On the axiom of constructibility and Maddy’s conception of restrictive theories, Logic Workshop, February 2013

This is a talk for the CUNY Logic Workshop on February 15, 2013.

This talk will be based on my paper, A multiverse perspective on the axiom of constructibility.

Set-theorists often argue against the axiom of constructibility $V=L$ on the grounds that it is restrictive, that we have no reason to suppose that every set should be constructible and that it places an artificial limitation on set-theoretic possibility to suppose that every set is constructible.  Penelope Maddy, in her work on naturalism in mathematics, sought to explain this perspective by means of the MAXIMIZE principle, and further to give substance to the concept of what it means for a theory to be restrictive, as a purely formal property of the theory.

In this talk, I shall criticize Maddy’s specific proposal.  For example, it turns out that the fairly-interpreted-in relation on theories is not transitive, and similarly the maximizes-over and strongly-maximizes-over relations are not transitive.  Further, the theory ZFC + `there is a proper class of inaccessible cardinals’ is formally restrictive on Maddy’s proposal, although this is not what she had desired.

Ultimately, I argue that the $V\neq L$ via maximize position loses its force on a multiverse conception of set theory, in light of the classical facts that models of set theory can generally be extended to (taller) models of $V=L$.  In particular, every countable model of set theory is a transitive set inside a model of $V=L$.  I shall conclude the talk by explaining various senses in which $V=L$ remains compatible with strength in set theory.

Pluralism in set theory: does every mathematical statement have a definite truth value? GC Philosophy Colloquium, 2012

This will be my talk for the CUNY Graduate Center Philosophy Colloquium on November 28, 2012.

I will be speaking on topics from some of my recent articles:

I shall give a summary account of some current issues in the philosophy of set theory, specifically, the debate on pluralism and the question of the determinateness of set-theoretical and mathematical truth.  The traditional Platonist view in set theory, what I call the universe view, holds that there is an absolute background concept of set and a corresponding absolute background set-theoretic universe in which every set-theoretic assertion has a final, definitive truth value.  What I would like to do is to tease apart two often-blurred aspects of this perspective, namely, to separate the claim that the set-theoretic universe has a real mathematical existence from the claim that it is unique.  A competing view, which I call the multiverse view, accepts the former claim and rejects the latter, by holding that there are many distinct concepts of set, each instantiated in a corresponding set-theoretic universe, and a corresponding pluralism of set-theoretic truths.  After framing the dispute, I shall argue that the multiverse position explains our experience with the enormous diversity of set-theoretic possibility, a phenomenon that is one of the central set-theoretic discoveries of the past fifty years and one which challenges the universe view. In particular, I shall argue that the continuum hypothesis is settled on the multiverse view by our extensive knowledge about how it behaves in the multiverse, and as a result it can no longer be settled in the manner formerly hoped for.


The least weakly compact cardinal can be unfoldable, weakly measurable and nearly $\theta$-supercompact, New York, September 14, 2012

This will be a talk for the CUNY Set Theory seminar on September 14, 2012.

Abstract.  Starting from suitable large cardinal hypothesis, I will explain how to force the least weakly compact cardinal to be unfoldable, weakly measurable and, indeed, nearly $\theta$-supercompact.  These results, proved in joint work with Jason Schanker, Moti Gitik and Brent Cody, exhibit an identity-crises phenomenon for weak compactness, similar to the phenomenon identified by Magidor for the case of strongly compact cardinals.


The countable models of ZFC, up to isomorphism, are linearly pre-ordered by the submodel relation; indeed, every countable model of ZFC, including every transitive model, is isomorphic to a submodel of its own $L$, New York, 2012

This will be a talk on May 18, 2012 for the CUNY Logic Workshop on some extremely new work. The proof uses finitary digraph combinatorics, including the countable random digraph and higher analogues involving uncountable Fraisse limits, the surreal numbers and the hypnagogic digraph.

The story begins with Ressayre’s remarkable 1983 result that if $M$ is any nonstandard model of PA, with $\langle\text{HF}^M,{\in^M}\rangle$ the corresponding nonstandard hereditary finite sets of $M$, then for any consistent computably axiomatized theory $T$ in the language of set theory, with $T\supset ZF$, there is a submodel $N\subset\langle\text{HF}^M,{\in^M}\rangle$ such that $N\models T$. In particular, one may find models of ZFC or even ZFC + large cardinals as submodels of $\text{HF}^M$, a land where everything is thought to be finite. Incredible! Ressayre’s proof uses partial saturation and resplendency to prove that one can find the submodel of the desired theory $T$.

My new theorem strengthens Ressayre’s theorem, while simplifying the proof, by removing the theory $T$. We need not assume $T$ is computable, and we don’t just get one model of $T$, but rather all models—the fact is that the nonstandard models of set theory are universal for all countable acyclic binary relations. So every model of set theory is a submodel of $\langle\text{HF}^M,{\in^M}\rangle$.

Theorem.(JDH) Every countable model of set theory is isomorphic to a submodel of any nonstandard model of finite set theory. Indeed, every nonstandard model of finite set theory is universal for all countable acyclic binary relations.

The proof involves the construction of what I call the countable random $\mathbb{Q}$-graded digraph, a countable homogeneous acyclic digraph that is universal for all countable acyclic digraphs, and proving that it is realized as a submodel of the nonstandard model $\langle M,\in^M\rangle$. Having then realized a universal object as a submodel, it follows that every countable structure with an acyclic binary relation, including every countable model of ZFC, is realized as a submodel of $M$.

The proof, in brief:  for every countable acyclic digraph, consider the partial order induced by the edge relation, and extend this order to a total order, which may be embedded in the rational order $\mathbb{Q}$.  Thus, every countable acyclic digraph admits a $\mathbb{Q}$-grading, an assignmment of rational numbers to nodes such that all edges point upwards. Next, one can build a countable homogeneous, universal, existentially closed $\mathbb{Q}$-graded digraph, simply by starting with nothing, and then adding finitely many nodes at each stage, so as to realize the finite pattern property. The result is a computable presentation of what I call the countable random $\mathbb{Q}$-graded digraph $\Gamma$.  If $M$ is any nonstandard model of finite set theory, then we may run this computable construction inside $M$ for a nonstandard number of steps.  The standard part of this nonstandard finite graph includes a copy of $\Gamma$.  Furthermore, since $M$ thinks it is finite and acyclic, it can perform a modified Mostowski collapse to realize the graph in the hereditary finite sets of $M$.  By looking at the sets corresponding to the nodes in the copy of $\Gamma$, we find a submodel of $M$ that is isomorphic to $\Gamma$, which is universal for all countable acyclic binary relations. So every model of ZFC isomorphic to a submodel of $M$.

The proof idea adapts, with complications, to the case of well-founded models, via the countable random $\lambda$-graded digraph, as well as the internal construction of what I call the hypnagogic digraph, a proper class homogeneous surreal-numbers-graded digraph, which is universal for all class acyclic digraphs.

Theorem.(JDH) Every countable model $\langle M,\in^M\rangle$ of ZFC, including the transitive models, is isomorphic to a submodel of its own constructible universe $\langle L^M,\in^M\rangle$. In other words, there is an embedding $j:M\to L^M$ that is quantifier-free-elementary.

The proof is guided by the idea of finding a universal submodel inside $L^M$. The embedding $j$ is constructed completely externally to $M$.

Corollary.(JDH) The countable models of ZFC are linearly ordered and even well-ordered, up to isomorphism, by the submodel relation. Namely, any two countable models of ZFC with the same well-founded height are bi-embeddable as submodels of each other, and all models embed into any nonstandard model.

The work opens up numerous questions on the extent to which we may expect in ZFC that $V$ might be isomorphic to a subclass of $L$. To what extent can we expect to have or to refute embeddings $j:V\to L$, elementary for quantifier-free assertions?

Article | CUNY Logic Workshop

The omega one of infinite chess, New York, 2012

This will be a talk on May 18, 2012 for the CUNY Set Theory Seminar.

Infinite chess is chess played on an infinite edgeless chessboard. The familiar chess pieces move about according to their usual chess rules, and each player strives to place the opposing king into checkmate.  The mate-in-$n$ problem of infinite chess is the problem of determining whether a designated player can force a win from a given finite position in at most $n$ moves.  A naive formulation of this problem leads to assertions of high arithmetic complexity with $2n$ alternating quantifiers—there is a move for white, such that for every black reply, there is a countermove for white, and so on. In such a formulation, the problem does not appear to be decidable; and one cannot expect to search an infinitely branching game tree even to finite depth. Nevertheless, in joint work with Dan Brumleve and Philipp Schlicht, confirming a conjecture of myself and C. D. A. Evans, we establish that the mate-in-$n$ problem of infinite chess is computably decidable, uniformly in the position and in $n$. Furthermore, there is a computable strategy for optimal play from such mate-in-$n$ positions. The proof proceeds by showing that the mate-in-$n$ problem is expressible in what we call the first-order structure of chess, which we prove (in the relevant fragment) is an automatic structure, whose theory is therefore decidable.  An equivalent account of the result arises from the realization that the structure of chess is interpretable in the standard model of Presburger arithmetic $\langle\mathbb{N},+\rangle$.  Unfortunately, this resolution of the mate-in-$n$ problem does not appear to settle the decidability of the more general winning-position problem, the problem of determining whether a designated player has a winning strategy from a given position, since a position may admit a winning strategy without any bound on the number of moves required. This issue is connected with transfinite game values in infinite chess, and the exact value of the omega one of chess $\omega_1^{\rm chess}$ is not known. I will also discuss recent joint work with C. D. A. Evans and W. Hugh Woodin showing that the omega one of infinite positions in three-dimensional infinite chess is true $\omega_1$: every countable ordinal is realized as the game value of such a position.

article | slides

The hierarchy of equivalence relations on $\mathbb{N}$ under computable reducibility, New York March 2012

I gave a talk at the CUNY MAMLS conference March 9-10, 2012 at the City University of New York.

This talk will be about a generalization of the concept of Turing degrees to the hierarchy of equivalence relations on $\mathbb{N}$ under computable reducibility.  The idea is to develop a computable analogue of the enormously successful theory of equivalence relations on $\mathbb{R}$ under Borel reducibility, a theory which has led to deep insights on the complexity hierarchy of classification problems arising throughout mathematics. In the computable analogue, we consider the corresponding reduction notion in the context of Turing computability for relations on $\mathbb{N}$.  Specifically, one relation $E$ is computably reducible to another, $F$, if there is a computable function $f$ such that $x\mathrel{E} y$ if and only if $f(x)\mathrel{F} f(y)$.  This is a very different concept from mere Turing reducibility of $E$ to $F$, for it sheds light on the comparative difficulty of the classification problems corresponding to $E$ and $F$, rather than on the difficulty of computing the relations themselves.  In particular, the theory appears well suited for an analysis of equivalence relations on classes of c.e. structures, a rich context with many natural examples, such as the isomorphism relation on c.e. graphs or on computably presented groups. In this regard, our exposition extends earlier work in the literature concerning the classification of computable structures. An abundance of open questions remain.  This is joint work with Sam Coskey and Russell Miller.

articleslides | abstract on conference web page | related talk Florida MAMLS 2012 | Sam’s post on this topic