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Goedel's Theorem

# Goedel's Theorem

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10/25/2012

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odel’s Theorem
Peter J. Cameron
Queen Mary, University of London, Mile End Road, London E1 4NS, U.K.
In response to problems in the foundations of mathematics such as
(‘Considerthe set of all sets which are not members of them-selves. Is it a member of itself?’), David Hilbertproposed that the consistency of a part of math-ematics (such as the natural numbers) was to beestablished by ﬁnitary methods which could notlead to contradiction. Then this part can be usedas a secure foundation for all of mathematics.Such a branch of mathematics can be describedin terms of ﬁrst-order logic. We begin with sym-bols, logical (connectives such as ‘not’ and ‘im-plies’, quantiﬁers such as ‘for all’, the equality sym-bol, symbols for variables, and punctuation) andnon-logical (symbols for constants, relations andfunctions suitable for the branch of mathematicsunder consideration.) Formulae are ﬁnite stringsof symbols built according to certain rules (so thatthey can be mechanically recognised). We take arecognisable subset of the formulae as
axioms
, andalso
rules of inference
allowing some formulae tobe inferred from others. A
theorem
is a formulawhich is at the end of a chain (or tree) of inferencestarting with axioms.Axioms for the natural numbers were given byPeano. The non-logical symbols are zero, the ‘suc-cessor function’
s
, addition and multiplication (thelast two can be deﬁned in terms of the others byinductive axioms). The crucial axiom is the Prin-ciple of Induction, asserting that if a formula
(
n
)is such that
(0) is true and
(
n
) implies
(
s
(
n
))for all
n
, then
(
n
) is true for all
n
. Speciﬁcally,Hilbert asked for a proof of the consistency of thistheory, that is, a proof that no contradiction canbe deduced from the axioms by the rules of ﬁrst-order logic.Hilbert’s program was undone by two remark-able
Incompleteness Theorems
proved by Kurtodel:
Theorem 1.
1. There are (ﬁrst-order) state-ments about the natural numbers which can neither be proved nor disproved from Peano’saxioms (assuming that the axioms are consis-tent).2. It is impossible to prove from Peano’s axiomsthat they are consistent.
odel’s proof is long, but is based on two simpleideas. The ﬁrst is
G¨ odel numbering
, where eachformula or sequence of formulae is encoded by anatural number in a mechanical way. It can beshown that there is a two-variable formula
ω
(
x,y
)such that
ω
(
m,n
) holds if and only if
m
is theodel number of a formula
φ
and
n
the G¨odel num-ber of a proof of
φ
. Now the formula (
y
)(
¬
ω
(
x,y
))has a G¨odel number
p
: let
ζ
be the result of sub-stituting
p
for
x
in this formula. This brings usto the second idea in the proof, self-reference:
ζ
asserts its own unprovability! Hence
ζ
is indeedunprovable, and so it is true; being true, it is notdisprovable (unless the axioms are inconsistent).It is more elementary to see that Peano’s ax-ioms are not
categorical
: even if they are consis-tent, there are models for the axioms which arenot isomorphic to the natural numbers. Such
non-standard models
contain inﬁnitely large numbers(bigger than all natural numbers).The proof is not speciﬁc to the Peano axioms,but applies to any system of axioms powerfulenough to describe the natural numbers. (By con-trast, it is possible to ﬁnd
complete
axiom systems(such that every true statement is provable) for thetheory of the natural numbers with zero, successorand addition. So multiplication is essential to theargument.Completeness cannot be restored simply byadding a true but unprovable statement as a newaxiom. For the resulting system is still strongenough for G¨odel’s Theorem to apply to it.Assuming that the natural numbers exist, itseems that we could obtain a complete axioma-tisation by simply taking all true statements asaxioms. However, one requirement of a ﬁrst-ordertheory is that the axioms should be recognisableby some mechanical method. As Turing subse-quently showed, the true statements about thenatural number cannot be mechanically recognised(their G¨odel numbers do not form a
recursive set
).odel’s true but unprovable statement is impor-tant for foundations but has no particular math-ematical signiﬁcance of its own. Later, Paris andHarrington gave the ﬁrst example of a mathemat-ically signiﬁcant statement which is unprovable1

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