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On Extensibility of Proof Checkers
 in Dybjer, Nordstrom and Smith (eds), Types for Proofs and Programs: International Workshop TYPES'94, Bastad
, 1995
"... This paper is about mechanical checking of formal mathematics. Given some formal system, we want to construct derivations in that system, or check the correctness of putative derivations; our job is not to ascertain truth (that is the job of the designer of our formal system), but only proof. Howeve ..."
Abstract

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This paper is about mechanical checking of formal mathematics. Given some formal system, we want to construct derivations in that system, or check the correctness of putative derivations; our job is not to ascertain truth (that is the job of the designer of our formal system), but only proof. However, we are quite rigid about this: only a derivation in our given formal system will do; nothing else counts as evidence! Thus it is not a collection of judgements (provability), or a consequence relation [Avr91] (derivability) we are interested in, but the derivations themselves; the formal system used to present a logic is important. This viewpoint seems forced on us by our intention to actually do formal mathematics. There is still a question, however, revolving around whether we insist on objects that are immediately recognisable as proofs (direct proofs), or will accept some metanotations that only compute to proofs (indirect proofs). For example, we informally refer to previously proved results, lemmas and theorems, without actually inserting the texts of their proofs in our argument. Such an argument could be made into a direct proof by replacing all references to previous results by their direct proofs, so it might be accepted as a kind of indirect proof. In fact, even for very simple formal systems, such an indirect proof may compute to a very much bigger direct proof, and if we will only accept a fully expanded direct proof (in a mechanical proof checker for example), we will not be able to do much mathematics. It is well known that this notion of referring to previous results can be internalized in a logic as a cut rule, or Modus Ponens. In a logic containing a cut rule, proofs containing cuts are considered direct proofs, and can be directly accepted by a proof ch...