Gentzen's proof systems: byproducts in a work of genius

Bulletin of Symbolic Logic 18 (3):313-367 (2012)
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Gentzen's systems of natural deduction and sequent calculus were byproducts in his program of proving the consistency of arithmetic and analysis. It is suggested that the central component in his results on logical calculi was the use of a tree form for derivations. It allows the composition of derivations and the permutation of the order of application of rules, with a full control over the structure of derivations as a result. Recently found documents shed new light on the discovery of these calculi. In particular, Gentzen set up five different forms of natural calculi and gave a detailed proof of normalization for intuitionistic natural deduction. An early handwritten manuscript of his thesis shows that a direct translation from natural deduction to the axiomatic logic of Hilbert and Ackermann was, in addition to the influence of Paul Hertz, the second component in the discovery of sequent calculus. A system intermediate between the sequent calculus LI and axiomatic logic, denoted LIG in unpublished sources, is implicit in Gentzen's published thesis of 1934—35. The calculus has half rules, half “groundsequents,” and does not allow full cut elimination. Nevertheless, a translation from LI to LIG in the published thesis gives a subformula property for a complete class of derivations in LIG. After the thesis, Gentzen continued to work on variants of sequent calculi for ten more years, in the hope to find a consistency proof for arithmetic within an intuitionistic calculus.



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Jan Von Plato
University of Helsinki

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Investigations into Logical Deduction.Gerhard Gentzen - 1964 - American Philosophical Quarterly 1 (4):288 - 306.

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