The universal definition — it can define any mathematical object you like, in the right set-theoretic universe

Alex_wong_2015_(Unsplash) (1)In set theory, we have the phenomenon of the universal definition. This is a property $\phi(x)$, first-order expressible in the language of set theory, that necessarily holds of exactly one set, but which can in principle define any particular desired set that you like, if one should simply interpret the definition in the right set-theoretic universe. So $\phi(x)$ could be defining the set of real numbes $x=\mathbb{R}$ or the integers $x=\mathbb{Z}$ or the number $x=e^\pi$ or a certain group or a certain topological space or whatever set you would want it to be. For any mathematical object $a$, there is a set-theoretic universe in which $a$ is the unique object $x$ for which $\phi(x)$.

The universal definition can be viewed as a set-theoretic analogue of the universal algorithm, a topic on which I have written several recent posts:

Let’s warm up with the following easy instance.

Theorem. Any particular real number $r$ can become definable in a forcing extension of the universe.

Proof. By Easton’s theorem, we can control the generalized continuum hypothesis precisely on the regular cardinals, and if we start (by forcing if necessary) in a model of GCH, then there is a forcing extension where $2^{\aleph_n}=\aleph_{n+1}$ just in case the $n^{th}$ binary digit of $r$ is $1$. In the resulting forcing extension $V[G]$, therefore, the real $r$ is definable as: the real whose binary digits conform with the GCH pattern on the cardinals $\aleph_n$. QED

Since this definition can be settled in a rank-initial segment of the universe, namely, $V_{\omega+\omega}$, the complexity of the definition is $\Delta_2$. See my post on Local properties in set theory to see how I think about locally verifiable and locally decidable properties in set theory.

If we push the argument just a little, we can go beyond the reals.

Theorem. There is a formula $\psi(x)$, of complexity $\Sigma_2$, such that for any particular object $a$, there is a forcing extension of the universe in which $\psi$ defines $a$.

Proof. Fix any set $a$. By the axiom of choice, we may code $a$ with a set of ordinals $A\subset\kappa$ for some cardinal $\kappa$. (One well-orders the transitive closure of $\{a\}$ and thereby finds a bijection $\langle\mathop{tc}(\{a\}),\in\rangle\cong\langle\kappa,E\rangle$ for some $E\subset\kappa\times\kappa$, and then codes $E$ to a set $A$ by an ordinal pairing function. The set $A$ tells you $E$, which tells you $\mathop{tc}(\{a\})$ by the Mostowski collapse, and from this you find $a$.) By Easton’s theorem, there is a forcing extension $V[G]$ in which the GCH holds at all $\aleph_{\lambda+1}$ for a limit ordinal $\lambda<\kappa$, but fails at $\aleph_{\kappa+1}$, and such that $\alpha\in A$ just in case $2^{\alpha_{\alpha+2}}=\aleph_{\alpha+3}$ for $\alpha<\kappa$. That is, we manipulate the GCH pattern to exactly code both $\kappa$ and the elements of $A\subset\kappa$. Let $\phi(x)$ assert that $x$ is the set that is decoded by this process: look for the first stage where the GCH fails at $\aleph_{\lambda+2}$, and then extract the set $A$ of ordinals, and then check if $x$ is the set coded by $A$. The assertion $\phi(x)$ did not depend on $a$, and since it can be verified in any sufficiently large $V_\theta$, the assertion $\phi(x)$ has complexity $\Sigma_2$. QED

Let’s try to make a better universal definition. As I mentioned at the outset, I have been motivated to find a set-theoretic analogue of the universal algorithm, and in that computable context, we had a universal algorithm that could not only produce any desired finite set, when run in the right universe, but which furthermore had a robust interaction between models of arithmetic and their top-extensions: any set could be extended to any other set for which the algorithm enumerated it in a taller universe. Here, I’d like to achieve the same robustness of interaction with the universal definition, as one moves from one model of set theory to a taller model. We say that one model of set theory $N$ is a top-extension of another $M$, if all the new sets of $N$ have rank totally above the ranks occuring in $M$. Thus, $M$ is a rank-initial segment of $N$. If there is a least new ordinal $\beta$ in $N\setminus M$, then this is equivalent to saying that $M=V_\beta^N$.

Theorem. There is a formula $\phi(x)$, such that

  1. In any model of ZFC, there is a unique set $a$ satisfying $\phi(a)$.
  2. For any countable model $M\models\text{ZFC}$ and any $a\in M$, there is a top-extension $N$ of $M$ such that $N\models \phi(a)$.

Thus, $\phi(x)$ is the universal definition: it always defines some set, and that set can be any desired set, even when moving from a model $M$ to a top-extension $N$.

Proof. The previous manner of coding will not achieve property 2, since the GCH pattern coding started immediately, and so it would be preserved to any top extension. What we need to do is to place the coding much higher in the universe, so that in the top extension $N$, it will occur in the part of $N$ that is totally above $M$.

But consider the following process. In any model of set theory, let $\phi(x)$ assert that $x$ is the empty set unless the GCH holds at all sufficiently large cardinals, and indeed $\phi(x)$ is false unless there is a cardinal $\delta$ and ordinal $\gamma<\delta^+$ such that the GCH holds at all cardinals above $\aleph_{\delta+\gamma}$. In this case, let $\delta$ be the smallest such cardinal for which that is true, and let $\gamma$ be the smallest ordinal working with this $\delta$. So both $\delta$ and $\gamma$ are definable. Now, let $A\subset\gamma$ be the set of ordinals $\alpha$ for which the GCH holds at $\aleph_{\delta+\alpha+1}$, and let $\phi(x)$ assert that $x$ is the set coded by the set $A$.

It is clear that $\phi(x)$ defines a unique set, in any model of ZFC, and so (1) holds. For (2), suppose that $M$ is a countable model of ZFC and $a\in M$. It is a fact that every countable model of ZFC has a top-extension, by the definable ultrapower method. Let $N_0$ be a top extension of $M$. Let $N=N_0[G]$ be a forcing extension of $N_0$ in which the set $a$ is coded into the GCH pattern very high up, at cardinals totally above $M$, and such that the GCH holds above this coding, in such a way that the process described in the previous paragraph would define exactly the set $a$. So $\phi(a)$ holds in $N$, which is a top-extension of $M$ as no new sets of small rank are added by the forcing. So statement (2) also holds. QED

The complexity of the definition is $\Pi_3$, mainly because in order to know where to look for the coding, one needs to know the ordinals $\delta$ and $\gamma$, and so one needs to know that the GCH always holds above that level. This is a $\Pi_3$ property, since it cannot be verified locally only inside some $V_\theta$.

A stronger analogue with the universal algorithm — and this is a question that motivated my thinking about this topic — would be something like the following:

Question. Is there is a $\Sigma_2$ formula $\varphi(x)$, that is, a locally verifiable property, with the following properties?

  1. In any model of ZFC, the class $\{x\mid\varphi(x)\}$ is a set.
  2. It is consistent with ZFC that $\{x\mid\varphi(x)\}$ is empty.
  3. In any countable model $M\models\text{ZFC}$ in which $\{x\mid\varphi(x)\}=a$ and any set $b\in M$ with $a\subset b$, then there is a top-extension $N$ of $M$ in which $\{x\mid\varphi(x)\}=b$.

An affirmative answer would be a very strong analogue with the universal algorithm and Woodin’s theorem about which I wrote previously. The idea is that the $\Sigma_2$ properties $\varphi(x)$ in set theory are analogous to the computably enumerable properties in computability theory. Namely, to verify that an object has a certain computably enumerable property, we run a particular computable process and then sit back, waiting for the process to halt, until a stage of computation arrives at which the property is verified. Similarly, in set theory, to verify that a set has a particular $\Sigma_2$ property, we sit back watching the construction of the cumulative set-theoretic universe, until a stage $V_\beta$ arrives that provides verification of the property. This is why in statement (3) we insist that $a\subset b$, since the $\Sigma_2$ properties are always upward absolute to top-extensions; once an object is placed into $\{x\mid\varphi(x)\}$, then it will never be removed as one makes the universe taller.

So the hope was that we would be able to find such a universal $\Sigma_2$ definition, which would serve as a set-theoretic analogue of the universal algorithm used in Woodin’s theorem.

If one drops the first requirement, and allows $\{x\mid \varphi(x)\}$ to sometimes be a proper class, then one can achieve a positive answer as follows.

Theorem. There is a $\Sigma_2$ formula $\varphi(x)$ with the following properties.

  1. If the GCH holds, then $\{x\mid\varphi(x)\}$ is empty.
  2. For any countable model $M\models\text{ZFC}$ where $a=\{x\mid \varphi(x)\}$ and any $b\in M$ with $a\subset b$, there is a top extension $N$ of $M$ in which $N\models\{x\mid\varphi(x)\}=b$.

Proof. Let $\varphi(x)$ assert that the set $x$ is coded into the GCH pattern. We may assume that the coding mechanism of a set is marked off by certain kinds of failures of the GCH at odd-indexed alephs, with the pattern at intervening even-indexed regular cardinals forming the coding pattern.  This is $\Sigma_2$, since any large enough $V_\theta$ will reveal whether a given set $x$ is coded in this way. And because of the manner of coding, if the GCH holds, then no set is coded. Also, if the GCH holds eventually, then only a set-sized collection is coded. Finally, any countable model $M$ where only a set is coded can be top-extended to another model $N$ in which any desired superset of that set is coded. QED

Update.  Originally, I had proposed an argument for a negative answer to the question, and I was actually a bit disappointed by that, since I had hoped for a positive answer. However, it now seems to me that the argument I had written is wrong, and I am grateful to Ali Enayat for his remarks on this in the comments. I have now deleted the incorrect argument.

Meanwhile, here is a positive answer to the question in the case of models of $V\neq\newcommand\HOD{\text{HOD}}\HOD$.

Theorem. There is a $\Sigma_2$ formula $\varphi(x)$ with the following properties:

  1. In any model of $\newcommand\ZFC{\text{ZFC}}\ZFC+V\neq\HOD$, the class $\{x\mid\varphi(x)\}$ is a set.
  2. It is relatively consistent with $\ZFC$ that $\{x\mid\varphi(x)\}$ is empty; indeed, in any model of $\ZFC+\newcommand\GCH{\text{GCH}}\GCH$, the class $\{x\mid\varphi(x)\}$ is empty.
  3. If $M\models\ZFC$ thinks that $a=\{x\mid\varphi(x)\}$ is a set and $b\in M$ is a larger set $a\subset b$, then there is a top-extension $N$ of $M$ in which $\{x\mid \varphi(x)\}=b$.

Proof. Let $\varphi(x)$ hold, if there is some ordinal $\alpha$ such that every element of $V_\alpha$ is coded into the GCH pattern below some cardinal $\delta_\alpha$, with $\delta_\alpha$ as small as possible with that property, and $x$ is the next set coded into the GCH pattern above $\delta_\alpha$. This is a $\Sigma_2$ property, since it can be verified in any sufficiently large $V_\theta$.

In any model of $\ZFC+V\neq\HOD$, there must be some sets that are no coded into the $\GCH$ pattern, for if every set is coded that way then there would be a definable well-ordering of the universe and we would have $V=\HOD$. So in any model of $V\neq\HOD$, there is a bound on the ordinals $\alpha$ for which $\delta_\alpha$ exists, and therefore $\{x\mid\varphi(x)\}$ is a set. So statement (1) holds.

Statement (2) holds, because we may arrange it so that the GCH itself implies that no set is coded at all, and so $\varphi(x)$ would always fail.

For statement (3), suppose that $M\models\ZFC+\{x\mid\varphi(x)\}=a\subseteq b$ and $M$ is countable. In $M$, there must be some minimal rank $\alpha$ for which there is a set of rank $\alpha$ that is not coded into the GCH pattern. Let $N$ be an elementary top-extension of $M$, so $N$ agrees that $\alpha$ is that minimal rank. Now, by forcing over $N$, we can arrange to code all the sets of rank $\alpha$ into the GCH pattern above the height of the original model $M$, and we can furthermore arrange so as to code any given element of $b$ just above that coding. And so on, we can iterate it so as to arrange the coding above the height of $M$ so that exactly the elements of $b$ now satisfy $\varphi(x)$, but no more. In this way, we will ensure that $N\models\{x\mid\varphi(x)\}=b$, as desired. QED

I find the situation unusual, in that often results from the models-of-arithmetic context generalize to set theory with models of $V=\HOD$, because the global well-order means that models of $V=\HOD$ have definable Skolem functions, which is true in every model of arithmetic and which sometimes figures implicitly in constructions. But here, we have the result of Woodin’s theorem generalizing from models of arithmetic to models of $V\neq\HOD$.  Perhaps this suggests that we should expect a fully positive solution for models of set theory.

Kaethe Lynn Bruesselbach Minden, PhD 2017, CUNY Graduate Center

Kaethe Lynn Bruesselbach Minden successfully defended her dissertation on April 7, 2017 at the CUNY Graduate Center, under the supervision of Professor Gunter Fuchs. I was a member of the dissertation committee, along with Arthur Apter.

Her defense was impressive!  She was a master of the entire research area, ready at hand with the technical details to support her account of any topic that arose.

Kaethe Minden + sloth

math blognylogic profilear$\chi$iv

Kaethe Minden, “On Subcomplete Forcing,” Ph.D. dissertation for The Graduate Center of the City University of New York, May, 2017. (arxiv/1705.00386)

Abstract. I survey an array of topics in set theory and their interaction with, or in the context of, a novel class of forcing notions: subcomplete forcing. Subcomplete forcing notions satisfy some desirable qualities; for example they don’t add any new reals to the model, and they admit an iteration theorem. While it is straightforward to show that any forcing notion which is countably closed is also subcomplete, it turns out that other well-known, more subtle forcing notions like Prikry forcing and Namba forcing are also subcomplete. Subcompleteness was originally defined by Ronald Björn Jensen around 2009. Jensen’s writings make up the vast majority of the literature on the subject. Indeed, the definition in and of itself is daunting. I have attempted to make the subject more approachable to set theorists, while showing various properties of subcomplete forcing which one might desire of a forcing class.

It is well-known that countably closed forcings cannot add branches through $\omega_1$-trees. I look at the interaction between subcomplete forcing and $\omega_1$-trees. It turns out that sub-complete forcing also does not add cofinal branches to $\omega_1$-trees. I show that a myriad of other properties of trees of height $\omega_1$ as explored in [FH09] are preserved by subcomplete forcing; for example, I show that the unique branch property of Suslin trees is preserved by subcomplete forcing.

Another topic I explored is the Maximality Principle ($\text{MP}$). Following in the footsteps of Hamkins [Ham03], Leibman [Lei], and Fuchs [Fuc08], [Fuc09], I examine the subcomplete maximality principle. In order to elucidate the ways in which subcomplete forcing generalizes the notion of countably closed forcing, I compare the countably closed maximality principle ($\text{MP}_{<\omega_1\text{-closed}}$) to the subcomplete maximality principle ($\text{MP}_{sc}$). Again, since countably closed forcing is subcomplete, this is a natural question to ask. I was able to show that many of the results about $\text{MP}_{<\omega_1\text{-closed}}$ also hold for $\text{MP}_{sc}$; for example, the boldface appropriate notion of $\text{MP}_{sc}$ is equiconsistent with a fully reflecting cardinal. However, it is not the case that there are direct implications between the subcomplete and countably closed maximality principles.

Another forcing principle explored in my thesis is the Resurrection Axiom ($\text{RA}$). Hamkins and Johnstone [HJ14a] defined the resurrection axiom only relative to $H_{\mathfrak{c}}$, and focus mainly on the resurrection axiom for proper forcing. They also show the equiconsistency of various resurrection axioms with an uplifting cardinal. I argue that the subcomplete resurrection axiom should naturally be considered relative to $H_{\omega_2}$, and showed that the subcomplete resurrection axiom is equiconsistent with an uplifting cardinal.

A question reasonable to ask about any class of forcings is whether or not the resurrection axiom and the maximality principle can consistently both hold for that class. I originally had this question about the full principles, not restricted to any class, but in my thesis it was appropriate to look at the question for subcomplete forcing. I answer the question positively for subcomplete forcing using a strongly uplifting fully reflecting cardinal, which is a combination of the large cardinals needed to force the principles separately. I show that the boldface versions of $\text{MP}_{sc}+\text{RA}_{sc}$ both holding is equiconsistent with the existence of a strongly uplifting fully reflecting cardinal. While Jensen [Jen14] shows that Prikry forcing is subcomplete, I long suspected that many variants of Prikry forcing which have a kind of genericity criterion are also subcomplete. After much work I managed to show that a variant of Prikry forcing known as Diagonal Prikry Forcing is subcomplete, giving another example of subcomplete forcing to add to the list.

Kaethe Minden defense

Kaethe has taken up a faculty position at Marlboro College in Vermont.

Miha E. Habič, PhD 2017, CUNY Graduate Center

Miha E. Habič successfully defended his dissertation under my supervision at the CUNY Graduate Center on April 7th, 2017, earning his Ph.D. degree in May 2017.

It was truly a pleasure to work with Miha, who is an outstanding young mathematician with enormous promise. I shall look forward to seeing his continuing work.

Miha Habic

Cantor’s paradise | MathOverflow | MathSciNet  | NY Logic profilear$\chi$iv

Miha E. Habič, “Joint Laver diamonds and grounded forcing axioms,”  Ph.D. dissertation for The Graduate Center of the City University of New York, May, 2017 (arxiv:1705.04422).

Abstract. In chapter 1 a notion of independence for diamonds and Laver diamonds is investigated. A sequence of Laver diamonds for $\kappa$ is joint if for any sequence of targets there is a single elementary embedding $j$ with critical point $\kappa$ such that each Laver diamond guesses its respective target via $j$. In the case of measurable cardinals (with similar results holding for (partially) supercompact cardinals) I show that a single Laver diamond for $\kappa$ yields a joint sequence of length $\kappa$, and I give strict separation results for all larger lengths of joint sequences. Even though the principles get strictly stronger in terms of direct implication, I show that they are all equiconsistent. This is contrasted with the case of $\theta$-strong cardinals where, for certain $\theta$, the existence of even the shortest joint Laver sequences carries nontrivial consistency strength. I also formulate a notion of jointness for ordinary $\diamondsuit_\kappa$-sequences on any regular cardinal $\kappa$. The main result concerning these shows that there is no separation according to length and a single $\diamondsuit_\kappa$-sequence yields joint families of all possible lengths.


In chapter 2 the notion of a grounded forcing axiom is introduced and explored in the case of Martin’s axiom. This grounded Martin’s axiom, a weakening of the usual axiom, states that the universe is a ccc forcing extension of some inner model and the restriction of Martin’s axiom to the posets coming from that ground model holds. I place the new axiom in the hierarchy of fragments of Martin’s axiom and examine its effects on the cardinal characteristics of the continuum. I also show that the grounded version is quite a bit more robust under mild forcing than Martin’s axiom itself.

Miha Habic defenseMiha will shortly begin a post-doctoral research position at Charles University in Prague.

Models of set theory with the same reals and the same cardinals, but which disagree on the continuum hypothesis

Terry_Marks,_Nightmare_in_a_MirrorI’d like to describe a certain interesting and surprising situation that can happen with models of set theory.

Theorem. If $\newcommand\ZFC{\text{ZFC}}\ZFC$ set theory is consistent, then there are two models of $\ZFC$ set theory $M$ and $N$ for which

  • $M$ and $N$ have the same real numbers $$\newcommand\R{\mathbb{R}}\R^M=\R^N.$$
  • $M$ and $N$ have the ordinals and the same cardinals $$\forall\alpha\qquad \aleph_\alpha^M=\aleph_\alpha^N$$
  • But $M$ thinks that the continuum hypothesis $\newcommand\CH{\text{CH}}\CH$ is true, while $N$ thinks that $\CH$ is false.

This is a little strange, since the two models have the set $\R$ in common and they agree on the cardinal numbers, but $M$ thinks that $\R$ has size $\aleph_1$ and $N$ will think that $\R$ has size $\aleph_2$.  In particular, $M$ can well-order the reals in order type $\omega_1$ and $N$ can do so in order-type $\omega_2$, even though the two models have the same reals and they agree that these order types have different cardinalities.

Another abstract way to describe what is going on is that even if two models of set theory, even transitive models, agree on which ordinals are cardinals, they needn’t agree on which sets are equinumerous, for sets they have in common, even for the reals.

Let me emphasize that it is the requirement that the models have the same cardinals that makes the problem both subtle and surprising. If you drop that requirement, then the problem is an elementary exercise in forcing: start with any model $V$, and first force $\CH$ to fail in $V[H]$ by adding a lot of Cohen reals, then force to $V[G]$ by collapsing the continuum to $\aleph_1$. This second step adds no new reals and forces $\CH$, and so $V[G]$ and $V[H]$ will have the same reals, while $V[H]$ thinks $\CH$ is true and $V[G]$ thinks $\CH$ is false. The problem becomes nontrivial and interesting mainly when you insist that cardinals are not collapsed.

In fact, the situation described in the theorem can be forced over any given model of $\ZFC$.

Theorem. Every model of set theory $V\models\ZFC$ has two set-forcing extensions $V[G]$ and $V[H]$ for which

  • $V[G]$ and $V[H]$ have the same real numbers $$\newcommand\R{\mathbb{R}}\R^{V[G]}=\R^{V[H]}.$$
  • $V[G]$ and $V[H]$ have the same cardinals $$\forall\alpha\qquad \aleph_\alpha^{V[G]}=\aleph_\alpha^{V[H]}$$
  • But $V[G]$ thinks that the continuum hypothesis $\CH$ is true, while $V[H]$ thinks that $\CH$ is false.

Proof. Start in any model $V\models\ZFC$, and by forcing if necessary, let’s assume $\CH$ holds in $V$. Let $H\subset\text{Add}(\omega,\omega_2)$ be $V$-generic for the forcing to add $\omega_2$ many Cohen reals. So $V[H]$ satisfies $\neg\CH$ and has the same ordinals and cardinals as $V$.

Next, force over $V[H]$ using the forcing from $V$ to collapse $\omega_2$ to $\omega_1$, forming the extension $V[H][g]$, where $g$ is the generic bijection between those ordinals. Since we used the forcing in $V$, which is countably closed there, it makes sense to consider $V[g]$.  In this extension, the forcing $\text{Add}(\omega,\omega_1^V)$ and $\text{Add}(\omega,\omega_2^V)$ are isomorphic. Since $H$ is $V[g]$-generic for the latter, let $G=g\mathrel{“}H$ be the image of this filter in $\text{Add}(\omega,\omega_1)$, which is therefore $V[g]$-generic for the former. So $V[g][G]=V[g][H]$. Since the forcing $\text{Add}(\omega,\omega_1)$ is c.c.c., it follows that $V[G]$ also has the same cardinals as $V$ and hence also the same as in $V[H]$.

If we now view these extensions as $V[G][g]=V[H][g]$ and note that the coutable closure of $g$ in $V$ implies that $g$ adds no new reals over either $V[G]$ or $V[H]$, it follows that $\R^{V[G]}=\R^{V[H]}$. So the two models have the same reals and the same cardinals. But $V[G]$ has $\CH$ and $V[H]$ has $\neg\CH$, in light of the forcing, and so the proof is complete. QED

Let me prove the following surprising generalization.

Theorem. If $V$ is any model of $\ZFC$ and $V[G]$ is the forcing extension obtained by adding $\kappa$ many Cohen reals, for some uncountable $\kappa$, then for any other uncountable cardinal $\lambda$, there is another forcing extension $V[H]$ where $H$ is $V$-generic for the forcing to add $\lambda$ many Cohen reals, yet $\R^{V[G]}=\R^{V[H]}$.

Proof. Start in $V[G]$, and let $g$ be $V[G]$-generic to collapse $\lambda$ to $\kappa$, using the collapse forcing of the ground model $V$. This forcing is countably closed in $V$ and therefore does not add reals over $V[G]$. In $V[g]$, the two forcing notions $\text{Add}(\omega,\kappa)$ and $\text{Add}(\omega,\lambda)$ are isomorphic. Thus, since $G$ is $V[g]$-generic for the former poset, it follows that the image $H=g\mathrel{“}G$ is $V[g]$-generic for the latter poset. So $V[H]$ is generic over $V$ for adding $\lambda$ many Cohen reals. By construction, we have $V[G][g]=V[H][g]$, and since $g$ doesn’t add reals, it follows that $\R^{V[G]}=\R^{V[H]}$, as desired. QED

I have a vague recollection of having first heard of this problem many years ago, perhaps as a graduate student, although I don’t quite recall where it was or indeed what the construction was — the argument above is my reconstruction (which I have updated and extended from my initial post). If someone could provide a reference in the comments for due credit, I’d be appreciative.  The problem appeared a few years ago on MathOverflow.

Worldly cardinals are not always downwards absolute


UniversumI recently came to realize that worldly cardinals are not necessarily downward absolute to transitive inner models. That is, it can happen that a cardinal $\kappa$ is worldly in the full set-theoretic universe $V$, but not in some transitive inner model $W$, even when $W$ is itself a model of ZFC. The observation came out of some conversations I had with Alexander Block from Hamburg during his recent research visit to New York. Let me explain the argument.

A cardinal $\kappa$ is inaccessible, if it is an uncountable regular strong limit cardinal. The structure $V_\kappa$, consisting of the rank-initial segment of the set-theoretic universe up to $\kappa$, which can be generated from the empty set by applying the power set operation $\kappa$ many times, has many nice features. In particular, it is transitive model of $\newcommand\ZFC{\text{ZFC}}\ZFC$. The models $V_\kappa$ for $\kappa$ inaccessible are precisely the uncountable Grothendieck universes used in category theory.

Although the inaccessible cardinals are often viewed as the entryway to the large cardinal hierarchy, there is a useful large cardinal concept weaker than inaccessibility. Namely, a cardinal $\kappa$ is worldly, if $V_\kappa$ is a model of $\ZFC$. Every inaccessible cardinal is worldly, and in fact a limit of worldly cardinals, because if $\kappa$ is inaccessible, then there is an elementary chain of cardinals $\lambda<\kappa$ with $V_\lambda\prec V_\kappa$, and all such $\lambda$ are worldly. The regular worldly cardinals are precisely the inaccessible cardinals, but the least worldly cardinal is always singular of cofinality $\omega$.

The worldly cardinals can be seen as a kind of poor-man’s inaccessible cardinal, in that worldliness often suffices in place of inaccessibility in many arguments, and this sometimes allows one to weaken a large cardinal hypothesis. But meanwhile, they do have some significant strengths. For example, if $\kappa$ is worldly, then $V_\kappa$ satisfies the principle that every set is an element of a transitive model of $\ZFC$.

It is easy to see that inaccessibility is downward absolute, in the sense that if $\kappa$ is inaccessible in the full set-theoretic universe $V$ and $W\newcommand\of{\subseteq}\of V$ is a transitive inner model of $\ZFC$, then $\kappa$ is also inaccessible in $W$. The reason is that $\kappa$ cannot be singular in $W$, since any short cofinal sequence in $W$ would still exist in $V$; and it cannot fail to be a strong limit there, since if some $\delta<\kappa$ had $\kappa$-many distinct subsets in $W$, then this injection would still exist in $V$. So inaccessibility is downward absolute.

The various degrees of hyper-inaccessibility are also downwards absolute to inner models, so that if $\kappa$ is an inaccessible limit of inaccessible limits of inaccessible cardinals, for example, then this is also true in any inner model. This downward absoluteness extends all the way through the hyperinaccessibility hierarchy and up to the Mahlo cardinals and beyond. A cardinal $\kappa$ is Mahlo, if it is a strong limit and the regular cardinals below $\kappa$ form a stationary set. We have observed that being regular is downward absolute, and it is easy to see that every stationary set $S$ is stationary in every inner model, since otherwise there would be a club set $C$ disjoint from $S$ in the inner model, and this club would still be a club in $V$. Similarly, the various levels of hyper-Mahloness are also downward absolute.

So these smallish large cardinals are generally downward absolute. How about the worldly cardinals? Well, we can prove first off that worldliness is downward absolute to the constructible universe $L$.

Observation. If $\kappa$ is worldly, then it is worldly in $L$.

Proof. If $\kappa$ is worldly, then $V_\kappa\models\ZFC$. This implies that $\kappa$ is a beth-fixed point. The $L$ of $V_\kappa$, which is a model of $\ZFC$, is precisely $L_\kappa$, which is also the $V_\kappa$ of $L$, since $\kappa$ must also be a beth-fixed point in $L$. So $\kappa$ is worldly in $L$. QED

But meanwhile, in the general case, worldliness is not downward absolute.

Theorem. Worldliness is not necessarily downward absolute to all inner models. It is relatively consistent with $\ZFC$ that there is a worldly cardinal $\kappa$ and an inner model $W\of V$, such that $\kappa$ is not worldly in $W$.

Proof. Suppose that $\kappa$ is a singular worldly cardinal in $V$. And by forcing if necessary, let us assume the GCH holds in $V$. Let $V[G]$ be the forcing extension where we perform the Easton product forcing $\newcommand\P{\mathbb{P}}\P$, so as to force a violation of the GCH at every regular cardinal $\gamma$. So the stage $\gamma$ forcing is $\newcommand\Q{\mathbb{Q}}\Q_\gamma=\text{Add}(\gamma,\gamma^{++})$.

First, I shall prove that $\kappa$ is worldly in the forcing extension $V[G]$. Since every set of rank less than $\kappa$ is added by some stage less than $\kappa$, it follows that $V_\kappa^{V[G]}$ is precisely $\bigcup_{\gamma<\kappa} V_\kappa[G_\gamma]$. Most of the $\ZFC$ axioms hold easily in $V_\kappa^{V[G]}$; the only difficult case is the collection axiom. And for this, by considering the ranks of witnesses, it suffices to show for every $\gamma<\kappa$ that every function $f:\gamma\to\kappa$ that is definable from parameters in $V_\kappa^{V[G]}$ is bounded. Suppose we have such a function, defined by $f(\alpha)=\beta$ just in case $\varphi(\alpha,\beta,p)$ holds in $V_\kappa^{V[G]}$. Let $\delta<\kappa$ be larger than the rank of $p$. Now consider $V_\kappa[G_\delta]$, which is a set-forcing extension of $V_\kappa$ and therefore a model of $\ZFC$. The fail forcing, from stage $\delta$ up to $\kappa$, is homogeneous in this model. And therefore we know that $f(\alpha)=\beta$ just in case $1$ forces $\varphi(\check\alpha,\check\beta,\check p)$, since these arguments are all in the ground model $V_\kappa[G_\delta]$. So the function is already definable in $V_\kappa[G_\delta]$. Because this is a model of $\ZFC$, the function $f$ is bounded below $\kappa$. So we get the collection axiom in $V_\kappa^{V[G]}$ and hence all of $\ZFC$ there, and so $\kappa$ is worldly in $V[G]$.

For any $A\of\kappa$, let $\P_A$ be the restriction of the Easton product forcing to include only the stages in $A$, and let $G_A$ be the corresponding generic filter. The full forcing $\P$ factors as $\P_A\times\P_{\kappa\setminus A}$, and so $V[G_A]\of V[G]$ is a transitive inner model of $\ZFC$.

But if we pick $A\of\kappa$ to be a short cofinal set in $\kappa$, which is possible because $\kappa$ is singular, then $\kappa$ will not be worldly in the inner model $V[G_A]$, since in $V_\kappa[G_A]$ we will be able to identify that sequence as the places where the GCH fails. So $\kappa$ is not worldly in $V[G_A]$.

In summary, $\kappa$ was worldly in $V[G]$, but not in the transitive inner model $W=V[G_A]$, and so worldliness is not downward absolute. QED

The definable cut of a model of set theory can be changed by small forcing

Cupid carving his bow -- ParmigianinoIf $M$ is a model of ZFC set theory, let $I$ be the definable cut of its ordinals, the collection of ordinals that are below an ordinal $\delta$ of $M$ that is definable in $M$ without parameters. This would include all the ordinals of $M$, if the definable ordinals happen to be unbounded in $M$, but one can also construct examples where the definable cut is bounded in $M$.  Let $M_I$ be the corresponding definable cut of $M$ itself, the rank-initial segment of $M$ determined by $I$, or in other words, the collection of all sets $x$ in $M$ of rank below a definable ordinal of $M$. Equivalently, $$M_I=\bigcup_{\delta\in I} V_\delta^M.$$ It is not difficult to see that this is an elementary substructure $M_I\prec M$, because we can verify the Tarski-Vaught criterion as follows. If $M\models\exists y\ \varphi(x,y)$, where $x\in M_I$, then let $\delta$ be a definable ordinal above the rank of $x$. In this case, the ordinal $\theta$, which is the supremum over all $a\in V_\delta$ of the minimal rank of a set $y$ for which $\varphi(a,y)$, if there is such a $y$. This supremum $\theta$ is definable, and so since $x\in V_\delta$, the minimal rank of a $y$ such that $\varphi(x,y)$ is at most $\theta$. Consequently, since $\theta\in I$, such a $y$ can be found in $M_I$. So we have found the desired witness inside the substructure, and so it is elementary $M_I\prec M$. Note that in the general case, one does not necessarily know that $I$ has a least upper bound in $M$. Under suitable assumptions, it can happen that $I$ is unbounded in $M$, that $I$ is an ordinal of $M$, or that $I$ is bounded in $M$, but has no least upper bound.

What I am interested in for this post is how the definable cut might be affected by forcing. Of course, it is easy to see that if $M$ is definable in $M[G]$, then the definable cut of $M[G]$ is at least as high as the definable cut of $M$, simply because the definable ordinals of $M$ remain definable in $M[G]$.

A second easy observation is that if the definable cut of $M$ is bounded in $M$, then we could perform large collapse forcing, collapsing a cardinal above $I$ to $\omega$, which would of course make every cardinal of $I$ countable in the extension $M[G]$. In this case, since $\omega_1^{M[G]}$ is definable, it would change the definable cut. So this kind of very large forcing can change the definable cut, making it larger.

But what about small forcing? Suppose that the forcing notion $\newcommand\P{\mathbb{P}}\P$ we intend to forcing with is small in the sense that it is in the definable cut $M_I$. This would be true if $\P$ itself were definable, for example, but really we only require that $\P$ has rank less than some definable ordinal of $M$. Can this forcing change the definable cut?

Let me show at least that the definable cut can never go up after small forcing.

Theorem. If $G\subset\P$ is $M$-generic for forcing $\P$ in the definable cut of $M$, then the definable cut of $M[G]$ is below or the same in the ordinals as it was in $M$.

Proof. Suppose that $G\subset\P$ is $M$-generic, and we consider the forcing extension $M[G]$. We have already proved that $M_I\prec M$ is an elementary submodel. I claim that this relation lifts to the forcing extension $M_I[G]\prec M[G]$. Note first that since $\P\in M_I$ and $M_I$ is a rank initial segment of $M$, it follows that $M_I$ has all the subsets of $\P$ in $M$, and so $G$ is $M_I$-generic. So the extension $M_I[G]$ makes sense. Next, suppose that $M[G]\models\varphi(a)$ for some $a\in M_I[G]$. If $\dot a$ is a name for $a$ in $M_I$, then there is some condition $p\in G$ forcing $\varphi(\dot a)$ over $M$. Since $M_I\prec M$, this is also forced by $p$ over $M_I$, and thus $M_I[G]\models\varphi(a)$ as well, as desired. So $M_I[G]\prec M[G]$, and from this it follows that every definable ordinal of $M[G]$ is in the cut $I$. So the definable cut did not get higher. QED

But can it go down? Not if the model $M$ is definable in $M[G]$, by our earlier easy observation. Consequently,

Theorem. If $M$ is definable in $M[G]$, where $G\subset\P$ is $M$-generic for forcing $\P$ below the definable cut of $M$, then the definable cut of $M[G]$ is the same as the definable cut of $M$.

Proof. It didn’t go down, since $M$ is definable in $M[G]$; and it didn’t go up, since $\P$ was small. QED

What if $M$ is not definable in $M[G]$? Can we make the definable cut go down after small forcing? The answer is yes.

Theorem. If ZFC is consistent, then there is a model $M\models\text{ZFC}$ with a definable notion of forcing $\P$ (hence in the definable cut of $M$), such that if $G\subset\P$ is $M$-generic, then the definable cut of the forcing extension $M[G]$ is strictly shorter than the definable cut of $M[G]$.

Proof. Start with a model of $\text{ZFC}+V=L$, whose definable ordinals are bounded by a cardinal $\delta$. Let’s call it $L$, and let $I$ be the definable cut of $L$, which we assume is bounded by $\delta$. Let $M=L[G]$ be the forcing extension of $L$ obtained by performing an Easton product, adding a Cohen subset to every regular cardinal above $\delta$ in $L$. Since this forcing adds no sets below $\delta$, but adds a Cohen set at $\delta^+$, it follows that $\delta$ becomes definable in $L[G]$. In fact, since the forcing is homogeneous and definable from $\delta$, it follows that the definable ordinals of $L[G]$ are precisely the ordinals that are definable in $L$ with parameter $\delta$. These may be bounded or unbounded in $L[G]$. Now, let $\newcommand\Q{\mathbb{Q}}\Q$ be the Easton product forcing at the stages below $\delta$, and suppose that $G\subset\Q$ is $L[G]$-generic. Consider the model $L[G][H]$. Note that the forcing $\Q$ is definable in $L[G]$, since $\delta$ is definable there. This two-step forcing can be combined into one giant Easton product in $L$, the product that simply forces to add a Cohen subset to every regular cardinal. Since this version of the forcing is homogeneous and definable in $L$, it follows that the definable ordinals of $L[G][H]$ are precisely the definable ordinals of $L$, which are bounded by $I$. In summary, the definable cut of $L[G]$ is strictly above $\delta$, since $\delta$ is definable in $L[G]$, and the forcing $\Q$ has size and rank $\delta$; but the forcing extension $L[G][H]$ has definable cut $I$, which is strictly bounded by $\delta$. So the definable cut was made smaller by small forcing, as claimed. QED

This post is an account of some ideas that Alexander Block and I had noted today during the course of our mathematical investigation of another matter.

Regula Krapf, Ph.D. 2017, University of Bonn

Regula Krapf successfully defended her PhD dissertation January 12, 2017 at the University of Bonn, with a dissertation entitled, “Class forcing and second-order arithmetic.”  I was a member of the dissertation examining committee. Peter Koepke was the dissertation supervisor.

Regula Krapf

Regula Krapf, Class forcing and second-order arithmetic, dissertation 2017, University of Bonn. (Slides)

Abstract. We provide a framework in a generalization of Gödel-Bernays set theory for performing class forcing. The forcing theorem states that the forcing relation is a (definable) class in the ground model (definability lemma) and that every statement that holds in a class-generic extension is forced by a condition in the generic filter (truth lemma). We prove both positive and negative results concerning the forcing theorem. On the one hand, we show that the definability lemma for one atomic formula implies the forcing theorem for all formulae in the language of set theory to hold. Furthermore, we introduce several properties which entail the forcing theorem. On the other hand, we give both counterexamples to the definability lemma and the truth lemma. In set forcing, the forcing theorem can be proved for all forcing notions by constructing a unique Boolean completion. We show that in class forcing the existence of a Boolean completion is essentially equivalent to the forcing theorem and, moreover, Boolean completions need not be unique.

The notion of pretameness was introduced to characterize those forcing notions which preserve the axiom scheme of replacement. We present several new characterizations of pretameness in terms of the forcing theorem, the preservation of separation, the existence of nice names for sets of ordinals and several other properties. Moreover, for each of the aforementioned properties we provide a corresponding characterization of the Ord-chain condition.

Finally, we prove two equiconsistency results which compare models of ZFC (with large cardinal properties) and models of second-order arithmetic with topological regularity properties (and determinacy hypotheses). We apply our previous results on class forcing to show that many important arboreal forcing notions preserve the $\Pi^1_1$-perfect set property over models of second-order arithmetic and also give an example of a forcing notion which implies the $\Pi^1_1$-perfect set property to fail in the generic extension.

Regula has now taken up a faculty position at the University of Koblenz.

The rearrangement number

  • A. Blass, J. Brendle, W. Brian, J. D. Hamkins, M. Hardy, and P. B. Larson, “The rearrangement number.” (manuscript under review)  
    author = {Andreas Blass and J\"org Brendle and Will Brian and Joel David Hamkins and Michael Hardy and Paul B. Larson},
    title = {The rearrangement number},
    journal = {},
    year = {},
    volume = {},
    number = {},
    pages = {},
    month = {},
    note = {manuscript under review},
    url = {},
    eprint = {1612.07830},
    archivePrefix = {arXiv},
    primaryClass = {math.LO},
    abstract = {},
    keywords = {},
    source = {},

Abstract.  How many permutations of the natural numbers are needed so that every conditionally convergent series of real numbers can be rearranged to no longer converge to the same sum? We show that the minimum number of permutations needed for this purpose, which we call the rearrangement number, is uncountable, but whether it equals the cardinal of the continuum is independent of the usual axioms of
set theory. We compare the rearrangement number with several natural variants, for example one obtained by requiring the rearranged series to still converge but to a new, finite limit. We also compare the rearrangement number with several well-studied
cardinal characteristics of the continuum. We present some new forcing constructions designed to add permutations that rearrange series from the ground model in particular ways, thereby obtaining consistency results going beyond those that follow from comparisons with familiar cardinal characteristics. Finally we deal briefly with some variants concerning rearrangements by a special sort of permutations and with rearranging some divergent series to become (conditionally) convergent.

This project started with Michael Hardy’s question on MathOverflow, How many rearrangements must fail to alter the value of a sum before you conclude that none do? I had proposed in my answer that we should think of the cardinal in question as a cardinal characteristic of the continuum, the rearrangement number, since we could prove that it was uncountable and that it was the continuum under MA, and had begun to separate it from other familiar cardinal characteristics. Eventually, the research effort grew into the collaboration of this paper. What a lot of fun!

Colloquium talk at Vassar | Lecture notes talk at CUNY | the original MathOverflow question

Here are the lecture notes for an introductory talk on the topic I had given at the Vassar College Mathematics Colloquium

Recent advances in set-theoretic geology, Harvard Logic Colloquium, October 2016

I will speak at the Harvard Logic Colloquium, October 20, 2016, 4-6 pm.


Abstract. Set-theoretic geology is the study of the set-theoretic universe $V$ in the context of all its ground models and those of its forcing extensions. For example, a bedrock of the universe is a minimal ground model of it and the mantle is the intersection of all grounds. In this talk, I shall explain some recent advances, including especially the breakthrough result of Toshimichi Usuba, who proved the strong downward directed grounds hypothesis: for any set-indexed family of grounds, there is a deeper common ground below them all. This settles a large number of formerly open questions in set-theoretic geology, while also leading to new questions. It follows, for example, that the mantle is a model of ZFC and provably the largest forcing-invariant definable class. Strong downward directedness has also led to an unexpected connection between large cardinals and forcing: if there is a hyper-huge cardinal $\kappa$, then the universe indeed has a bedrock and all grounds use only $\kappa$-small forcing.


The rearrangement number: how many rearrangements of a series suffice to verify absolute convergence? Mathematics Colloquium at Penn, September 2016

This will be a talk for the Mathematics Colloquium at the University of Pennsylvania, Wednesday, September 14, 2016, 3:30 pm, tea at 3 pm, in the mathematics department.

UPenn Campus
Abstract. The well-known 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. But 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 exact value of the rearrangement number turns out to be independent of the axioms of set theory. In this talk, I shall place the rearrangement number into a discussion of cardinal characteristics of the continuum, including an elementary introduction to the continuum hypothesis and, time permitting, an account of Freiling’s axiom of symmetry.

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

Related MathOverflow post: How many rearrangements must fail to alter the value of a sum before you conclude that none do?

Set-theoretic geology and the downward-directed grounds hypothesis, CUNY Set Theory seminar, September 2016

This will be a talk for the CUNY Set Theory Seminar, September 2 and 9, 2016.

Blender3D EarthQuarterCut.jpgIn two talks, I shall give a complete detailed account of Toshimichi Usuba’s recent proof of the strong downward-directed grounds hypothesis.  This breakthrough result answers what had been for ten years the central open question in the area of set-theoretic geology and leads immediately to numerous consequences that settle many other open questions in the area, as well as to a sharpening of some of the central concepts of set-theoretic geology, such as the fact that the mantle coincides with the generic mantle and is a model of ZFC.

Although forcing is often viewed as a method of constructing larger models extending a given model of set theory, the topic of set-theoretic geology inverts this perspective by investigating how the current set-theoretic universe $V$ might itself have arisen as a forcing extension of an inner model.  Thus, an inner model $W\subset V$ is a ground of $V$ if we can realize $V=W[G]$ as a forcing extension of $W$ by some $W$-generic filter $G\subset\mathbb{Q}\in W$.  It is a consequence of the ground-model definability theorem that every such $W$ is definable from parameters, and from this it follows that many second-order-seeming questions about the structure of grounds turn out to be first-order expressible in the language of set theory.

For example, Reitz had inquired in his dissertation whether any two grounds of $V$ must have a common deeper ground. Fuchs, myself and Reitz introduced the downward-directed grounds hypothesis DDG and the strong DDG, which asserts a positive answer, even for any set-indexed collection of grounds, and we showed that this axiom has many interesting consequences for set-theoretic geology.

Last year, Usuba proved the strong DDG, and I shall give a complete account of the proof, with some simplifications I had noticed. I shall also present Usuba’s related result that if there is a hyper-huge cardinal, then there is a bedrock model, a smallest ground. I find this to be a surprising and incredible result, as it shows that large cardinal existence axioms have consequences on the structure of grounds for the universe.

Among the consequences of Usuba’s result I shall prove are:

  1. Bedrock models are unique when they exist.
  2. The mantle is absolute by forcing.
  3. The mantle is a model of ZFC.
  4. The mantle is the same as the generic mantle.
  5. The mantle is the largest forcing-invariant class, and equal to the intersection of the generic multiverse.
  6. The inclusion relation agrees with the ground-of relation in the generic multiverse. That is, if $N\subset M$ are in the same generic multiverse, then $N$ is a ground of $M$.
  7. If ZFC is consistent, then the ZFC-provably valid downward principles of forcing are exactly S4.2.
  8. (Usuba) If there is a hyper-huge cardinal, then there is a bedrock for the universe.

Related topics in set-theoretic geology:

CUNY Set theory seminar abstract I | abstract II

The Vopěnka principle is inequivalent to but conservative over the Vopěnka scheme

  • J. D. Hamkins, “The Vopěnka principle is inequivalent to but conservative over the Vopěnka scheme.” (manuscript under review)  
    author = {Joel David Hamkins},
    title = {The {Vop\v{e}nka} principle is inequivalent to but conservative over the {Vop\v{e}nka} scheme},
    journal = {},
    year = {},
    volume = {},
    number = {},
    pages = {},
    month = {},
    note = {manuscript under review},
    abstract = {},
    keywords = {},
    source = {},
    eprint = {1606.03778},
    archivePrefix = {arXiv},
    primaryClass = {math.LO},
    url = {},

Abstract. The Vopěnka principle, which asserts that every proper class of first-order structures in a common language admits an elementary embedding between two of its members, is not equivalent over GBC to the first-order Vopěnka scheme, which makes the Vopěnka assertion only for the first-order definable classes of structures. Nevertheless, the two Vopěnka axioms are equiconsistent and they have exactly the same first-order consequences in the language of set theory. Specifically, GBC plus the Vopěnka principle is conservative over ZFC plus the Vopěnka scheme for first-order assertions in the language of set theory.

Indras Net-03

The Vopěnka principle is the assertion that for every proper class $\mathcal{M}$ of first-order $\mathcal{L}$-structures, for a set-sized language $\mathcal{L}$, there are distinct members of the class $M,N\in\mathcal{M}$ with an elementary embedding $j:M\to N$ between them. In quantifying over classes, this principle is a single assertion in the language of second-order set theory, and it makes sense to consider the Vopěnka principle in the context of a second-order set theory, such as Godel-Bernays set theory GBC, whose language allows one to quantify over classes. In this article, GBC includes the global axiom of choice.

In contrast, the first-order Vopěnka scheme makes the Vopěnka assertion only for the first-order definable classes $\mathcal{M}$ (allowing parameters). This theory can be expressed as a scheme of first-order statements, one for each possible definition of a class, and it makes sense to consider the Vopěnka scheme in Zermelo-Frankael ZFC set theory with the axiom of choice.

Because the Vopěnka principle is a second-order assertion, it does not make sense to refer to it in the context of ZFC set theory, whose first-order language does not allow quantification over classes; one typically retreats to the Vopěnka scheme in that context. The theme of this article is to investigate the precise meta-mathematical interactions between these two treatments of Vopěnka’s idea.

Main Theorems.

  1. If ZFC and the Vopěnka scheme holds, then there is a class forcing extension, adding classes but no sets, in which GBC and the Vopěnka scheme holds, but the Vopěnka principle fails.
  2. If ZFC and the Vopěnka scheme holds, then there is a class forcing extension, adding classes but no sets, in which GBC and the Vopěnka principle holds.

It follows that the Vopěnka principle VP and the Vopěnka scheme VS are not equivalent, but they are equiconsistent and indeed, they have the same first-order consequences.


  1. Over GBC, the Vopěnka principle and the Vopěnka scheme, if consistent, are not equivalent.
  2. Nevertheless, the two Vopěnka axioms are equiconsistent over GBC.
  3. Indeed, the two Vopěnka axioms have exactly the same first-order consequences in the language of set theory. Specifically, GBC plus the Vopěnka principle is conservative over ZFC plus the Vopěnka scheme for assertions in the first-order language of set theory. $$\text{GBC}+\text{VP}\vdash\phi\qquad\text{if and only if}\qquad\text{ZFC}+\text{VS}\vdash\phi$$

These results grew out of my my answer to a MathOverflow question of Mike Shulman, Can Vopěnka’s principle be violated definably?, inquiring whether there would always be a definable counterexample to the Vopěnka principle, whenever it should happen to fail. I interpret the question as asking whether the Vopěnka scheme is necessarily equivalent to the Vopěnka principle, and the answer is negative.

The proof of the main theorem involves the concept of a stretchable set $g\subset\kappa$ for an $A$-extendible cardinal, which has the property that for every cardinal $\lambda>\kappa$ and every extension $h\subset\lambda$ with $h\cap\kappa=g$, there is an elementary embedding $j:\langle V_\lambda,\in,A\cap V_\lambda\rangle\to\langle V_\theta,\in,A\cap V_\theta\rangle$ such that $j(g)\cap\lambda=h$. Thus, the set $g$ can be stretched by an $A$-extendibility embedding so as to agree with any given $h$.

Jacob Davis, PhD 2016, Carnegie Mellon University

Jacob Davis successfully defended his dissertation, “Universal Graphs at $\aleph_{\omega_1+1}$ and Set-theoretic Geology,” at Carnegie Mellon University on April 29, 2016, under the supervision of James Cummings. I was on the dissertation committee (participating via Google Hangouts), along with Ernest Schimmerling and Clinton Conley.

Jacob Davis

CMU web pageGoogle+ profile | ar$\chi$iv

The thesis consisted of two main parts. In the first half, starting from a model of ZFC with a supercompact cardinal, Jacob constructed a model in which $2^{\aleph_{\omega_1}} = 2^{\aleph_{\omega_1+1}} = \aleph_{\omega_1+3}$ and in which there is a jointly universal family of size $\aleph_{\omega_1+2}$ of graphs on $\aleph_{\omega_1+1}$.  The same technique works with any uncountable cardinal in place of $\omega_1$.  In the second half, Jacob proved a variety of results in the area of set-theoretic geology, including several instances of the downward directed grounds hypothesis, including an analysis of the chain condition of the resulting ground models.

Giorgio Audrito, PhD 2016, University of Torino

Dr. Giorgio Audrito has successfully defended his dissertation, “Generic large cardinals and absoluteness,” at the University of Torino under the supervision of Matteo Viale.

The dissertation Examing Board consisted of myself (serving as Presidente), Alessandro Andretta and Sean Cox.  The defense took place March 2, 2016.

Giorgio Audrito defense (small)

The dissertation was impressive, introducing (in joint work with Matteo Viale) the iterated resurrection axioms $\text{RA}_\alpha(\Gamma)$ for a forcing class $\Gamma$, which extend the idea of the resurrection axioms from my work with Thomas Johnstone, The resurrection axioms and uplifting cardinals, by making successive extensions of the same type, forming the resurrection game, and insisting that that the resurrection player have a winning strategy with game value $\alpha$. A similar iterative game idea underlies the $(\alpha)$-uplifting cardinals, from which the consistency of the iterated resurrection axioms can be proved. A final chapter of the dissertation (joint with Silvia Steila), develops the notion of $C$-systems of filters, generalizing the more familiar concepts of extenders and towers.

Upward closure and amalgamation in the generic multiverse of a countable model of set theory

  • J. D. Hamkins, “Upward closure and amalgamation in the generic multiverse of a countable model of set theory,” RIMS Kyôkyûroku, pp. 17-31, 2016. (also available as Newton Institute preprint ni15066)  
    author = {Joel David Hamkins},
    title = {Upward closure and amalgamation in the generic multiverse of a countable model of set theory},
    journal = {RIMS {Ky\^oky\^uroku}},
    year = {2016},
    volume = {},
    number = {},
    pages = {17--31},
    month = {April},
    note = {also available as Newton Institute preprint ni15066},
    url = {},
    eprint = {1511.01074},
    archivePrefix = {arXiv},
    primaryClass = {math.LO},
    abstract = {},
    keywords = {},
    source = {},
    issn = {1880-2818},

Abstract. I prove several theorems concerning upward closure and amalgamation in the generic multiverse of a countable transitive model of set theory. Every such model $W$ has forcing extensions $W[c]$ and $W[d]$ by adding a Cohen real, which cannot be amalgamated in any further extension, but some nontrivial forcing notions have all their extensions amalgamable. An increasing chain $W[G_0]\subseteq W[G_1]\subseteq\cdots$ has an upper bound $W[H]$ if and only if the forcing had uniformly bounded essential size in $W$. Every chain $W\subseteq W[c_0]\subseteq W[c_1]\subseteq \cdots$ of extensions adding Cohen reals is bounded above by $W[d]$ for some $W$-generic Cohen real $d$.

This article is based upon I talk I gave at the conference on Recent Developments in Axiomatic Set Theory at the Research Institute for Mathematical Sciences (RIMS) at Kyoto University, Japan in September, 2015, and I am extremely grateful to my Japanese hosts, especially Toshimichi Usuba, for supporting my research visit there and also at the CTFM conference at Tokyo Institute of Technology just preceding it. This article includes material adapted from section section 2 of Set-theoretic geology, joint with G. Fuchs, myself and J. Reitz, and also includes a theorem that was proved in a series of conversations I had with Giorgio Venturi at the Young Set Theory Workshop 2011 in Bonn and continuing at the London 2011 summer school on set theory at Birkbeck University London.