The set-theoretical multiverse: a natural context for set theory, Japan 2009

[bibtex key=Hamkins2011:TheMultiverse:ANaturalContext]

This article is based on a talk I gave at the conference in honor of the retirement of Yuzuru Kakuda in Kobe, Japan, March 7, 2009. I would like to express my gratitude to Kakuda-sensei and the rest of the logic group in Kobe for the opportunities provided to me to participate in logic in Japan. In particular, my time as a JSPS Fellow in the logic group at Kobe University in 1998 was a formative experience. I was part of a vibrant research group in Kobe; I enjoyed Japanese life, learned to speak a little Japanese and made many friends. Mathematically, it was a productive time, and after years away how pleasant it is for me to see that ideas planted at that time, small seedlings then, have grown into tall slender trees.

Set theorists often take their subject as constituting a foundation for the rest of mathematics, in the sense that other abstract mathematical objects can be construed fundamentally as sets. In this way, they regard the set-theoretic universe as the universe of all mathematics. And although many set-theorists affirm the Platonic view that there is just one universe of all sets, nevertheless the most powerful set-theoretic tools developed over the past half century are actually methods of constructing alternative universes. With forcing and other methods, we can now produce diverse models of ZFC set theory having precise, exacting features. The fundamental object of study in set theory has thus become the model of set theory, and the subject consequently begins to exhibit a category-theoretic second-order nature. We have a multiverse of set-theoretic worlds, connected by forcing and large cardinal embeddings like constellations in a dark sky. In this article, I will discuss a few emerging developments illustrating this second-order nature. The work engages pleasantly with various philosophical views on the nature of mathematical existence.



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