Tarski–Grothendieck set theory

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Tarski–Grothendieck set theory (TG, named after mathematicians Alfred Tarski and Alexander Grothendieck) is an axiomatic set theory. It is a non-conservative extension of Zermelo–Fraenkel set theory (ZFC) and is distinguished from other axiomatic set theories by the inclusion of Tarski's axiom, which states that for each set there is a Grothendieck universe it belongs to (see below). Tarski's axiom implies the existence of inaccessible cardinals, providing a richer ontology than that of conventional set theories such as ZFC. For example, adding this axiom supports category theory.

The Mizar system and Metamath use Tarski–Grothendieck set theory for formal verification of proofs.


Tarski–Grothendieck set theory starts with conventional Zermelo–Fraenkel set theory and then adds "Tarski's axiom". We will use the axioms, definitions, and notation of Mizar to describe it. Mizar's basic objects and processes are fully formal; they are described informally below. First, let us assume that:

  • Given any set , the singleton exists.
  • Given any two sets, their unordered and ordered pairs exist.
  • Given any family of sets, its union exists.

TG includes the following axioms, which are conventional because they are also part of ZFC:

  • Set axiom: Quantified variables range over sets alone; everything is a set (the same ontology as ZFC).
  • Extensionality axiom: Two sets are identical if they have the same members.
  • Axiom of regularity: No set is a member of itself, and circular chains of membership are impossible.
  • Axiom schema of replacement: Let the domain of the function be the set . Then the range of (the values of for all members of ) is also a set.

It is Tarski's axiom that distinguishes TG from other axiomatic set theories. Tarski's axiom also implies the axioms of infinity, choice,[1][2] and power set.[3][4] It also implies the existence of inaccessible cardinals, thanks to which the ontology of TG is much richer than that of conventional set theories such as ZFC.

  • Tarski's axiom (adapted from Tarski 1939[5]). For every set , there exists a set whose members include:

- itself;

- every subset of every member of ;

- the power set of every member of ;

- every subset of of cardinality less than that of .

More formally:

where "" denotes the power class of x and "" denotes equinumerosity. What Tarski's axiom states (in the vernacular) for each set there is a Grothendieck universe it belongs to.

Implementation in the Mizar system[edit]

The Mizar language, underlying the implementation of TG and providing its logical syntax, is typed and the types are assumed to be non-empty. Hence, the theory is implicitly taken to be non-empty. The existence axioms, e.g. the existence of the unordered pair, is also implemented indirectly by the definition of term constructors.

The system includes equality, the membership predicate and the following standard definitions:

  • Singleton: A set with one member;
  • Unordered pair: A set with two distinct members. ;
  • Ordered pair: The set ;
  • Subset: A set all of whose members are members of another given set;
  • The union of a family of sets : The set of all members of any member of .

Implementation in Metamath[edit]

The Metamath system supports arbitrary higher-order logics, but it is typically used with the "set.mm" definitions of axioms. The ax-groth axiom adds Tarski's axiom, which in Metamath is defined as follows:

⊢ ∃y(x ∈ y ∧ ∀z ∈ y (∀w(w ⊆ z → w ∈ y) ∧ ∃w ∈ y ∀v(v ⊆ z → v ∈ w)) ∧ ∀z(z ⊆ y → (z ≈ y ∨ z ∈ y)))

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Tarski (1938)
  2. ^ http://mmlquery.mizar.org/mml/current/wellord2.html#T26
  3. ^ Robert Solovay, Re: AC and strongly inaccessible cardinals.
  4. ^ Metamath grothpw.
  5. ^ Tarski (1939)


External links[edit]