Metatheory and Reflection in Theorem Proving: A Survey and Critique
University of Cambridge Computer Laboratory; New Museums Site
Pembroke Street; Cambridge; CB2 3QG
One way to ensure correctness of the inference performed by computer theorem provers is to force all proofs to be done step by step in a simple, more or less traditional, deductive system. Using techniques pioneered in Edinburgh LCF, this can be made palatable. However, some believe such an approach will never be efficient enough for large, complex proofs. One alternative, commonly called reflection, is to analyze proofs using a second layer of logic, a metalogic, and so justify abbreviating or simplifying proofs, making the kinds of shortcuts humans often do or appealing to specialized decision algorithms. In this paper we contrast the fully-expansive LCF approach with the use of reflection. We put forward arguments to suggest that the inadequacy of the LCF approach has not been adequately demonstrated, and neither has the practical utility of reflection (notwithstanding its undoubted intellectual interest). The LCF system with which we are most concerned is the HOL proof ...