# Set-theoretic potentialism

## Joel David Hamkins

### The City University of New York

In analogy with the ancient views on potential as opposed to actual infinity, set-theoretic potentialism is the philosophical position holding that the universe of set theory is never fully completed, but rather has a potential character, with greater parts of it becoming known to us as it unfolds. In this talk, I should like to undertake a mathematical analysis of the modal commitments of various specific natural accounts of set-theoretic potentialism. After developing a general model-theoretic framework for potentialism and describing how the corresponding modal validities are revealed by certain types of control statements, which we call buttons, switches, dials and ratchets, I apply this analysis to the case of set-theoretic potentialism, including the modalities of true-in-all-larger-*V _{β}*, true-in-all-transitive-sets, true-in-all-Grothendieck-Zermelo-universes, true-in-all-countable-transitive-models and others. Broadly speaking, the height-potentialist systems generally validate exactly S4.3 and the height-and-width-potentialist systems generally validate exactly S4.2. Each potentialist system gives rise to a natural accompanying maximality principle, which occurs when S5 is valid at a world, so that every possibly necessary statement is already true. For example, a Grothendieck-Zermelo universe

*V*, with κ inaccessible, exhibits the maximality principle with respect to assertions in the language of set theory using parameters from

_{κ}*V*just in case κ is a Σ

_{κ}_{3}-reflecting cardinal, and it exhibits the maximality principle with respect to assertions in the potentialist language of set theory with parameters just in case it is fully reflecting

*V*.

_{κ}< VThis is current joint work with Øystein Linnebo, in progress, which builds on some of my prior work with George Leibman and Benedikt Löwe in the modal logic of forcing. Comments and questions can be made on the speaker’s blog.

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.