17 November 2020: Julien Murzi and Brett Topey

Categoricity BY CONVENTION

Abstract: On a widespread naturalist view, the meanings of mathematical terms are determined, and can only be determined, by the way we use mathematical language — in particular, by the basic mathematical principles we’re disposed to accept. But it’s mysterious how this can be so, since, as is well known, minimally strong first-order theories are non-categorical and so are compatible with countless non-isomorphic interpretations. As for second-order theories: though they typically enjoy categoricity results — for instance, Dedekind’s categoricity theorem for second-order PA and Zermelo’s quasi-categoricity theorem for second-order ZFC — these results require full second-order logic. So appealing to these results seems only to push the problem back, since the principles of second-order logic are themselves non-categorical: those principles are compatible with restricted interpretations of the second-order quantifiers on which Dedekind’s and Zermelo’s results are no longer available. In this paper, we provide a naturalist-friendly, non-revisionary solution to an analogous but seemingly more basic problem — Carnap’s categoricity problem for propositional and first-order logic — and show that our solution generalizes, giving us full second-order logic and thereby securing the categoricity or quasi-categoricity of second-order mathematical theories. Briefly, the first-order quantifiers have their intended interpretation, we claim, because we’re disposed to follow the quantifier rules in an open-ended way. As we show, given this open-endedness, the interpretation of the quantifiers must be permutation-invariant and so, by a theorem recently proved by Bonnay & Westerståhl, must be the standard interpretation. Analogously for the second-order case: we prove, by generalizing Bonnay & Westerståhl’s theorem, that the permutation invariance of the interpretation of the second-order quantifiers, guaranteed once again by the open-endedness of our inferential dispositions, suffices to yield full second-order logic.