Intuitionistic Higher-Order Logic and Equality


I have posted plenty of motivation for considering equality and higher-order logic elsewhere on this blog by now. Let me finally get to the intuitionistic version of higher-order logic, since I talked about the classical version previously and then also talked at length about "Intuitionistic Logic and Natural Deduction" without really getting closer to the matter. Intuitionistic higher-order logic is what let's you talk about an elementary topos, and using equality to characterize the logical connectives gives an insightful perspective on those commutative diagrams for people who are familiar with $\lambda$ calculus. \( \newcommand{\qeq}[0]{\color{blue} {\mathrm{eq}}} \newcommand{\qSigma}[0]{\color{blue} \Sigma} \newcommand{\qPi}[0]{\color{blue} \Pi} \newcommand{\qor}[0]{\color{blue} {\mathrm{or}}} \newcommand{\tprop}[0]{\omicron} \newcommand{\qtrue}[0]{{\color{blue} {\mathrm{true}}}} \newcommand{\qand}[0]{\color{blue} {\mathrm{and}}} \newcommand{\qimplies}[0]{\color{blue} {\mathrm{implies}}} \newcommand{\qPi}[0]{\color{blue} \Pi} \newcommand{\qfalse}[0]{{\color{blue} {\mathrm{false}}}} \newcommand{\qnot}[0]{{\color{blue} {\mathrm{not}}}} \)

I am going to refer to material in "Higher order logic and equality" often. Like in that post, there is actually no original material here; I am just gathering definitions that is probably well-known to some grad students and experts (yet nobody calls it standard since neither higher-order logic nor intuitionistic logic are known very well outside certain circles who deal with formal logic and proof assistants and the like). This is my feeble attempt at an exposition.

The Logic of a Topos

We take a $\lambda$ calculus with surjective pairing and a type $\omicron$ which we take as a substitute for "truth values" (topos theory texts use $\Omega$ but we want easy comparison with the classical version linked above, and we spell out $\qPi \lambda x. t$ without setting up an abbreviation $\forall x. t$ and we also spell out $\qSigma \lambda x. t$ without setting up an abbreviation $\exists x. t$). We want to set this up in an intuitionistic manner, which means doing away with the idea that $\omicron$ stands for two truth values, and not using classical logical equivalences to define $\qor$ and $\qSigma$. The terms would then correspond to a particular cartesian-closed category, the free topos.

We again want to define everything in terms of equality $\qeq_\alpha: \alpha \rightarrow \alpha \rightarrow \omicron$. What is this equality doing? In our langugage, it talks about equality of terms, and in categorical logic, terms correspond to arrows and thus equality should talk about equality of arrows. (There is some detail hidden here as our language will also let us talk about "global elements" $1 \stackrel{c}{\longrightarrow} C$ which are written as constant terms $c: C$). We take the following elements of our logical language: $$ \begin{align*} \qtrue:\ & \omicron\\ \qand:\ & \omicron \rightarrow \omicron \rightarrow \omicron\\ \qimplies:\ & \omicron \rightarrow \omicron \rightarrow \omicron\\ \qPi_\alpha:\ & (\alpha \rightarrow \omicron) \rightarrow \omicron\\ \end{align*} $$

... and define them using the only primitive $\qeq$: $$ \begin{align*} \qtrue &:= \qeq_{\tprop \rightarrow \tprop \rightarrow \tprop} \qeq_\tprop \qeq_\tprop\\ \qand &:= \lambda x:\tprop. \lambda y:\tprop. \\ &\quad \quad \qeq_{\tprop \rightarrow \tprop \rightarrow \tprop} \\ &\quad \quad \quad (\lambda z: \tprop \rightarrow \tprop \rightarrow \tprop. z~\qtrue~\qtrue) \\ &\quad \quad \quad (\lambda z: \tprop \rightarrow \tprop \rightarrow \tprop. z~x~y) \\ \qimplies &:= \lambda x:\tprop. \lambda y:\tprop. \qeq~x~(\qand~x~y)\\ \qPi_\alpha &:= \qeq_{(\alpha \rightarrow \tprop) \rightarrow (\alpha \rightarrow \tprop) \rightarrow \tprop}~(\lambda x : \alpha. \qtrue) \end{align*} $$

These definitions are the same as for classical logic. An intro to topos theory will typically describe $\qand$ and $\qimplies$ using commutative diagrams, but here we are defining the language first. Moreover, the language has only one primitive $\qeq$, though that primitive is instantiated at different types.


Now we look at $\qfalse$, which is also defined the same as in classical case: $$ \begin{align*} \qfalse &: \omicron\\ \qfalse &:= \qeq_{\tprop \rightarrow \tprop} (\lambda x:\tprop. \qtrue) (\lambda x:\tprop. x)\\ \end{align*} $$

In a topos theory text, one encounters $\forall v:\omicron. v$, which is shorthand for $\qPi\lambda v:\omicron. v$ and actually expands to the very same definition above. The definition that mentions $\qeq$ explicitly has the advantage that it explains what is going on: it morally says "if there is anything other than $\qtrue$ in $\omicron$, then $\lambda x:\omicron. \qtrue$ and $\mathsf{id}_\omicron$ are not the same." So we have a value $\qfalse$, but it need to be the only thing distinct from $\qtrue$ in $\omicron$.

Not, Or and Exists

On to intuitionistic negation $\qnot$. In intuitionistic logic, we would define negation like this: $$ \begin{align*} \qnot &: \omicron \rightarrow \omicron\\ \qnot &:= \lambda x: \tprop. \qimplies(x, \qfalse) \end{align*} $$

If we consult the classical version $\qnot := \qeq_{\tprop \rightarrow \tprop} \qfalse$, we again find that this is not that different.

Finally, let's look at $\qor$ and $\qSigma$. We define these using $\qPi$: $$ \begin{align*} \qor &: \omicron \rightarrow \omicron \rightarrow \omicron\\ \qor &:= \lambda x: \omicron. \lambda y: \omicron. \qPi \lambda r:\omicron. \\ & \quad \quad \qimplies(\qand(\qimplies(x, r), \qimplies(y,r)), r) \\ \\ \qSigma_\alpha &: (\alpha \rightarrow \omicron) \rightarrow \omicron \\ \qSigma_\alpha &:= \lambda x: \alpha \rightarrow \omicron. \qPi \lambda r:\omicron. \\ &\quad \quad (\qPi \lambda z:\alpha. \qimplies(\qimplies(x z, r), vr) \end{align*} $$

We can get an intuitive understanding of these definitions: for $\qor$, if we have a way of obtaining an element $r$ (result) from $x$ and one of obtaining the same from $y$, then also from $(\qor~x~y)$. Similarly for $\qSigma$, if we have a way of obtaining any result $r$ from the "instantiated" predicate $x z$, then also from $\qSigma x$.

The definition of $\qor$ in terms of $\qand$ and $\qPi$ is not very different from natural deduction rule for "or elimination": $$ \cfrac{\begin{array}[cc]{} \\ {} \\ A \vee B \end{array} \quad \begin{array}[cc]{} [A] \\ ~~\vdots \\ \phantom{[}C\phantom{]} \end{array}\quad \begin{array}[cc]{} [B] \\ ~~\vdots \\ \phantom{[}C\phantom{]} \end{array} } {C}~\color{blue}{(\vee{\mathrm{\small ELIM}})} $$

Checking the the natural deduction rule for existential elimination and comparing it with the encoding above is left as an exercise.

The end of the beginning

Higher order logic seems to deserve more attention. We have set up a logical system based on $\lambda$ calculus without making use of the Curry Howard correspondence. While the previous discussion focused on classical higher order logic as introduced by Church in 1940, in this post we looked at intuitionistic higher order logic. The interest in the latter is at least very heavily influenced by topos theory.

It is slightly confusing that when discussing elementary toposes, one talks of first-order logic when in reality the logic is inherently higher-order (because a topos is cartesian closed). I guess the charitable perspective is what people mean is "you can do everything that you would want to do in formal set theory using first-order logic."

The Lambek and Scott book "Introduction to higher order categorical logic" dwells a bit on the fact that it is always possible to get a formulation of the internal language of a topos using equality. Andrews $Q_0$ develops simple type theory / higher order logic using a single equality operator $Q$. Various theorem proving systems have been based on this (TPS and HOL).

One could say that the way higher-order logic admits the definition of logical connectives in terms of other is an "encoding" of natural deduction rules. Could one use this idea to build a logical framework, a representation of derivations? Indeed this is what is underlying Isabelle/Pure framework and $\lambda$Prolog.

It would seem worthwhile to write a proper book that takes a logical perspective on the $\lambda$ calculus, developing higher order logic as language, category theory as semantics and arriving at elementary toposes as models. It would probably feel very elementary and pedestrian in the academic world, but I do think it would be useful. It feels to me that there is so much "background knowledge" to gather the relevant theory on logic and computation that most practitioners will not have the energy (and this says something about the potential for adopting of formal methods). Until such a book arrives (I'm not sure if I would have the energy), I hope my out-of-order blog posts provide some help on the reader's journey. There are certainly a lot of of connections between logic, language, types and semantics that are left to be explored, besides Curry Howard and dependent types.

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