A multiverse perspective on the axiom of constructiblity

  • [DOI] J. D. Hamkins, “A multiverse perspective on the axiom of constructibility,” in Infinity and Truth, World Sci. Publ., Hackensack, NJ, 2014, vol. 25, p. 25–45.
    @incollection {Hamkins2014:MultiverseOnVeqL,
    AUTHOR = {Hamkins, Joel David},
    TITLE = {A multiverse perspective on the axiom of constructibility},
    BOOKTITLE = {{Infinity and Truth}},
    SERIES = {LNS Math Natl. Univ. Singap.},
    VOLUME = {25},
    PAGES = {25--45},
    PUBLISHER = {World Sci. Publ., Hackensack, NJ},
    YEAR = {2014},
    MRCLASS = {03E45 (03A05)},
    MRNUMBER = {3205072},
    DOI = {10.1142/9789814571043_0002},
    url = {http://wp.me/p5M0LV-qE},
    eprint = {1210.6541},
    archivePrefix = {arXiv},
    primaryClass = {math.LO},

This article expands on an argument that I made during my talk at the Asian Initiative for Infinity: Workshop on Infinity and Truth, held July 25–29, 2011 at the Institute for Mathematical Sciences, National University of Singapore, and will be included in a proceedings volume that is being prepared for that conference.

Abstract. I argue that the commonly held $V\neq L$ via maximize position, which rejects the axiom of constructibility $V=L$ on the basis that it is restrictive, implicitly takes a stand in the pluralist debate in the philosophy of set theory by presuming an absolute background concept of ordinal. The argument appears to lose its force, in contrast, on an upwardly extensible concept of set, in light of the various facts showing that models of set theory generally have extensions to models of $V=L$ inside larger set-theoretic universes.

In section two, I provide a few new criticisms of Maddy’s proposed concept of `restrictive’ theories, pointing out that her concept of fairly interpreted in is not a transitive relation: there is a first theory that is fairly interpreted in a second, which is fairly interpreted in a third, but the first is not fairly interpreted in the third.  The same example (and one can easily construct many similar natural examples) shows that neither the maximizes over relation, nor the properly maximizes over relation, nor the strongly maximizes over relation is transitive.  In addition, the theory ZFC + “there are unboundedly many inaccessible cardinals” comes out as formally restrictive, since it is strongly maximized by the theory ZF + “there is a measurable cardinal, with no worldly cardinals above it.”

To support the main philosophical thesis of the article, I survey a series of mathemtical results,  which reveal various senses in which the axiom of constructibility $V=L$ is compatible with strength in set theory, particularly if one has in mind the possibility of moving from one universe of set theory to a much larger one.  Among them are the following, which I prove or sketch in the article:

Observation. The constructible universe $L$ and $V$ agree on the consistency of any constructible theory. They have models of the same constructible theories.

Theorem. The constructible universe $L$ and $V$ have transitive models of exactly the same constructible theories in the language of set theory.

Corollary. (Levy-Shoenfield absoluteness theorem)  In particular, $L$ and $V$ satisfy the same $\Sigma_1$ sentences, with parameters hereditarily countable in $L$. Indeed, $L_{\omega_1^L}$ and $V$ satisfy the same such sentences.

Theorem. Every countable transitive set is a countable transitive set in the well-founded part of an $\omega$-model of V=L.

Theorem. If there are arbitrarily large $\lambda<\omega_1^L$ with $L_\lambda\models\text{ZFC}$, then every countable transitive set $M$ is a countable transitive set inside a structure $M^+$  that is a pointwise-definable model of ZFC + V=L, and $M^+$ is well founded as high in the countable ordinals as desired.

Theorem. (Barwise)  Every countable model of  ZF has an end-extension to a model of ZFC + V=L.

Theorem. (Hamkins, see here)  Every countable model of set theory $\langle M,{\in^M}\rangle$, including every transitive model, is isomorphic to a submodel of its own constructible universe $\langle L^M,{\in^M}\rangle$. In other words,  there is an embedding $j:M\to L^M$, which is elementary for quantifier-free assertions.

Another way to say this is that every countable model of set theory is a submodel of a model isomorphic to $L^M$. If we lived inside $M$, then by adding new sets and elements, our universe could be transformed into a copy of the constructible universe $L^M$.

(Plus, the article contains some nice diagrams.)

Related Singapore links:

A question for the mathematics oracle

At the Workshop on Infinity and Truth in Singapore last year, we had a special session in which the speakers were asked to imagine that they had been granted an audience with an all-knowing mathematical oracle, given the opportunity to ask a single yes-or-no question, to be truthfully answered.  These questions will be gathered together and published in the conference volume.  Here is my account.


A question for the mathematics oracle

Joel David Hamkins, The City University of New York


Granted an audience with an all-knowing mathematics oracle, we may ask a single yes-or-no question, to be truthfully answered……

I might mischievously ask the question my six-year-old daughter Hypatia often puts to our visitors:  “Answer yes or no.  Will you answer `no’?” They stammer, caught in the liar paradox, as she giggles. But my actual question is:

Are we correct in thinking we have an absolute concept of the finite?

An absolute concept of the finite underlies many mathematician’s understanding of the nature of mathematical truth. Most mathematicians, for example, believe that we have an absolute concept of the finite, which determines the natural numbers as a unique mathematical structure—$0,1,2,$ and so on—in which arithmetic assertions have definitive truth values. We can prove after all that the second-order Peano axioms characterize $\langle\mathbb{N},S,0\rangle$ as the unique inductive structure, determined up to isomorphism by the fact that $0$ is not a successor, the successor function $S$ is one-to-one and every set containing $0$ and closed under $S$ is the whole of $\mathbb{N}$. And to be finite means simply to be equinumerous with a proper initial segment of this structure. Doesn’t this categoricity proof therefore settle the matter?

I don’t think so. The categoricity proof, which takes place in set theory, seems to my way of thinking merely to push the absoluteness question for finiteness off to the absoluteness question for sets instead. And surely this is a murkier realm, where already mathematicians do not universally agree that we have a single absolute background concept of set. We know by forcing and other means how to construct alternative set concepts, which seem fully as legitimate and set-theoretic as the set concepts from which they are derived. Thus, we have a plurality of set concepts, and our confidence in a unique absolute set-theoretic background is weakened. How then can we sensibly base our confidence in an absolute concept of the finite on set theory? Perhaps this absoluteness is altogether illusory.

My worries are put to rest if the oracle should answer positively. A negative answer, meanwhile, would raise alarms. A negative answer could indicate, on the one hand, that our understanding of the finite is simply incoherent, a catastrophe, where our cherished mathematical theories are all inconsistent. But, more likely in my view, a negative answer could also mean that there is an undiscovered plurality of concepts of the finite. I imagine technical developments arising that would provide us with tools to modify the arithmetic of a model of set theory, for example, with the same power and flexibility that forcing currently allows us to modify higher-order features, while not providing us with any reason to prefer one arithmetic to another (unlike our current methods with non-standard models). The discovery of such tools would be an amazing development in mathematics and lead to radical changes in our conception of mathematical truth.

Let’s have some fun—please post your question for the oracle in the comment fields below.

A question for the math oracle (pdf) | My talk at the Workshop