The sentence asserting its own non-forceability by nontrivial forcing

At the meeting here in Konstanz, Giorgo Venturi and I considered the sentence $\sigma$, which asserts its own non-forceability by nontrivial forcing. That is, $\sigma$ asserts that there is no nontrivial forcing notion forcing $\sigma$. $$\sigma\quad\iff\quad \neg\exists\mathbb{B}\ \Vdash_{\mathbb{B}}\sigma.$$ The sentence $\sigma$ would be a fixed-point of the predicate for not being nontrivially forceable.

In any model of set theory $V$ in which $\sigma$ is true, then in light of what it asserts, it would not be forceable by nontrivial forcing, and so it would be false in all nontrivial forcing extensions of that model $V[G]$. And in any model $W$ where it is false, then because of what it asserts, it would be nontrivially forceable, and so it would be true in some forcing extension of that model $W[G]$.

But this is a contradiction! It cannot ever be true, since if it were true in $V$, it would have to be false in all extensions $V[G]$, and therefore true in some subsequent extension $V[G][H]$. But that model is a forcing extension of $V$, contradicting the claim that it is false in all such extensions.

So it must always be false, but this can’t happen, since then in any given model, in light of what it asserts, it would have to be true. So it cannot ever be true or false.

Conclusion: there is no such sentence σ that asserts its own nontrivial forceability. This is no fixed-point for not being nontrivially forceable.

But doesn’t this contradict the fixed-point lemma? After all, the fixed-point lemma shows that we can produce fixed points for any expressible assertion.

The resolution of the conundrum is that although for any given assertion $\varphi$, we can express “$\varphi$ is forceable”, we cannot express “x is the Gödel code of a forceable sentence”, for reasons similar to those for Tarski’s theorem on the nondefinability of truth.

Therefore, we are not actually in a situation to apply the fixed-point lemma. And ultimately the argument shows that there can be no sentence $\sigma$ that asserts “$\sigma$ is not forceable by nontrivial forcing”.

Ultimately, I find the logic of this sentence $\sigma$, asserting its own non-nontrivial forceability, to be a set-theoretic forcing analogue of the Yablo paradox. The sentence holds in a model of set theory whenever it fails in all subsequent models obtained by forcing, and that relation is exactly what arises in the Yablo paradox.

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

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

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

I shall make several contributions to the meeting.

Master class tutorial on potentialism

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

The multiverse view on the axiom of constructibility

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Naturality in mathematics and the hierarchy of consistency strength, University of Konstanz, July 2021

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.