Synthetic Undecidability and Incompleteness of First-Order Axiom Systems in Coq: Extended Version

Dominik Kirst, Marc Hermes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We mechanise the undecidability of various first-order axiom systems in Coq, employing the synthetic approach to computability underlying the growing Coq Library of Undecidability Proofs. Concretely, we cover both semantic and deductive entailment in fragments of Peano arithmetic (PA) as well as ZF and related finitary set theories, with their undecidability established by many-one reductions from solvability of Diophantine equations, i.e. Hilbert’s tenth problem (H10), and the Post correspondence problem (PCP), respectively. In the synthetic setting based on the computability of all functions definable in a constructive foundation, such as Coq’s type theory, it suffices to define these reductions as meta-level functions with no need for further encoding in a formalised model of computation. The concrete cases of PA and the considered set theories are supplemented by a general synthetic theory of undecidable axiomatisations, focusing on well-known connections to consistency and incompleteness. Specifically, our reductions rely on the existence of standard models, necessitating additional assumptions in the case of full ZF, and all axiomatic extensions still justified by such standard models are shown incomplete. As a by-product of the undecidability of set theories formulated using only membership and no equality symbol, we obtain the undecidability of first-order logic with a single binary relation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number13
JournalJournal of Automated Reasoning
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • Constructive type theory
  • Coq
  • First-order logic
  • Incompleteness
  • Peano arithmetic
  • Synthetic computability
  • Undecidability
  • ZF set theory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Computational Theory and Mathematics
  • Artificial Intelligence


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