Set-theoretic mereology as a foundation of mathematics
Joel David Hamkins
The City University of New York
In light of the comparative success of membership-based set theory in the foundations of mathematics, since the time of Cantor, Zermelo and Hilbert, it is natural to wonder whether one might find a similar success for set-theoretic mereology, based upon the set-theoretic inclusion relation $subseteq$ rather than the element-of relation $in$. How well does set-theoretic mereological serve as a foundation of mathematics? Can we faithfully interpret the rest of mathematics in terms of the subset relation to the same extent that set theorists have argued (with whatever degree of success) that we may find faithful representations in terms of the membership relation? Basically, can we get by with merely $subseteq$ in place of $in$? Ultimately, I shall identify grounds supporting generally negative answers to these questions, concluding that set-theoretic mereology by itself cannot serve adequately as a foundational theory.
This is joint work with Makoto Kikuchi, and the talk is based on our joint article:
J. D. Hamkins and M. Kikuchi, Set-theoretic mereology, Logic and Logical Philosophy, special issue “Mereology and beyond, part II”, pp. 1-24, 2016.
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.