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# Gödel’s incompleteness theorems

## Relationship with computability

As early as 1943, Kleene gave a proof of Godel’s incompleteness theorem using basic results of computability theory. A basic result of computability shows that the halting problem is unsolvable: there is no computer program that can correctly determine, given a program P as input, whether P eventually halts when run with no input. Kleene showed that the existence of a complete effective theory of arithmetic with certain consistency properties would force the halting problem to be decidable, a contradiction. An exposition of this proof at the undergraduate level was given by Charlesworth (1980).

By enumerating all possible proofs, it is possible to enumerate all the provable consequences of any effective first-order theory. This makes is possible to search for proofs of a certain form. Moreover, the method of arithmetization introduced by Gödel can be used to show that any sufficiently strong theory of arithmetic can represent the workings of computer programs. In particular, for each program P there is a formula Q such that Q expresses the idea that P halts when run with no input. The formula Q says, essentially, that there is a natural number that encodes the entire computation history of P and this history ends with P halting.

If, for every such formula Q, either Q or the negation of Q was a logical consequence of the axiom system, then it would be possible, by enumerating enough theorems, to determine which of these is the case. In particular, for each program P, the axiom system would either prove “P halts when run with no input,” or “P doesn’t halt when run with no input.”

Consistency assumptions imply that the axiom system is correct about these theorems. If the axioms prove that a program P doesn’t halt when the program P actually does halt, then the axiom system is inconsistent, because it is possible to use the complete computation history of P to make a proof that P does halt. This proof would just follow the computation of P step-by-step until P halts after a finite number of steps.

The mere consistency of the axiom system is not enough to obtain a contradiction, however, because a consistent axiom system could still prove the ω-inconsistent theorem that a program halts, when it actually doesn’t halt. The assumption of ω-consistency implies, however, that if the axiom system proves a program doesn’t halt then the program actually does not halt. Thus if the axiom system was consistent and ω-consistent, its proofs about which programs halt would correctly reflect reality. Thus it would be possible to effectively decide which programs halt by merely enumerating proofs in the system; this contradiction shows that no effective, consistent, ω-consistent formal theory of arithmetic that is strong enough to represent the workings of a computer can be complete.