FOM: simultaneous truth of consistent statements

Andrian-Richard-David Mathias Andrian-Richard-David.Mathias at
Thu Feb 24 02:00:20 EST 2000

1. Black suggests that notions of completeness not having yet been 
formulated, they can have had nothing to do with Hilbert's 1899 belief 
that consistency is tantamount to existence. I disagree. Much of 
(mathematical) research consists of the articulation of vague perceptions, 
and it could well be that some subconscious version of the notion of 
completeness was already guiding Hilbert's activities, and might indeed have
taken root in his mind from his work on the axiomatics of Euclidean geometry. 

2. As Simpson points out, Hilbert's remark 

> The proposition 'every equation has a root' is true, or the
> existence of roots is proved, as soon as the axiom 'every equation has a
> root'  can be added to the other arithmetical axioms without it being
> possible for a contradiction to arise by any deductions. 

discounts the possibility of there being a theory T and two properties 
A(x) and B(y) such that if T is consistent so are both T + (Ex)A and 
T + (Ey)B whilst the statement "(Ex)A and (Ey)B" is refutable in T. 

In Simpson's example, we may take A and B to be "x is a well-ordering of 
the continuum of length aleph_1," and "x is a well-ordering of the 
continuum of length some aleph exceeding aleph_1", and T to be ZF.  

Another example: take A to say "x is a lightface Sigma^1_2 well-ordering 
of the continuum", B to say "y is a non-constructible real", and T to be ZF. 
T + (Ex)A is consistent by Goedel; 
T + (Ey)B is consistent by Cohen; and by Mansfield 
(Ex)A and the negation of (Ey)B are, provably in T, equivalent. 

3. Of course *if T is complete*, then sentences consistent with 
T are theorems of T, so sentences individually consistent with T 
are simultaneously consistent with T. 

4. Despite the essential incompleteness of mathematics, there has been 
success in formulating hypotheses that achieve the simultaneous truth 
of consistent statements. Some examples: 

5. Vopenka's principle, recently been used by 
Casacuberta, Scevenfels and Smith in their paper "Implications of 
large-cardinal principles in homotopical localization", from which  
I quote two results and summarise a third: 

"Vopenka's principle implies the existence of cohomological localizations,
for every generalized cohomology theory. Whether cohomological localizations 
can be shown to exist in ZFC or not is a long standing open question." 

"If we assume the validity of Vopenka's principle,  
then we can prove that every homotopy idempotent functor E  
in the category of simplicial sets is weakly
equivalent to f-localization for some map f." 

[The authors also construct a specific E for which the existence of a 
corresponding f implies the existence of a measurable cardinal, so that 
this second consequence that they draw from Vopenka's principle is not a 
theorem of ZFC.] 

Vopenka's principle states that given any proper class of structures of 
the same type (e.g; groups, fields, ...) one of them is elementarily 
embeddable in another.  It is related to reflection principles which, in 
vague terms, say that if something is true in this universe it was true in 
some earlier universe. 

6. Bagaria has numerous results expressing forcing axioms such as 
Martin's axiom and its variants in the general form "anything which might 
happen in some future universe has already happened in this one". 

For example, let H_2 be the term "the set of sets 
whose transitive closure is of cardinality less than aleph_2". Then 

(Bagaria) Bounded Martin's Maximum is equivalent to saying that 
the H_2 of this universe is a Sigma_1 elementary submodel of 
the H_2 of any generic extension of this universe obtained using a 
partial ordering that preserves stationarity of subsets of omega_1.

7. Woodin in his recently published monumental work 
"The Axiom of Determinacy, Forcing Axioms and the Nonstationary Ideal" 
(de Gruyter, 1999) exhibits, using some large-cardinal hypotheses,   
a canonical model of the negation of the continuum hypothesis in which 
all individually consistent sentences of a certain kind are simultaneously 

Thus although Hilbert's dream of a universe in which all possible objects 
simultaneously exist was impossible, fascinating approximations to it exist.  

A. R. D. Mathias

Professeur associe,
Universite de la Reunion, 
15 Avenue Rene Cassin, 
BP 7151, 
F 97715 St Denis  Messag 9
France outre-mer

ardm at

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