The Modal Logic of Potential Infinity: Branching Versus Convergent Possibilities


Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Modal logic provides an elegant way to understand the notion of potential infinity. This raises the question of what the right modal logic is for reasoning about potential infinity. In this article I identify a choice point in determining the right modal logic: Can a potentially infinite collection ever be expanded in two mutually incompatible ways? If not, then the possible expansions are convergent; if so, then the possible expansions are branching. When possible expansions are convergent, the right modal logic is S4.2, and a mirroring theorem due to Linnebo allows for a natural potentialist interpretation of mathematical discourse. When the possible expansions are branching, the right modal logic is S4. However, the usual box and diamond do not suffice to express everything the potentialist wants to express. I argue that the potentialist also needs an operator expressing that something will eventually happen in every possible expansion. I prove that the result of adding this operator to S4 makes the set of validities Pi-1-1 hard. This result makes it unlikely that there is any natural translation of ordinary mathematical discourse into the potentialist framework in the context of branching possibilities.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2161-2179
Number of pages19
Issue number5
Early online date19 Aug 2020
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2022

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