Gödel's incompleteness theorems

Formal systems: completeness, consistency, and effective axiomatization

There are several properties that a formal system may have, including completeness, consistency, and the existence of an effective axiomatization. The incompleteness theorems show that systems which contain a sufficient amount of arithmetic cannot possess all three of these properties.

This means that there is a computer program that, in principle, could enumerate all the theorems of the system without listing any statements that are not theorems. Examples of effectively generated theories include Peano arithmetic and Zermelo–Fraenkel set theory (ZFC).

The theory known as true arithmetic consists of all true statements about the standard integers in the language of Peano arithmetic. This theory is consistent and complete, and contains a sufficient amount of arithmetic. However it does not have a recursively enumerable set of axioms, and thus does not satisfy the hypotheses of the incompleteness theorems.

If one takes all statements in the language of Peano arithmetic as axioms, then this theory is complete, has a recursively enumerable set of axioms, and can describe addition and multiplication. However, it is not consistent.

The system of Presburger arithmetic consists of a set of axioms for the natural numbers with just the addition operation (multiplication is omitted). Presburger arithmetic is complete, consistent, and recursively enumerable and can encode addition but not multiplication of natural numbers, showing that for Gödel's theorems one needs the theory to encode not just addition but also multiplication.

The pattern illustrated in the previous sections with Peano arithmetic, ZFC, and ZFC + "there exists an inaccessible cardinal" cannot generally be broken. Here ZFC + "there exists an inaccessible cardinal" cannot from itself, be proved consistent. It is also not complete, as illustrated by the in ZFC + "there exists an inaccessible cardinal" theory unresolved continuum hypothesis.

The first incompleteness theorem shows that, in formal systems that can express basic arithmetic, a complete and consistent finite list of axioms can never be created: each time an additional, consistent statement is added as an axiom, there are other true statements that still cannot be proved, even with the new axiom. If an axiom is ever added that makes the system complete, it does so at the cost of making the system inconsistent. It is not even possible for an infinite list of axioms to be complete, consistent, and effectively axiomatized.

To prove the first incompleteness theorem, Gödel demonstrated that the notion of provability within a system could be expressed purely in terms of arithmetical functions that operate on Gödel numbers of sentences of the system. Therefore, the system, which can prove certain facts about numbers, can also indirectly prove facts about its own statements, provided that it is effectively generated. Questions about the provability of statements within the system are represented as questions about the arithmetical properties of numbers themselves, which would be decidable by the system if it were complete.

Compared to the theorems stated in Gödel's 1931 paper, many contemporary statements of the incompleteness theorems are more general in two ways. These generalized statements are phrased to apply to a broader class of systems, and they are phrased to incorporate weaker consistency assumptions.

This theorem is stronger than the first incompleteness theorem because the statement constructed in the first incompleteness theorem does not directly express the consistency of the system. The proof of the second incompleteness theorem is obtained by formalizing the proof of the first incompleteness theorem within the system F itself.

There are systems, such as Robinson arithmetic, which are strong enough to meet the assumptions of the first incompleteness theorem, but which do not prove the Hilbert–Bernays conditions. Peano arithmetic, however, is strong enough to verify these conditions, as are all theories stronger than Peano arithmetic.

Because of the two meanings of the word undecidable, the term independent is sometimes used instead of undecidable for the "neither provable nor refutable" sense.

These are natural mathematical equivalents of the Gödel "true but undecidable" sentence. They can be proved in a larger system which is generally accepted as a valid form of reasoning, but are undecidable in a more limited system such as Peano Arithmetic.

The proof by contradiction has three essential parts. To begin, choose a formal system that meets the proposed criteria:

Having shown that in principle the system can indirectly make statements about provability, by analyzing properties of those numbers representing statements it is now possible to show how to create a statement that actually does this.

and the p defined by this roughly states that its own Gödel number is the Gödel number of an unprovable formula.

", when preceded by itself in quotes, is unprovable.", when preceded by itself in quotes, is unprovable.

This sentence does not directly refer to itself, but when the stated transformation is made the original sentence is obtained as a result, and thus this sentence indirectly asserts its own unprovability. The proof of the diagonal lemma employs a similar method.

Thus the statement p is undecidable in our axiomatic system: it can neither be proved nor disproved within the system.

In the case of the mind, a far more complex formal system, this "downward causality" manifests, in Hofstadter's view, as the ineffable human instinct that the causality of our minds lies on the high level of desires, concepts, personalities, thoughts and ideas, rather than on the low level of interactions between neurons or even fundamental particles, even though according to physics the latter seems to possess the causal power.

Gödel gave a series of lectures on his theorems at Princeton in 1933–1934 to an audience that included Church, Kleene, and Rosser. By this time, Gödel had grasped that the key property his theorems required is that the system must be effective (at the time, the term "general recursive" was used). Rosser proved in 1936 that the hypothesis of ω-consistency, which was an integral part of Gödel's original proof, could be replaced by simple consistency, if the Gödel sentence was changed in an appropriate way. These developments left the incompleteness theorems in essentially their modern form.

Gentzen published his consistency proof for first-order arithmetic in 1936. Hilbert accepted this proof as "finitary" although (as Gödel's theorem had already shown) it cannot be formalized within the system of arithmetic that is being proved consistent.