Weakly compact cardinal

In mathematics, a weakly compact cardinal is a certain kind of cardinal number introduced by Erdős & Tarski (1961); weakly compact cardinals are large cardinals, meaning that their existence cannot be proven from the standard axioms of set theory. (Tarski originally called them "not strongly incompact" cardinals.)

Formally, a cardinal κ is defined to be weakly compact if it is uncountable and for every function f: [κ] 2 → {0, 1} there is a set of cardinality κ that is homogeneous for f. In this context, [κ] 2 means the set of 2-element subsets of κ, and a subset S of κ is homogeneous for f if and only if either all of [S]2 maps to 0 or all of it maps to 1.

The name "weakly compact" refers to the fact that if a cardinal is weakly compact then a certain related infinitary language satisfies a version of the compactness theorem; see below.

Every weakly compact cardinal is a reflecting cardinal, and is also a limit of reflecting cardinals. This means also that weakly compact cardinals are Mahlo cardinals, and the set of Mahlo cardinals less than a given weakly compact cardinal is stationary.

Equivalent formulationsEdit

The following are equivalent for any uncountable cardinal κ:

  1. κ is weakly compact.
  2. for every λ<κ, natural number n ≥ 2, and function f: [κ]n → λ, there is a set of cardinality κ that is homogeneous for f. (Drake 1974, chapter 7 theorem 3.5)
  3. κ is inaccessible and has the tree property, that is, every tree of height κ has either a level of size κ or a branch of size κ.
  4. Every linear order of cardinality κ has an ascending or a descending sequence of order type κ.
  5. κ is  -indescribable.
  6. κ has the extension property. In other words, for all UVκ there exists a transitive set X with κ ∈ X, and a subset SX, such that (Vκ, ∈, U) is an elementary substructure of (X, ∈, S). Here, U and S are regarded as unary predicates.
  7. For every set S of cardinality κ of subsets of κ, there is a non-trivial κ-complete filter that decides S.
  8. κ is κ-unfoldable.
  9. κ is inaccessible and the infinitary language Lκ,κ satisfies the weak compactness theorem.
  10. κ is inaccessible and the infinitary language Lκ,ω satisfies the weak compactness theorem.
  11. κ is inaccessible and for every transitive set   of cardinality κ with κ  ,  , and satisfying a sufficiently large fragment of ZFC, there is an elementary embedding   from   to a transitive set   of cardinality κ such that  , with critical point  κ. (Hauser 1991, Theorem 1.3)

A language Lκ,κ is said to satisfy the weak compactness theorem if whenever Σ is a set of sentences of cardinality at most κ and every subset with less than κ elements has a model, then Σ has a model. Strongly compact cardinals are defined in a similar way without the restriction on the cardinality of the set of sentences.

See alsoEdit


  • Drake, F. R. (1974), Set Theory: An Introduction to Large Cardinals, Studies in Logic and the Foundations of Mathematics, 76, Elsevier Science Ltd, ISBN 0-444-10535-2
  • Erdős, Paul; Tarski, Alfred (1961), "On some problems involving inaccessible cardinals", Essays on the foundations of mathematics, Jerusalem: Magnes Press, Hebrew Univ., pp. 50–82, MR 0167422 CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  • Hauser, Kai (1991), "Indescribable Cardinals and Elementary Embeddings", Journal of Symbolic Logic, Association for Symbolic Logic, 56: 439–457, doi:10.2307/2274692
  • Kanamori, Akihiro (2003), The Higher Infinite : Large Cardinals in Set Theory from Their Beginnings (2nd ed.), Springer, ISBN 3-540-00384-3 CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)