Gödel interpretation

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of intuitionistic arithmetic

A translation of formulas of intuitionistic arithmetic into formulas of the type , where , and are variables of various finite types. Provable formulas of arithmetic are translated into provable formulas of a quantifier-free theory of finite types. Thus, this translation reduces the consistency of intuitionistic arithmetic (and hence of classical arithmetic) to that of such a theory of finite types, as was Gödel's original aim.

This type theory, call it , has an infinite list of variables of each type : 1) a type (the type of natural numbers); and 2) if are types, then is a type (the type of functions which take arguments of types , respectively, into a value of type ). The language contains terms of various types: a variable of type is a term of type , 0 is a term of type 0, and the symbol which denotes the function of adding one to a natural number is a term of type . The remaining terms are formed by generation laws: Church -abstraction and primitive recursion for functions of arbitrary type. The atomic formulas of are equalities , where , are terms of type zero. The formulas of are obtained from atomic formulas with the aid of the logical connectives of propositional calculus: , , , . The postulates of are the axioms and derivation rules of intuitionistic propositional calculus, equality axioms, the Peano axioms for 0 and , equations of primitive recursion, the axiom of application of a function defined by -abstraction, and, finally, the principle of mathematical induction, formulated as a derivation rule without the use of quantifiers. will denote the theory completed by quantifiers in variables of arbitrary type and corresponding logical axioms and derivation rules for quantifiers.

Gödel's interpretation translates any formula from (i.e. any formula of intuitionistic arithmetic as well) into a formula of the type

where is a quantifier-free formula, , , are variables of different types, and is the set of all free variables of the formula .

Let be a formula of intuitionistic arithmetic, and let be its Gödel interpretation. If is deducible in formal intuitionistic arithmetic, it is possible to construct a term of such that the formula is deducible in . Thus, the consistency of arithmetic is reduced to demonstrating the consistency of the quantifier-free theory .

The intuitionistic semantics based on Gödel's interpretation is defined as follows: A formula is considered to be true if it is possible to find a computable term such that the quantifier-free formula is true for any computable .


[1] K. Gödel, "Ueber eine bisher noch nicht benützte Erweiterung des finiten Standpunktes" Dialectica , 12 (1958) pp. 280–287


In the West this interpretation is commonly called the Dialectica interpretation.


[a1] E. Bishop, "Mathematics as a numerical language" A. Kino (ed.) J. Myhill (ed.) R.E. Vesley (ed.) , Intuitionism and Proof Theory , North-Holland (1970) pp. 53–71
[a2] A.S. Troelstra (ed.) , Metamathematical investigations , Lect. notes in math. , 344 , Springer (1973) pp. 230ff
How to Cite This Entry:
Gödel interpretation. Encyclopedia of Mathematics. URL:
This article was adapted from an original article by A.G. Dragalin (originator), which appeared in Encyclopedia of Mathematics - ISBN 1402006098. See original article