Logic and Language

Logic and Language

Copyright © James R Meyer 2012 - 2018 www.jamesrmeyer.com

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Peter Smith is a prominent apologist for Gödel’s incompleteness proof. He has written several versions of his own “proof” of incompleteness. All of his accounts include the same fundamental error. The most detailed account is to be found in his book, *‘An Introduction to Gödel’s Theorems’*, (Footnote: Peter Smith. *An Introduction to Gödel’s Theorems*. Cambridge University Press, 2006.

ISBN: 9780521857840 See An Introduction to Gödel’s Theorems: Details.) which I have analyzed in depth in my paper A Fundamental Flaw in an Incompleteness Proof by Peter Smith PDF. If you want to investigate Smith’s claims in depth, I would recommend that you follow the book and my analysis of it.

However, Smith also has a downloadable version available at Logic Matters: Gödel Without (Too Many) Tears, which he says is a cut-down version of the book. Many people will use this version rather than buying the book, and in fact Smith states that thousands of this version have been downloaded. This is the reason I have decided to make an analysis of that version available here, for those who do not want to buy Smith’s book.

Readers should be aware while Smith’s argument in the downloadable version is essentially the same as that expounded in his book, in the downloadable version a lot of details are omitted, or glossed over. However, this lack of detail is not the cause of the error shown below - it is also evident in the detailed version in Smith’s book.

The key place where the crucial error occurs is in Smith’s “proof” is in his “Theorem” 31, which Smith states as follows: (Footnote: The terms that Smith uses are as follows:

p.r. function: a primitive recursive number-theoretic function.

** L_{A}**: A language system that can express p.r. functions.

g.n.: A Gödel number of an expression of the language

*Theorem 31:* There is a p.r. function ** diag(n)** which, when applied to a number

*Proof:* Consider this procedure. Try treating ** n** as a g.n., and seek to decode it. If you don’t get an expression with one free variable, return

So what Smith is saying in his “proof” above is this:

If ** n** is the Gödel number of a valid formula

*diag*(*n*) = g.n.[*φ*(*n*)]

Yes, this is a recursive function. But it is most certainly not a primitive recursive function, since a primitive recursive function is necessarily number-theoretic. And regardless of the terminology, the entire point of the reference to primitive recursion is supposedly that any primitive recursive expression can be expressed in the language of the formal system ** L_{A}** which can only deal with numerical expressions.

As defined by Smith, ** diag(n)** cannot be a primitive recursive function, since it is defined in terms of the Gödel numbering function, which is a function of the meta-language and cannot be expressed in the formal language (see The Impossibility of Representation of a Gödel Numbering Function by a Formula of the Formal System).

Does it matter? Yes, it does. Because further on, in the “proof” of Theorem 33, Smith refers to an expression:

*Prf* (*m*, *diag*(*n*))

But although he has already defined ** Prf** as a primitive recursive number-theoretic function, his “proof” requires that the entire expression

Note that I have not attempted to discuss Smith’s error in his cut-down downloadable version in any more detail, simply because that version omits quite a lot of detail anyway. Since the error is essentially the same as in Smith’s book, if you want to see a fully detailed analysis of Smith’s error please see the paper A Fundamental Flaw in an Incompleteness Proof by Peter Smith PDF.

Smith’s “proof” is fatally flawed, since the error of assuming that an expression is a number-theoretic expression when it clearly isn’t completely undermines the entire argument. The error is the same error as in Smith’s book *An Introduction to Gödel’s Theorems*, and there is a much more detailed analysis of that error in the paper A Fundamental Flaw in an Incompleteness Proof by Peter Smith PDF.

In fact this type of error crops up in numerous attempted incompleteness proofs, see Errors in Incompleteness Proofs and Analyses of Incompleteness Proofs. If you want to ask Peter Smith about the error in his proof, send him an email at peter smith@me.com. If you get an interesting reply, please let me know.

Footnotes:

Diverse opinions and criticisms are welcome, but messages that are frivolous, irrelevant or devoid of logical basis will be blocked. Difficulties in understanding the site content are usually best addressed by contacting me by e-mail. Note: you will be asked to provide an e-mail address - any address will do, it does not require verification. Your e-mail will only be used to notify you of replies to your comments - it will never be used for any other purpose and will not be displayed. If you cannot see any comments below, see Why isn’t the comment box loading?.

How you can tell if someone is a crackpot

A review of Buldt’s *The Scope of Gödel’s First Incompleteness Theorem*

There is now a new page Halbach and Zhang’s *Yablo without Gödel* which analyzes the illogical assumptions used by Halbach and Zhang.

I found that making, adding or deleting footnotes in the traditional manner proved to be a major pain. So I developed a different system for footnotes which makes inserting or changing footnotes a doddle. You can check it out at Easy Footnotes for Web Pages (Accessibility friendly).

I have now added a new section to my paper on Russell O’Connor’s claim of a computer verified incompleteness proof. This shows that the flaw in the proof arises from a reliance on definitions that include unacceptable assumptions - assumptions that are not actually checked by the computer code. See also the new page Representability.

13 Jan 2017 Ned Block’s Blockhead

8 Apr 2016 Are we alone in the Universe?

13 May 2015 Good Math, Bad Math?

31 Mar 2015 Cranks and Crackpots

16th Mar 2015 Bishops Dancing with Pixies?

For convenience, there are now two pages on this site with links to various material relating to Gödel and the Incompleteness Theorem

– a page with general links:

– and a page relating specifically to the Gödel mind-machine debate:

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Copyright © James R Meyer 2012 - 2018

www.jamesrmeyer.com