Although this is an introductory text on proof theory, most of its contents is not found in a unified form elsewhere in the literature, except at a very advanced level. The heart of the book is the ordinal analysis of axiom systems, with particular emphasis on that of the impredicative theory of elementary inductive definitions on the natural numbers. The "constructive" consequences of ordinal analysis are sketched out in the epilogue. The book provides a self-contained treatment assuming no prior knowledge of proof theory and almost none of logic. The author has, moreover, endeavoured not to use the "cabal language" of proof theory, but only a language familiar to most readers.

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This book verifies with compelling evidence the author’s intent to "write a book on proof theory that needs no previous knowledge of proof theory". Avoiding the cryptic terminology of proof theory as far as possible, the book starts at an elementary level and displays the connections between infinitary proof theory and generalized recursion theory, especially the theory of inductive definitions. As a "warm up" Gentzen's classical analysis of pure number theory is presented in a more modern terminology, followed by an explanation and proof of the famous result of Feferman and Schütte on the limits of predicativity. The author also provides an introduction to ordinal arithmetic, introduces the Veblen hierarchy and employs these functions to design an ordinal notation system for the ordinals below Epsilon 0 and Gamma 0, while emphasizing the first step into impredicativity, that is, the first step beyond Gamma 0. This is first done by an analysis of the theory of non-iterated inductive definitions using Buchholz’s improvement of local predicativity, followed by Weiermann's observation that Buchholz’s method can also be used for predicative theories to characterize their provably recursive functions. A second example presents an ordinal analysis of the theory of $/Pi_2$ reflection, a subsystem of set theory that is proof-theoretically equivalent to Kripke-Platek set.

The book is pitched at undergraduate/graduate level, and thus addressed to students of mathematical logic interested in the basics of proof theory. It can be used for introductory as well as more advanced courses in proof theory.

An earlier version of this book was published in 1989 as volume 1407 of the "Lecture Notes in Mathematics" (ISBN 978-3-540-51842-6).

Wolfram Pohlers (born 1943) is Full Professor and Director of the Institute for Mathematical Logic and Foundational Resarch at the Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität in Münster, Germany. He received his scientific training at the University of Munich where he worked as an Associate Professor from 1980 to 1985. From 1989 to 1990 he was a visiting scholar at the MSRI in Berkley and in 2005 he taught at the Ohio State University in Columbus.

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