# Blog Archives

# Topic Archive: philosophy of set theory

# Does definiteness-of-truth follow from definiteness-of-objects?

This talk — a mix of mathematics and philosophy — concerns the extent to which we may infer definiteness of truth in a mathematical context from definiteness of the underlying objects and structure of that context. The philosophical analysis is based in part on the mathematical observation that the satisfaction relation for model-theoretic truth is less absolute than often supposed. Specifically, two models of set theory can have the same natural numbers and the same structure of arithmetic in common, yet disagree about whether a particular arithmetic sentence is true in that structure. In other words, two models can have the same arithmetic objects and the same formulas and sentences in the language of arithmetic, yet disagree on their corresponding theories of truth for those objects. Similarly, two models of set theory can have the same natural numbers, the same arithmetic structure, and the same arithmetic truth, yet disagree on their truths-about-truth, and so on at any desired level of the iterated truth-predicate hierarchy. These mathematical observations, for which I shall strive to give a very gentle proof in the talk (using only elementary classical methods), suggest that a philosophical commitment to the determinate nature of the theory of truth for a structure cannot be seen as a consequence solely of the determinateness of the structure in which that truth resides. The determinate nature of arithmetic truth, for example, is not a consequence of the determinate nature of the arithmetic structure N = {0,1,2,…} itself, but rather seems to be an additional higher-order commitment requiring its own analysis and justification.

This work is based on my recent paper, Satisfaction is not absolute, joint with Ruizhi Yang (Fudan University, Shanghai).

# Satisfaction is not absolute

I will discuss a number of theorems showing that the satisfaction relation of first-order logic is less absolute than might have been supposed. Two models of set theory $M_1$ and $M_2$, for example, can agree on their natural numbers $langlemathbb{N},{+},{cdot},0,1,{lt}rangle^{M_1}=langlemathbb{N},{+},{cdot},0,1,{lt}rangle^{M_2}$, yet disagree on arithmetic truth: they have a sentence $sigma$ in the language of arithmetic that $M_1$ thinks is true in the natural numbers, yet $M_2$ thinks $negsigma$ there. Two models of set theory can agree on the natural numbers $mathbb{N}$ and on the reals $mathbb{R}$, yet disagree on projective truth. Two models of set theory can have the same natural numbers and have a computable linear order in common, yet disagree about whether this order is well-ordered. Two models of set theory can have a transitive rank initial segment $V_delta$ in common, yet disagree about whether this $V_delta$ is a model of ZFC. The theorems are proved with elementary classical methods.

This is joint work with Ruizhi Yang (Fudan University, Shanghai). We argue, on the basis of these mathematical results, that the definiteness of truth in a structure, such as with arithmetic truth in the standard model of arithmetic, cannot arise solely from the definiteness of the structure itself in which that truth resides; rather, it must be seen as a separate, higher-order ontological commitment.

# On the axiom of constructibility and Maddy’s conception of restrictive theories

This talk will be based on my paper, A multiverse perspective on the axiom of constructibility.

Set-theorists often argue against the axiom of constructibility V=L on the grounds that it is restrictive, that we have no reason to suppose that every set should be constructible and that it places an artificial limitation on set-theoretic possibility to suppose that every set is constructible. Penelope Maddy, in her work on naturalism in mathematics, sought to explain this perspective by means of the MAXIMIZE principle, and further to give substance to the concept of what it means for a theory to be restrictive, as a purely formal property of the theory.

In this talk, I shall criticize Maddy’s specific proposal. For example, it turns out that the fairly-interpreted-in relation on theories is not transitive, and similarly the maximizes-over and strongly-maximizes-over relations are not transitive. Further, the theory ZFC + `there is a proper class of inaccessible cardinals’ is formally restrictive on Maddy’s proposal, although this is not what she had desired.

Ultimately, I argue that the $Vneq L$ via maximize position loses its force on a multiverse conception of set theory, in light of the classical facts that models of set theory can generally be extended to (taller) models of V=L. In particular, every countable model of set theory is a transitive set inside a model of V=L. I shall conclude the talk by explaining various senses in which V=L remains compatible with strength in set theory.

# Pluralism in set theory: does every mathematical statement have a definite truth value?

I shall give a summary account of some current issues in the philosophy of set theory, specifically, the debate on pluralism and the question of the determinateness of set-theoretical and mathematical truth. The traditional Platonist view in set theory, what I call the universe view, holds that there is an absolute background concept of set and a corresponding absolute background set-theoretic universe in which every set-theoretic assertion has a final, definitive truth value. What I would like to do is to tease apart two often-blurred aspects of this perspective, namely, to separate the claim that the set-theoretic universe has a real mathematical existence from the claim that it is unique. A competing view, which I call the multiverse view, accepts the former claim and rejects the latter, by holding that there are many distinct concepts of set, each instantiated in a corresponding set-theoretic universe, and a corresponding pluralism of set-theoretic truths. After framing the dispute, I shall argue that the multiverse position explains our experience with the enormous diversity of set-theoretic possibility, a phenomenon that is one of the central set-theoretic discoveries of the past fifty years and one which challenges the universe view. In particular, I shall argue that the continuum hypothesis is settled on the multiverse view by our extensive knowledge about how it behaves in the multiverse, and as a result it can no longer be settled in the manner formerly hoped for.