack of knowledge. We’ll discuss several classic puzzles of common knowledge, such as the two-generals problem, Cheryl’s birthday problem, and the blue-eyed islanders, as well as several new puzzles. Please come and enjoy!

Philosophy Faculty announcement of talk

Alan Turing’s theory of computation, Oxford and Cambridge Club, June 2019

I shall speak for the Oxford and Cambridge Club, in a joint event hosted by Maths and Science Group and the Military History Group, an evening (6 June 2019) with dinner and talks on the theme of the Enigma and Code breaking. 

Oxford and Cambridge Club

Abstract: I shall describe Alan Turing’s transformative philosophical analysis of the nature of computation, including his argument that some mathematical questions must inevitably remain beyond our computational capacity to answer.

The talk will highlight ideas from Alan Turing’s phenomenal 1936 paper on computable numbers:

Computational self-reference and the universal algorithm, Queen Mary University of London, June 2019

This will be a talk for the Theory Seminar for the theory research group in Theoretical Computer Science at Queen Mary University of London. The talk will be held 4 June 2019 1:00 pm, ITL first floor.

Abstract. Curious, often paradoxical instances of self-reference inhabit deep parts of computability theory, from the intriguing Quine programs and Ouroboros programs to more profound features of the Gödel phenomenon. In this talk, I shall give an elementary account of the universal algorithm, showing how the capacity for self-reference in arithmetic gives rise to a Turing machine program $e$, which provably enumerates a finite set of numbers, but which can in principle enumerate any finite set of numbers, when it is run in a suitable model of arithmetic. In this sense, every function becomes computable, computed all by the same universal program, if only it is run in the right world. Furthermore, the universal algorithm can successively enumerate any desired extension of the sequence, when run in a suitable top-extension of the universe. An analogous result holds in set theory, where Woodin and I have provided a universal locally definable finite set, which can in principle be any finite set, in the right universe, and which can furthermore be successively extended to become any desired finite superset of that set in a suitable top-extension of that universe.

The modal logic of potentialism, ILLC Amsterdam, May 2019

This will be a talk at the Institute of Logic, Language and Computation (ILLC) at the University of Amsterdam for events May 11-12, 2019. See Joel David Hamkins in Amsterdam 2019.

Job Adriaenszoon Berckheyde [Public domain]

Abstract: Potentialism can be seen as a fundamentally model-theoretic notion, in play for any class of mathematical structures with an extension concept, a notion of substructure by which one model extends to another. Every such model-theoretic context can be seen as a potentialist framework, a Kripke model whose modal validities one can investigate. In this talk, I’ll explain the tools we have for analyzing the potentialist validities of such a system, with examples drawn from the models of arithmetic and set theory, using the universal algorithm and the universal definition.

Is there just one mathematical universe? DRIFT, Amsterdam, May 2019

This will be a talk for the Wijsgerig Festival DRIFT 2019, held in Amsterdam May 11, 2019. The theme of the conference is: Ontology.

Kamanasish Debnath [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]

Abstract. What does it mean to make existence assertions in mathematics?
Is there a mathematical universe, perhaps an ideal mathematical reality, that the assertions are about? Is there possibly more than one such universe? 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 worlds.

At the conference venue in the Vondelpark, Amsterdam

Kelley-Morse set theory does not prove the class Fodor Principle, CUNY Set Theory Seminar, March, 2019

This will be talk for the CUNY Set Theory seminar, Friday, March 22, 2019, 10 am in room 6417 at the CUNY Graduate Center.
Abstract. I shall discuss recent joint work with Victoria Gitman and Asaf Karagila, in which we proved that Kelley-Morse set theory (which includes the global choice principle) does not prove the class Fodor principle, the assertion that every regressive class function $F:S\to\text{Ord}$ defined on a stationary class $S$ is constant on a stationary subclass. Indeed, it is relatively consistent with KM for any infinite $\lambda$ with $\omega\leq\lambda\leq\text{Ord}$ that there is a class function $F:\text{Ord}\to\lambda$ that is not constant on any stationary class. Strikingly, it is consistent with KM that there is a sequence of classes $A_n$, each containing a class club, but the intersection of all $A_n$ is empty. Consequently, it is relatively consistent with KM that the class club filter is not $\sigma$-closed.
I am given to understand that the talk will be streamed live online. I’ll post further details when I have them.

Must there be numbers we cannot describe or define? Definability in mathematics and the Math Tea argument, Norwich, February 2019

I shall speak for the Pure Mathematics Research Seminar at the University of East Anglia in Norwich on Monday, 25 February, 2019.

Abstract. An old argument, heard perhaps at a good math tea, proceeds: “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.” Does it withstand scrutiny? In this talk, I will 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? Must indiscernible elements in a mathematical structure be automorphic images of one another? We shall discuss many elementary yet interesting 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.

Lecture notes – Must every number be definable? Norwich Feb 2019

Potentialism and implicit actualism in the foundations of mathematics, Jowett Society lecture, Oxford, February 2019

This will be a talk for the Jowett Society on 8 February, 2019. The talk will take place in the Oxford Faculty of Philosophy, 3:30 – 5:30pm, in the Lecture Room of the Radcliffe Humanities building.

Abstract. Potentialism is the view, originating in the classical dispute between actual and potential infinity, that one’s mathematical universe is never fully completed, but rather unfolds gradually as new parts of it increasingly come into existence or become accessible or known to us. Recent work emphasizes the modal aspect of potentialism, while decoupling it from arithmetic and from infinity: the essence of potentialism is about approximating a larger universe by means of universe fragments, an idea that applies to set-theoretic as well as arithmetic foundations. The modal language and perspective allows one precisely to distinguish various natural potentialist conceptions in the foundations of mathematics, whose exact modal validities are now known. Ultimately, this analysis suggests a refocusing of potentialism on the issue of convergent inevitability in comparison with radical branching. I shall defend the theses, first, that convergent potentialism is implicitly actualist, and second, that we should understand ultrafinitism in modal terms as a form of potentialism, one with surprising parallels to the case of arithmetic potentialism.

Jowett Society talk entry | my posts on potentialism | Slides

Forcing as a computational process, Cambridge, Februrary 2019

This will be a talk for Set Theory in the United Kingdom (STUK 1), to be held in the other place, February 16, 2019.

Abstract. We investigate the senses in which set-theoretic forcing can be seen as a computational process on the models of set theory. Given an oracle for the atomic or elementary diagram of a model of set theory $\langle M,\in^M\rangle$, for example, we explain senses in which one may compute $M$-generic filters $G\subset P\in M$ and the corresponding forcing extensions $M[G]$. Meanwhile, no such computational process is functorial, for there must always be isomorphic alternative presentations of the same model of set theory $M$ that lead by the computational process to non-isomorphic forcing extensions $M[G]\not\cong M[G’]$. Indeed, there is no Borel function providing generic filters that is functorial in this sense.

This is joint work with Russell Miller and Kameryn Williams.

The rearrangement and subseries numbers: how much convergence suffices for absolute convergence? Mathematics Colloquium, University of Münster, January 2019

This will be a talk for the Mathematics Colloquium at the University of Münster, January 10, 2019.

Abstract. The Riemann rearrangement theorem asserts that a series $\sum_n a_n$ is absolutely convergent if and only if every rearrangement $\sum_n a_{p(n)}$ of it is convergent, and furthermore, any conditionally convergent series can be rearranged so as to converge to any desired extended real value. How many rearrangements $p$ suffice to test for absolute convergence in this way? The rearrangement number, a new cardinal characteristic of the continuum, is the smallest size of a family of permutations, such that whenever the convergence and value of a convergent series is invariant by all these permutations, then it is absolutely convergent. The subseries number is defined similarly, as the smallest number of subseries whose convergence suffices to test a series for absolute convergence. The exact values of the rearrangement and subseries numbers turns out to be independent of the axioms of set theory. In this talk, I shall place the rearrangement and subseries numbers into a discussion of cardinal characteristics of the continuum, including an elementary introduction to the continuum hypothesis and an account of Freiling’s axiom of symmetry.

This talk is based in part on joint work with Andreas Blass, Joerg Brendle, Will Brian, myself, Michael Hardy and Paul Larson.

  • The rearrangement number.
    • A. Blass, J. Brendle, W. Brian, J. D. Hamkins, M. Hardy, and P. B. Larson, “The rearrangement number,” ArXiv e-prints, 2016. (manuscript under review)  
      @ARTICLE{BlassBrendleBrianHamkinsHardyLarson:TheRearrangementNumber,
      author = {Andreas Blass and Jörg Brendle and Will Brian and Joel David Hamkins and Michael Hardy and Paul B. Larson},
      title = {The rearrangement number},
      journal = {ArXiv e-prints},
      year = {2016},
      volume = {},
      number = {},
      pages = {},
      month = {},
      note = {manuscript under review},
      url = {http://jdh.hamkins.org/the-rearrangement-number},
      eprint = {1612.07830},
      archivePrefix = {arXiv},
      primaryClass = {math.LO},
      abstract = {},
      keywords = {under-review},
      source = {},
      }

  • The subseries number.

An infinitary-logic-free proof of the Barwise end-extension theorem, with new applications, University of Münster, January 2019

This will be a talk for the Logic Oberseminar at the University of Münster, January 11, 2019.

Abstract. I shall present a new proof, with new applications, of the amazing extension theorem of Barwise (1971), which shows that every countable model of ZF has an end-extension to a model of ZFC + V=L. This theorem is both (i) a technical culmination of Barwise’s pioneering methods in admissible set theory and the admissible cover, but also (ii) one of those rare mathematical results saturated with significance for the philosophy of set theory. The new proof uses only classical methods of descriptive set theory, and makes no mention of infinitary logic. The results are directly connected with recent advances on the universal $\Sigma_1$-definable finite set, a set-theoretic version of Woodin’s universal algorithm.

A new proof of the Barwise extension theorem, without infinitary logic, CUNY Logic Workshop, December 2018

I’ll be back in New York from Oxford, and this will be a talk for the CUNY Logic Workshop, December 14, 2018.

Abstract. I shall present a new proof, with new applications, of the amazing extension theorem of Barwise (1971), which shows that every countable model of ZF has an end-extension to a model of ZFC + V=L. This theorem is both (i) a technical culmination of Barwise’s pioneering methods in admissible set theory and the admissible cover, but also (ii) one of those rare mathematical results saturated with significance for the philosophy of set theory. The new proof uses only classical methods of descriptive set theory, and makes no mention of infinitary logic. The results are directly connected with recent advances on the universal $\Sigma_1$-definable finite set, a set-theoretic version of Woodin’s universal algorithm.

My lecture notes are available.

Faculty respondent to paper of Ethan Jerzak on Paradoxical Desires, Oxford Graduate Philosophy Conference, November 2018

The Oxford Graduate Philosophy Conference will be held at the Faculty of Philosophy November 10-11, 2018, with graduate students from all over the world speaking on their papers, with responses and commentary by Oxford faculty.

I shall be the faculty respondent to the delightful paper, “Paradoxical Desires,” by Ethan Jerzak of the University of California at Berkeley, offered under the following abstract.

Ethan Jerzak (UC Berkeley): Paradoxical Desires
I present a paradoxical combination of desires. I show why it’s paradoxical, and consider ways of responding to it. The paradox saddles us with an unappealing disjunction: either we reject the possibility of the case by placing surprising restrictions on what we can desire, or we revise some bit of classical logic. I argue that denying the possibility of the case is unmotivated on any reasonable way of thinking about propositional attitudes. So the best response is a non-classical one, according to which certain desires are neither determinately satisfied nor determinately not satisfied. Thus, theorizing about paradoxical propositional attitudes helps constrain the space of possibilities for adequate solutions to semantic paradoxes more generally.

The conference starts with coffee at 9:00 am.  This session runs 11 am to 1:30 pm on Saturday 10 November in the Lecture Room.

Conference Program | Conference web page

Here are the notes I used for my response.

 

On set-theoretic mereology as a foundation of mathematics, Oxford Phil Math seminar, October 2018

This will be a talk for the Philosophy of Mathematics Seminar in Oxford, October 29, 2018, 4:30-6:30 in the Ryle Room of the Philosopher Centre.

Abstract. In light of the comparative success of membership-based set theory in the foundations of mathematics, since the time of Cantor, Zermelo and Hilbert, it is natural to wonder whether one might find a similar success for set-theoretic mereology, based upon the set-theoretic inclusion relation $\subseteq$ rather than the element-of relation $\in$.  How well does set-theoretic mereological serve as a foundation of mathematics? Can we faithfully interpret the rest of mathematics in terms of the subset relation to the same extent that set theorists have argued (with whatever degree of success) that we may find faithful representations in terms of the membership relation? Basically, can we get by with merely $\subseteq$ in place of $\in$? Ultimately, I shall identify grounds supporting generally negative answers to these questions, concluding that set-theoretic mereology by itself cannot serve adequately as a foundational theory.

This is joint work with Makoto Kikuchi, and the talk is based on our joint articles:

The talk will also mention some related recent work with Ruizhi Yang (Shanghai).

Slides

Parallels in universality between the universal algorithm and the universal finite set, Oxford Math Logic Seminar, October 2018

This will be a talk for the Logic Seminar in Oxford at the Mathematics Institute in the Andrew Wiles Building on October 9, 2018, at 4:00 pm, with tea at 3:30.

Abstract. The universal algorithm is a Turing machine program $e$ that can in principle enumerate any finite sequence of numbers, if run in the right model of PA, and furthermore, can always enumerate any desired extension of that sequence in a suitable end-extension of that model. The universal finite set is a set-theoretic analogue, a locally verifiable definition that can in principle define any finite set, in the right model of set theory, and can always define any desired finite extension of that set in a suitable top-extension of that model. Recent work has uncovered a $\Sigma_1$-definable version that works with respect to end-extensions. I shall give an account of all three results, which have a parallel form, and describe applications to the model theory of arithmetic and set theory.

Slides