Critical point (set theory)

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In set theory, the critical point of an elementary embedding of a transitive class into another transitive class is the smallest ordinal which is not mapped to itself.[1]

Suppose that j : NM is an elementary embedding where N and M are transitive classes and j is definable in N by a formula of set theory with parameters from N. Then j must take ordinals to ordinals and j must be strictly increasing. Also j(ω)=ω. If j(α)=α for all α<κ and j(κ)>κ, then κ is said to be the critical point of j.

If N is V, then κ (the critical point of j) is always a measurable cardinal, i.e. an uncountable cardinal number κ such that there exists a <κ-complete, non-principal ultrafilter over κ. Specifically, one may take the filter to be  \{A \vert A \subseteq \kappa \land \kappa \in j (A) \} \,. Generally, there will be many other <κ-complete, non-principal ultrafilters over κ. However, j might be different from the ultrapower(s) arising from such filter(s).

If N and M are the same and j is the identity function on N, then j is called "trivial". If transitive class N is an inner model of ZFC and j has no critical point, i.e. every ordinal maps to itself, then j is trivial.


  1. ^ Jech, Thomas (2002). Set Theory. Berlin: Springer-Verlag. ISBN 3-540-44085-2.  p. 323