Gödel's completeness theorem

The formula (x. R(x,x)) (∀xy. R(x,y)) holds in all structures (only the simplest 8 are shown left). By Gödel's completeness result, it must hence have a natural deduction proof (shown right).

Gödel's completeness theorem is a fundamental theorem in mathematical logic that establishes a correspondence between semantic truth and syntactic provability in first-order logic. It makes a close link between model theory that deals with what is true in different models, and proof theory that studies what can be formally proven in particular formal systems.

It was first proved by Kurt Gödel in 1929. It was then simplified in 1947, when Leon Henkin observed in his Ph.D. thesis that the hard part of the proof can be presented as the Model Existence Theorem (published in 1949). Henkin's proof was simplified by Gisbert Hasenjaeger in 1953.

Statement of the theorem


There are numerous deductive systems for first-order logic, including systems of natural deduction and Hilbert-style systems. Common to all deductive systems is the notion of a formal deduction. This is a sequence (or, in some cases, a finite tree) of formulas with a specially-designated conclusion. The definition of a deduction is such that it is finite and that it is possible to verify algorithmically (by a computer, for example, or by hand) that a given sequence (or tree) of formulas is indeed a deduction.

A first-order formula is called logically valid if it is true in every structure for the language of the formula (i.e. for any assignment of values to the variables of the formula). To formally state, and then prove, the completeness theorem, it is necessary to also define a deductive system. A deductive system is called complete if every logically valid formula is the conclusion of some formal deduction, and the completeness theorem for a particular deductive system is the theorem that it is complete in this sense. Thus, in a sense, there is a different completeness theorem for each deductive system. A converse to completeness is soundness, the fact that only logically valid formulas are provable in the deductive system.

If some specific deductive system of first-order logic is sound and complete, then it is "perfect" (a formula is provable if and only if it is a semantic consequence of the axioms), thus equivalent to any other deductive system with the same quality (any proof in one system can be converted into the other).

Gödel's original formulation

The completeness theorem says that if a formula is logically valid then there is a finite deduction (a formal proof) of the formula.

Gödel's completeness theorem says that a deductive system of first-order predicate calculus is "complete" in the sense that no additional inference rules are required to prove all the logically valid formulas. A converse to completeness is soundness, the fact that only logically valid formulas are provable in the deductive system. Together with soundness (whose verification is easy), this theorem implies that a formula is logically valid if and only if it is the conclusion of a formal deduction.

Model existence theorem

The simplest version of this theorem that suffices in practice for most needs, and has connections with the Löwenheim–Skolem theorem, says:

Every consistent, countable first-order theory has a finite or countable model.

A more general version can be expressed as :

Every consistent first-order theory with a well-orderable language has a model.

Here, a consistent theory is defined as one in which, for no formula F, both F and ¬F can be proven. See Consistency, the syntactic definition; the semantic definition would be tautological in this context.

This theorem by Henkin is the most directly obtained version of the completeness theorem in its simplest proof.

Given Henkin's theorem, the proof of the completeness theorem is as follows: If is valid, then does not have models. By the contrapositive of Henkin's, then is an inconsistent formula. But, by the definition of consistency, if is inconsistent then it's possible to build a proof of .

More general form

It says that for any first-order theory T with a well-orderable language, and any sentence s in the language of the theory, there is a formal proof of s in T if and only if s is satisfied by every model of T (s is a semantic consequence of T).

This more general theorem is used implicitly, for example, when a sentence is shown to be provable from the axioms of group theory by considering an arbitrary group and showing that the sentence is satisfied by that group. It is deduced from the model existence theorem as follows: if there is no formal proof of a formula then adding its negation to the axioms gives a consistent theory, which has thus a model, so that the formula is not a semantic consequence of the initial theory.

Gödel's original formulation is deduced by taking the particular case of a theory without any axiom.

As a theorem of arithmetic

The Model Existence Theorem and its proof can be formalized in the framework of Peano arithmetic. Precisely, we can systematically define a model of any consistent effective first-order theory T in Peano arithmetic by interpreting each symbol of T by an arithmetical formula whose free variables are the arguments of the symbol. However, the definition expressed by this formula is not recursive.


An important consequence of the completeness theorem is that it is possible to recursively enumerate the semantic consequences of any effective first-order theory, by enumerating all the possible formal deductions from the axioms of the theory, and use this to produce an enumeration of their conclusions.

This comes in contrast with the direct meaning of the notion of semantic consequence, that quantifies over all structures in a particular language, which is clearly not a recursive definition.

Also, it makes the concept of "provability," and thus of "theorem," a clear concept that only depends on the chosen system of axioms of the theory, and not on the choice of a proof system.

Relationship to the incompleteness theorem

Gödel's incompleteness theorem, another celebrated result, shows that there are inherent limitations in what can be achieved with formal proofs in mathematics. The name for the incompleteness theorem refers to another meaning of complete (see model theory – Using the compactness and completeness theorems).

It shows that in any consistent effective theory T containing Peano arithmetic (PA), the formula CT expressing the consistency of T cannot be proven within T.

Applying the completeness theorem to this result, gives the existence of a model of T where the formula CT is false. Such a model (precisely, the set of "natural numbers" it contains) is necessarily non-standard, as it contains the code number of a proof of a contradiction of T. But T is consistent when viewed from the outside. Thus this code number of a proof of contradiction of T must be a non-standard number.

In fact, the model of any theory containing PA obtained by the systematic construction of the arithmetical model existence theorem, is always non-standard with a non-equivalent provability predicate and a non-equivalent way to interpret its own construction, so that this construction is non-recursive (as recursive definitions would be unambiguous).

Also, there is no recursive non-standard model of PA.

Relationship to the compactness theorem

The completeness theorem and the compactness theorem are two cornerstones of first-order logic. While neither of these theorems can be proven in a completely effective manner, each one can be effectively obtained from the other.

The compactness theorem says that if a formula φ is a logical consequence of a (possibly infinite) set of formulas Γ then it is a logical consequence of a finite subset of Γ. This is an immediate consequence of the completeness theorem, because only a finite number of axioms from Γ can be mentioned in a formal deduction of φ, and the soundness of the deduction system then implies φ is a logical consequence of this finite set. This proof of the compactness theorem is originally due to Gödel.

Conversely, for many deductive systems, it is possible to prove the completeness theorem as an effective consequence of the compactness theorem.

The ineffectiveness of the completeness theorem can be measured along the lines of reverse mathematics. When considered over a countable language, the completeness and compactness theorems are equivalent to each other and equivalent to a weak form of choice known as weak König's lemma, with the equivalence provable in RCA0 (a second-order variant of Peano arithmetic restricted to induction over Σ01 formulas). Weak König's lemma is provable in ZF, the system of Zermelo–Fraenkel set theory without axiom of choice, and thus the completeness and compactness theorems for countable languages are provable in ZF. However the situation is different when the language is of arbitrary large cardinality since then, though the completeness and compactness theorems remain provably equivalent to each other in ZF, they are also provably equivalent to a weak form of the axiom of choice known as the ultrafilter lemma. In particular, no theory extending ZF can prove either the completeness or compactness theorems over arbitrary (possibly uncountable) languages without also proving the ultrafilter lemma on a set of same cardinality, knowing that on countable sets, the ultrafilter lemma becomes equivalent to weak König's lemma.

Completeness in other logics

The completeness theorem is a central property of first-order logic that does not hold for all logics. Second-order logic, for example, does not have a completeness theorem for its standard semantics (but does have the completeness property for Henkin semantics), and the same is true of all higher-order logics. It is possible to produce sound deductive systems for higher-order logics, but no such system can be complete. The set of logically-valid formulas in second-order logic is not enumerable.

Lindström's theorem states that first-order logic is the strongest (subject to certain constraints) logic satisfying both compactness and completeness.

A completeness theorem can be proved for modal logic or intuitionistic logic with respect to Kripke semantics.


Gödel's original proof of the theorem proceeded by reducing the problem to a special case for formulas in a certain syntactic form, and then handling this form with an ad hoc argument.

In modern logic texts, Gödel's completeness theorem is usually proved with Henkin's proof, rather than with Gödel's original proof. Henkin's proof directly constructs a term model for any consistent first-order theory. James Margetson (2004) developed a computerized formal proof using the Isabelle theorem prover. Other proofs are also known.

See also

Further reading

External links

This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 9/26/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.