I was interviewed by Sean Carroll for his Mindscape Podcast, broadcast 15 July 2024.

# Category Archives: Videos

# Mathematics, Philosophy of Set Theory and Infinity, Back to the Stone Age interview, May 2024

I was interviewed by Francesco Cavina for the Back to the Stone Age series on May 17, 2024, with a sweeping discussion of the philosophy of set theory, infinity, the continuum hypothesis, beauty in mathematics, and much more.

# Life Story of Mathematician & Philosopher of Infinity, interviewed by The Human Podcast, May 2024

I was interviewed by The Human Podcast on 17 May 2024. Please enjoy our sweeping conversation about nature of infinity, the nature of abstract mathematical existence, the applicability of mathematical abstractions to physical reality, and more. At the end, you will see that I am caught completely at a loss in answer to the question, “What is it to live a good life?”.

# The Gödel incompleteness phenomenon, interview with Rahul Sam

Please enjoy my conversation with Rahul Sam for his podcast, a sweeping discussion of topics in the philosophy of mathematics—potentialism, pluralism, Gödel incompleteness, philosophy of set theory, large cardinals, and much more.

# Philosophy of Mathematics and Truth, interview with Matthew Geleta on Paradigm Podcast

We had a sweeping discussion touching upon many issues in the philosophy of mathematics, including the nature of mathematical truth, mathematical abstraction, the nature of mathematical existence, the meaning and role of proof in mathematics, the completeness theorem, the incompleteness phenomenon, infinity, and a discussion about the motivations that one might have for studying mathematics.

# Infinite games—strategies, logic, theory, and computation, Northeastern, June 2023

This will be an online Zoom talk for the Boston Computaton Club, a graduate seminar in computer science at Northeastern University, 16 June 12pm EST (note change in date/time). Contact the organizers for the Zoom link.

**Abstract:** Many familiar finite games admit natural infinitary analogues, which may captivate and challenge us with sublime complexity. Shall we have a game of infinite chess? Or how about infinite draughts, infinite Hex, infinite Wordle, or infinite Sudoku? In the Chocolatier’s game, the Chocolatier serves up an infinite stream of delicious morsels, while the Glutton aims to eat every one. These games and others illustrate the often subtle strategic aspects of infinite games, and sometimes their downright logical peculiarity. Does every infinite game admit of a winning strategy? Must optimal play be in principle computable? Let us discover the fascinating nature of infinitary strategic thinking.

# Realizing Frege’s Basic Law V provably in ZFC, New York, May 2023

This will be a talk for the CUNY Set Theory Seminar on May 5, 2023 10am. Contact the organizers for the Zoom link.

**Abstract.** The standard set-theoretic distinction between sets and classes instantiates in important respects the Fregean distinction between objects and concepts, for in set theory we commonly take the universe of sets as a realm of objects to be considered under the guise of diverse concepts, the definable classes, each serving as a predicate on that domain of individuals. Although it is commonly held that in a very general manner, there can be no association of classes with objects in a way that fulfills Frege’s Basic Law V, nevertheless, in the ZF framework, it turns out that we can provide a completely deflationary account of this and other Fregean abstraction principles. Namely, there is a mapping of classes to objects, definable in set theory in senses I shall explain (hence deflationary), associating every first-order parametrically definable class $F$ with a set object $\varepsilon F$, in such a way that Basic Law V is fulfilled:

$$\varepsilon F =\varepsilon G\iff\forall x\ (Fx\leftrightarrow Gx).$$

Russell’s elementary refutation of the general comprehension axiom, therefore, is improperly described as a refutation of Basic Law V itself, but rather refutes Basic Law V only when augmented with powerful class comprehension principles going strictly beyond ZF. The main result leads also to a proof of Tarski’s theorem on the nondefinability of truth as a corollary to Russell’s argument. A central goal of the project is to highlight the issue of definability and deflationism for the extension assignment problem at the core of Fregean abstraction.

# Set-theoretic forcing as a computational process, Midwest Computability Seminar, Chicago, May 2023

This is a talk for the MidWest Computability Seminar conference held May 2, 2023 at the University of Chicago. The talk will be available via Zoom at https://notredame.zoom.us/j/99754332165?pwd=RytjK1RFZU5KWnZxZ3VFK0g4YTMyQT09.

**Abstract:** I shall explore several 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 (M,∈M) of set theory, for example, there are senses in which one may compute M-generic filters G⊂ℙ∈M over that model and compute the diagrams of 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 that lead by the computational process to non-isomorphic forcing extensions. Indeed, there is no Borel function providing generic filters that is functorial in this sense. This is joint work with myself, Russell Miller and Kameryn Williams.

The paper is available on the arxiv at https://arxiv.org/abs/2007.00418.

The talk took place in “The Barn” in the upper space between the Reyerson Laboratory and Eckhart Hall, where the University of Chicago Department of Mathematics is located:

# Paradox, Infinity, & The Foundations of Mathematics, interview with Robinson Erhardt, January 2023

This was an interview with Robinson Erhardt on Robinson’s Podcast, part of his series of interviews with various philosophers, including many philosophers of mathematics and more.

We had a wonderfully wide-ranging discussion about the philosophy of mathematics, the philosophy of set theory, pluralism, and many other topics. The main focus was the topic of infinity, following selections from my new book, The Book of Infinity, currently being serialized on my substack, joeldavidhamkins.substack.com, with discussion of Zeno’s paradox, the Chocolatier’s Game, Hilbert’s Grand Hotel and more.

Robinson compiled the following outline with links to special parts of the interview:

- 00:00 Introduction
- 2:52 Is Joel a Mathematician or a Philosopher?
- 6:13 The Philosophical Influence of Hugh Woodin
- 10:29 The Intersection of Set Theory and Philosophy of Math
- 16:29 Serializing the Book of the Infinite
- 20:05 Zeno of Elea, Continuity, and Geometric Series
- 39:39 Infinite Games and the Chocolatier
- 53:35 Hilbert’s Hotel
- 1:10:26 Cantor’s Theorem
- 1:31:37 The Continuum Hypothesis
- 1:43:02 The Set-Theoretic Multiverse
- 2:00:25 Berry’s Paradox and Large Numbers
- 2:16:15 Skolem’s Paradox and Indescribable Numbers
- 2:28:41 Pascal’s Wager and Reasoning Around Remote Events
- 2:49:35 MathOverflow
- 3:04:40 Joel’s Impeccable Fashion Sense

Read the book here: joeldavidhamkins.substack.com.

# Frege’s philosophy of mathematics—Interview with Nathan Ormond, December 2021

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

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

# A deflationary account of Fregean abstraction in Zermelo-Fraenkel ZF set theory, Oxford, November 2021

This will be a talk for the Oxford Seminar in the Philosophy of Mathematics, 1 November, 4:30-6:30 GMT. The talk will be held on Zoom (contact the seminar organizers for the Zoom link).

**Abstract.** The standard treatment of sets and classes in Zermelo-Fraenkel set theory instantiates in many respects the Fregean foundational distinction between objects and concepts, for in set theory we commonly take the sets as objects to be considered under the guise of diverse concepts, the definable classes, each serving as a predicate on that domain of individuals. Although it is often asserted that there can be no association of classes with objects in a way that fulfills Frege’s Basic Law V, nevertheless, in the ZF framework I have described, it turns out that Basic Law V does hold, and provably so, along with other various Fregean abstraction principles. These principles are consequences of Zermelo-Fraenkel ZF set theory in the context of all its definable classes. Namely, there is an injective mapping from classes to objects, definable in senses I shall explain, associating every first-order parametrically definable class $F$ with a set object $\varepsilon F$, in such a way that Basic Law V is fulfilled: $$\varepsilon F =\varepsilon G\iff\forall x\ (Fx\leftrightarrow Gx).$$ Russell’s elementary refutation of the general comprehension axiom, therefore, is improperly described as a refutation of Basic Law V itself, but rather refutes Basic Law V only when augmented with powerful class comprehension principles going strictly beyond ZF. The main result leads also to a proof of Tarski’s theorem on the nondefinability of truth as a corollary to Russell’s argument.

# Counting to Infinity and Beyond

Anyone can learn to count in the ordinals, even a child, and so let us learn how to count to $\omega^2$, the first compound limit ordinal.

The large-format poster is available:

Some close-up views:

I would like to thank the many people who had made helpful suggestions concerning my poster, including Andrej Bauer and especially Saul Schleimer, who offered many detailed suggestions.

# Infinite sets and Foundations—Interviewed on the Daniel Rubin Show

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

**Contents**

0:00 Intro

2:11 Joel’s background. Interaction between math and philosophy

9:04 Joel’s work; infinite chess.

14:45 Infinite ordinals

22:27 The Cantor-Bendixson process

29:41 Uncountable ordinals

32:10 First order vs. second order theories

41:16 Non-standard analysis

46:57 The ZFC axioms and well-ordering of the reals

58:11 Showing independence of statements. Models and forcing.

1:04:38 Sets, classes, and categories

1:19:22 Is there one true set theory? Are projective sets Lebesgue measurable?

1:30:20 What does set theory look like if certain axioms are rejected?

1:36:06 How to judge philosophical positions about math

1:42:01 Concrete math where set theory becomes relevant. Tarski-Seidenberg on positive polynomials.

1:48:48 Goodstein sequences and the use of infinite ordinals

1:58:43 The state of set theory today

2:01:41 Joel’s recent books

Go check out the other episodes on Daniel’s channel!

# The Tennenbaum phenomenon for computable quotient presentations of models of arithmetic and set theory, Shanghai, August 2021

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

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

# Plenitudinous Primes!

A proof of the infinitude of primes, in meter.

Let’s prove the primes’ infinitude

they do exist in multitude

of quite astounding magnitude

we count the primes in plenitude!

‘Twas proved by Euclid way back when

in Elements he argued then

He proved it with exactitude

in his Book IX he did conclude

for any given finite list

there will be primes the list has missed

to prove this gem let number N

be when you multiply them then

multiply the list for fun,

multiply, and then add one

If into N we shall divide

the listed primes seen in that guide

remainder one each leaves behind

so none as factors could we find

but every number has some prime factor

with our N take such an actor

since it can’t be on the list

we thus deduce more primes exist

No finite list can be complete

and so the claim is in retreat

By iterating this construction

primes do flow in vast deduction

as many as we’d like to see

so infinite the primes must be

Thus proved the primes’ infinitude

in quite enormous multitude

of arb’trarly great magnitude

we count the primes in plenitude!

‘Twas known by Euclid way back then

he proved it in the Elements when

in modern times we know some more

math’s never done, there’s new folklore:

For Bertrand, Chebyshev had said

about the puzzle in his head

and Erdős said it once again:

there’s always a prime between n and 2n.

We proved the primes’ infinitude

they do exist in multitude

of inconceiv’ble magnitude

we count the primes in plentitude!

The primes are plenitudinous

they’re truly multitudinous!

Musical video production of Plenitudinous Primes by the supremely talented Hannah Hoffman!