The role of the axiom of foundation in the Kunen inconsistency
Joel David Hamkins
The City University of New York
The axiom of foundation plays an interesting role in the Kunen inconsistency, the assertion that there is no nontrivial elementary embedding of the set-theoretic universe to itself, for the truth or falsity of the Kunen assertion depends on one’s specific anti-foundational stance. The fact of the matter is that different anti-foundational theories come to different conclusions about this assertion. On the one hand, it is relatively consistent with ZFC without foundation that the Kunen assertion fails, for there are models of ZFC-F in which there are definable nontrivial elementary embeddings $j:Vto V$. Indeed, in Boffa’s anti-foundational theory BAFA, the Kunen assertion is outright refutable, and in this theory there are numerous nontrivial elementary embeddings of the universe to itself. Meanwhile, on the other hand, Aczel’s anti-foundational theory GBC-F+AFA, as well as Scott’s theory GBC-F+SAFA and other anti-foundational theories, continue to prove the Kunen assertion, ruling out the existence of a nontrivial elementary embedding $j:Vto V$.
Professor Hamkins (Ph.D. 1994 UC Berkeley) conducts research in mathematical and philosophical logic, particularly set theory, with a focus on the mathematics and philosophy of the infinite. He has been particularly interested in the interaction of forcing and large cardinals, two central themes of contemporary set-theoretic research. He has worked in the theory of infinitary computability, introducing (with A. Lewis and J. Kidder) the theory of infinite time Turing machines, as well as in the theory of infinitary utilitarianism and, more recently, infinite chess. His work on the automorphism tower problem lies at the intersection of group theory and set theory. Recently, he has been preoccupied with various mathematical and philosophical issues surrounding the set-theoretic multiverse, engaging with the emerging debate on pluralism in the philosophy of set theory, as well as the mathematical questions to which they lead, such as in his work on the modal logic of forcing and set-theoretic geology.