Towards Hilbert's 24th Problem: Combinatorial Proof Invariants
Dominic J. D. Hughes
Stanford University; U.S.A.
Proofs Without Syntax  introduced polynomial-time checkable combinatorial proofs for classical propositional logic. This sequel approaches Hilbert’s 24 th Problem with combinatorial proofs as abstract invariants for sequent calculus proofs, analogous to homotopy groups as abstract invariants for topological spaces. The paper lifts a simple, strongly normalising cut elimination from combinatorial proofs to sequent calculus, factorising away the mechanical commutations of structural rules which litter traditional syntactic cut elimination. Sequent calculus fails to be surjective onto combinatorial proofs: the paper extracts a semantically motivated closure of sequent calculus from which there is a surjection, pointing towards an abstract combinatorial refinement of Herbrand’s theorem.