Philosophy of Mathematics, graduate lecture seminar, Oxford, Trinity term 2020

This will be a graduate-level lecture seminar on the Philosophy of Mathematics held during Trinity term 2020 here at the University of Oxford, co-taught by Dr. Wesley Wrigley and myself.

The broad theme for the seminar will be incompleteness, referring both to the incompleteness of our mathematical theories, as exhibited in Gödel’s incompleteness theorems, and also to the incompleteness of our mathematical domains, as exhibited in mathematical potentialism. 

All sessions will be held online using the Zoom meeting platform. Please contact Professor Wrigley for access to the seminar ( The Zoom meetings will not be recorded or posted online.

The basic plan will be that the first four sessions, in weeks 1-4, will be led by Dr. Wrigley and concentrate on his current research on the incompleteness of mathematics and the philosophy of Kurt Gödel, while weeks 5-8 will be led by Professor Hamkins, who will concentrate on topics in potentialism. 

Readings as detailed below:

Weeks 1 & 2  (28 April, 5 May)
Kurt Gödel “Some basic theorems on the foundations of mathematics and their implications (*1951)”,  in: Feferman, S. et al.  (eds) Kurt Gödel: Collected Works Volume III, pp.304-323. OUP (1995). And Wrigley “Gödel’s Disjunctive Argument”. (Also available on Canvas).

Week 3 (12th May)
Donald Martin, “Gödel’s Conceptual Realism”, Bulletin of Symbolic Logic 11:2 (2005), 207- 224 And Wrigley “Conceptual Platonism.”

Week 4 (19th May)
Bertrand Russell “The Regressive Method of Discovering the Premises of Mathematics (1907)”, in: Moore , G. (ed) The Collected Papers of Bertrand Russell, Volume 5, pp.571-580. Routledge (2014). And Wrigley “Quasi-Scientific Methods of Justification in Set Theory.”

Week 5 (26th May)
Øystein Linnebo & Stewart Shapiro, “Actual and potential infinity”, Noûs 53:1 (2019), 160-191, And Øystein Linnebo. “Putnam on Mathematics as Modal Logic,” In: Hellman G., Cook R. (eds) Hilary Putnam on Logic and Mathematics. Outstanding Contributions to Logic, vol 9. Springer, Cham (2018). 

Week 6 (2nd June)
The topic this week is: tools for analyzing the modal logic of a potentialist system. This seminar will be based around the slides for my talk “Potentialism and implicit actualism in the foundations of mathematics,” given for the Jowett Society in Oxford last year. The slides are available at:  Interested readers may also wish to consult the more extensive slides for the three-lecture workshop I gave on potentialism at the Hejnice Winter School in 2018; the slides are available at My intent is to concentrate on the nature and significance of control statements, such as buttons, switches, ratchets and railyards, for determining the modal logic of a potentialist system.

Week 7 (9th June)
Joel David Hamkins and Øystein Linnebo. “The modal logic of set-theoretic potentialism and the potentialist maximality principles”. Review of Symbolic Logic (2019). arXiv:1708.01644. This week, we shall see how the control statements allow us to analyze precisely the modal logic of various conceptions of set-theoretic potentialism.

Week 8 (16th June)
Joel David Hamkins, “Arithmetic potentialism and the universal algorithm,” arxiv: 1801.04599, available at Please feel free to skip over the more technical parts of this paper. In the seminar discussion, we shall concentrate on the basic idea of arithmetic potentialism, including a full account of the universal algorithm and the significance of it for potentialism, as well as remarks of the final section of the paper.