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Something Valid This Way Comes: A Study of Neologicism and Proof-Theoretic Validity

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  16 January 2023

Will Stafford*
University of California, Irvine, USA, 2021.
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The interplay of philosophical ambitions and technical reality have given birth to rich and interesting approaches to explain the oft-claimed special character of mathematical and logical knowledge. Two projects stand out both for their audacity and their innovativeness. These are logicism and proof-theoretic semantics. This dissertation contains three chapters exploring the limits of these two projects. In both cases I find the formal results offer a mixed blessing to the philosophical projects.

Chapter 1. Is a logicist bound to the claim that as a matter of analytic truth there is an actual infinity of objects? If Hume’s Principle is analytic then in the standard setting the answer appears to be yes. Hodes’s work pointed to a way out by offering a modal picture in which only a potential infinity was posited. However, this project was abandoned due to apparent failures of cross-world predication. I re-explore this idea and discover that in the setting of the potential infinite one can interpret first-order Peano arithmetic, but not second-order Peano arithmetic. I conclude that in order for the logicist to weaken the metaphysically loaded claim of necessary actual infinities, they must also weaken the mathematics they recover.

Chapter 2. There have been several recent results bringing into focus the super-intuitionistic nature of most notions of proof-theoretic validity. But there has been very little work evaluating the consequences of these results. In this chapter, I explore the question of whether these results undermine the claim that proof-theoretic validity shows us which inferences follow from the meaning of the connectives when defined by their introduction rules. It is argued that the super-intuitionistic inferences are valid due to the correspondence between the treatment of the atomic formulas and more complex formulas. And so the goals of proof-theoretic validity are not undermined.

Chapter 3. Prawitz (1971) conjectured that proof-theoretic validity offers a semantics for intuitionistic logic. This conjecture has recently been proven false by Piecha and Schroeder-Heister (2019). This chapter resolves one of the questions left open by this recent result by showing the extensional alignment of proof-theoretic validity and general inquisitive logic. General inquisitive logic is a generalisation of inquisitive semantics, a uniform semantics for questions and assertions. The chapter further defines a notion of quasi-proof-theoretic validity by restricting proof-theoretic validity to allow double negation elimination for atomic formulas and proves the extensional alignment of quasi-proof-theoretic validity and inquisitive logic.

Abstract prepared by Will Stafford extracted partially from the dissertation.



Thesis Abstracts
© The Author(s), 2023. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of The Association for Symbolic Logic


Supervised by Kai Wehmeier and Sean Walsh.