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Automating Free Logic in HOL, with an

Experimental Application in Category Theory

Christoph Benzm¨uller and Dana S. Scott

Received: date / Accepted: date

Abstract A shallow semantical embedding of free logic in classical higher-

order logic is presented, which enables the oﬀ-the-shelf application of higher-

order interactive and automated theorem provers for the formalisation and

veriﬁcation of free logic theories. Subsequently, this approach is applied to a

selected domain of mathematics: starting from a generalization of the standard

axioms for a monoid we present a stepwise development of various, mutually

equivalent foundational axiom systems for category theory. As a side-eﬀect of

this work some (minor) issues in a prominent category theory textbook have

been revealed.

The purpose of this article is not to claim any novel results in category the-

ory, but to demonstrate an elegant way to “implement” and utilize interactive

and automated reasoning in free logic, and to present illustrative experiments.

Keywords Free Logic ·Classical Higher-Order Logic ·Category Theory ·

Interactive and Automated Theorem Proving

1 Introduction

Partiality and undeﬁnedness are prominent challenges in various areas of math-

ematics and computer science. Unfortunately, however, modern proof assistant

systems and automated theorem provers based on traditional classical or intu-

itionistic logics provide rather inadequate support for these challenge concepts.

Benzm¨uller received funding from the German National Research Foundation DFG under

Heisenberg grant Towards Computational Metaphysics (BE 2501/9-2) and from Volkswa-

genStiftung under grant Consistent Rational Argumentation in Politics (CRAP).

Christoph Benzm¨uller

Freie Universit¨at Berlin, Berlin, Germany & University of Luxembourg, Luxembourg

E-mail: c.benzmueller@gmail.com

Dana S. Scott

Visiting Scholar at University of California, Berkeley, USA

E-mail: dana.scott@cs.cmu.edu

2 Christoph Benzm¨uller and Dana S. Scott

Free logic [24,25,30,32] oﬀers a theoretically appealing solution, but it has been

considered as rather unsuited towards practical utilization.

In the ﬁrst part of this article (§2 and §3) we show how free logic can be

elegantly “implemented” in any theorem proving system for classical higher-

order logic (HOL) [8]. The proposed solution employs a semantic embedding of

free logic in HOL. We present, as an example, one implementation of this idea

in the proof assistant Isabelle/HOL [29]. Various state-of-the-art ﬁrst-order

and higher-order automated theorem provers and model ﬁnders are integrated

(modulo suitable logic translations) with Isabelle via the Sledgehammer tool

[15], so that our solution can be utilized, via Isabelle as foreground system, with

a whole range of other background reasoners, such as SMT solvers and ﬁrst-

order and higher-order automated theorem provers.1As a result we obtain an

elegant and powerful implementation of an interactive and automated theorem

proving (and model ﬁnding) system for free logic.

To demonstrate the practical relevance of our new system, we present in

§4 a stepwise development of axioms systems for category theory by general-

izing the standard axioms for a monoid to a partial composition operation.

Our purpose is not to make or claim any contribution to category theory but

rather to show how formalizations involving the kind of logic required (free

logic) can be implemented and validated within modern proof assistants such

as Isabelle/HOL. We also address the relation of our axiom systems to al-

ternative proposals from the literature, including an axiom set proposed by

Freyd and Scedrov in their textbook “Categories, Allegories” [22] for which

we reveal a technical ﬂaw: either all operations, e.g. morphism composition,

are total or their axiom system is inconsistent. The repair for this problem is

quite straightforward, however. The solution essentially corresponds to a set

of axioms proposed by Scott [33] in the 1970s.

Our exploration has been signiﬁcantly supported by series of experiments

in which automated reasoning tools have been called from within the proof as-

sistant Isabelle/HOL via the Sledgehammer tool. Moreover, we have obtained

very useful feedback at various stages from the model ﬁnder Nitpick [16], sav-

ing us from making several mistakes.

At the conceptual level this paper exempliﬁes a new style of explorative

mathematics which rests on a signiﬁcant amount of human-machine interac-

tion with integrated interactive-automated theorem proving technology. The

experiments we have conducted are such that the required reasoning is of-

ten too tedious and time-consuming for humans to be carried out repeatedly

with highest level of precision. It is here where cycles of formalization and

experimentation eﬀorts in Isabelle/HOL provided signiﬁcant support. More-

over, the technical inconsistency issue for axiom system VII was discovered

by automated theorem provers, which further emphasizes the added value of

automated theorem proving in this area.

The content of article is based on the contributions reported in two previous

papers [9, 10].

1Cf. §4.4 for further information.

Automating Free Logic in HOL 3

2 Preliminaries

2.1 Free Logic

Free logic (respectively inclusive logic) [24,25,30,32] refers to a class of logic for-

malisms that are free of basic existence assumptions regarding the denotation

of terms.2Remember that terms in e.g. traditional classical and intuitionistic

predicate logics always denote an (existing) object in a given (non-empty) do-

main D, and that Dis also exactly the set the quantiﬁers range over. In free

logic these basic assumptions are abolished. Terms do still denote objects in a

(non-empty) domain D, but a (possibly empty) set E⊂Dis chosen to charac-

terize the subdomain of “existing” resp. “deﬁned” objects in D. Quantiﬁcation

is now restricted to set Eof existing/deﬁned objects only.

It is obvious how this can be used to model undeﬁdeness and partiality:

problematic terms, e.g. division by zero or improper deﬁnite descriptions, still

denote, but they refer to undeﬁned objects, that is, objects din D\Elying

outside of the scope of quantiﬁcation. Moreover, a function fis total if and

only if for all xwe have Ex−→ E(fx).3For partial functions fwe may have

some xsuch that Exbut not E(fx). A function fis called strict if and only

if for all x∈Dwe have E(f x)−→ Ex.

The particular version of free logic as exploited in the remainder of this

article was proposed by Scott [32]. A graphical illustration of this notion of

free logic is presented in Fig. 1. It employs a distinguished undeﬁned object

?.4

We next formally introduce the syntax and semantics of free logic as to be

used in the remainder of this article. We refer to this logic as FFOL.

Deﬁnition 1 (Syntax of FFOL) We start with a denumerable set V of

variable symbols, a denumerable set F of n-ary function symbols (n≥0),

and a denumerable set P of n-ary predicate symbols (n≥0).

The terms and formulas of FFOL are formally deﬁned as the smallest sets

such that:

1. each variable x∈V is a term of FFOL,

2. given any n-ary (n≥0) function symbol f∈F and terms t1, . . . , tnof

FFOL, then f(t1, . . . , tn)is a term of FFOL,

3. given terms t1and t2of FFOL, then t1=t2is an (atomic) formula of

FFOL,

4. given any n-ary (n≥0) predicate symbol p∈P and terms t1, . . . , tnof

FFOL, then p(t1, . . . , tn)is an (atomic) formula of FFOL,

5. given formulas rand sof FFOL, then ¬r,r→sand ∀x r are (compound)

formulas of FFOL, and

6. given a formula rof FFOL, then

ι

x r is a term of FFOL (deﬁnite descrip-

tion).

2Calculi for free logic are presented in [30]; see also the references therein.

3The predication Exrepresents that xis a member of E.

4The ?symbol is not to be confused with any other symbol in Isabelle/HOL.

4 Christoph Benzm¨uller and Dana S. Scott

E: existing objects

values of bound variables

D: raw objects

values of free variables

?

undeﬁned

Fig. 1 Illustration of the Semantical Domains of Free Logic

Further terms and formulas of FFOL, including various deﬁned notions of

equality, can be introduced as abbreviations.

Avariable assignment gmaps variables x∈Vto elements in D.g[d/x]

denotes the assignment that is identical to g, except for variable x, which is

now mapped to d.

Regarding the semantics diﬀerent options have been proposed in the liter-

ature. For example, instead of a possible empty set of existing objects E, we

could postulate non-emptiness of E. In fact, our approach below can be easily

adapted for diﬀerent variants of free and inclusive logic. Here we closely follow

the notion of free logic as proposed by Scott [32].

Deﬁnition 2 (Model of FFOL) Amodel (structure) for FFOL consists of

a quadruple M=hD, E, I , ?i, where Dis a non-empty raw domain of objects,

E⊂Da possible empty set of existing/deﬁned objects, and Ian interpretation

function mapping 0-ary function symbols (constants) to deﬁned objects d∈

E, 0-ary predicate symbols (propositions) to True or False, n-ary function

symbols (for n≥1) to n-ary functions D× · · · × D−→ Dand n-ary predicate

symbols (for n≥1) to n-ary relations D× · · · × D. True or False denote

truth and falsehood respectively. Finally, ?∈D\E is a designated (non-

existing/undeﬁned) object.

Deﬁnition 3 (Evaluation Function for FFOL) The value kskM,g of a

term or formula s∈FFOL in a model M=hD, E, I , ?iunder assignment

gdeﬁned in the following way:

Terms

1. kxkM,g =g(x)for variable symbols x∈V

2. kckM,g =I(c), where c∈F is an 0-ary function symbol

Automating Free Logic in HOL 5

3. kf(t1, . . . , tn)kM,g =I(f)(kt1kM,g ,...,ktnkM,g), where f∈F is an

n-ary (n≥1) function symbol

4. k

ι

x rkM,g =d∈E , such that krkM,g[d/x]=True and krkM,g[d0/x]=

False for all d06=d∈E (i.e. dis the unique existing object for which r

holds); if there is no such d∈E, then k

ι

x rkM,g =?

Formulas

5. kqkM,g =I(q), where q∈P is an 0-ary predicate symbol

6. kt1=t2kM,g =True if and only if kt1kM,g =kt2kM ,g (this basic notion

of primitive equality on Dimplies that equations between “undeﬁned”

terms such as 1/0=1/0are evaluated to True; later, in §4, we will

deﬁne and utilize further notions of equality, including Kleene equality

and existing equality, which behave diﬀerently).

7. kp(t1, . . . , tn)kM,g =True if and only if (kt1kM,g ,...,ktnkM,g)∈I(p)

for n-ary (n≥1) predicate symbols p∈P

8. k¬rkM,g =True if and only if krkM,g =False

9. kr→skM,g =True if and only if krkM,g =False or kskM ,g =True

10. k∀x rkM,g =True if and only if for all d∈E we have krkM ,g[d/x]=

True

Deﬁnition 4 (Validity) A formula sois true in model Munder assignment

gif and only if ksokM,g =T rue; this is also denoted as M, g |=FFOL so. A

formula sois called valid in M, which is denoted as M|=FFOL so, if and only

if M, g |=FFOL sofor all assignments g. Finally, a formula sois called valid,

which we denote by |=FFOL so, if and only if sois valid for all M.

2.2 Classical Higher-Order Logic

Simple type theory, also referred to as classical higher-order logic (HOL) [2], is

an expressive logic formalism which is based on the simply typed λ-calculus [3].

HOL has its origin in the work of Church [19].

For a detailed discussion of the syntax, semantics and automation of HOL

we refer to the literature (see e.g. [2,6, 8] and the references therein). Below we

introduce a variant of HOL with primitive equality and deﬁnite descriptions.

Deﬁnition 5 (Types) The set Tof simple types is freely generated from a

set of basic types {o,i}using the function type constructor .ois the type

of Booleans and iis the type of individuals. We may avoid parentheses if the

structure of a complex type is clear in context.

Deﬁnition 6 (Syntax of HOL) The terms of HOL with primitive equality

and deﬁnite description are deﬁned by the following grammar:5

s,t::= pα|Xα|(λXαsβ)αβ|(sαβtα)β|sα=tα|¬ooso|

((∨oooso)to)|∀(αo)o(λXαso)|

ι

(αo)α(λXαso)

5It is well known that we could work with a much smaller set of logical connectives, see

e.g. §1.4 of Andrews’s overview article [2]. The choice here closely reﬂects the set of primitive

connectives as chosen in higher-order automated theorem provers such as LEO-II [13], Leo-

III [12], and Satallax [18].

6 Christoph Benzm¨uller and Dana S. Scott

where α,β∈T.pαdenotes typed constants and Xαtyped variables (distinct

from pα). Complex typed terms are constructed via abstraction and applica-

tion. The type of each term is given as a subscript. Terms soof type oare called

formulas. The logical connectives of choice are ¬oo,∨ooo,=ααo,

∀(αo)oand

ι

(αo)α(where α∈T). Type subscripts may be dropped if

irrelevant or obvious. Similarly, parentheses may be avoided. Binder notation

∀Xαsoand

ι

Xαsois used as shorthand for ∀(λXαso)and

ι

(λXαso),

and inﬁx notation s∨tis employed instead of ((∨s)t). From the above con-

nectives, other logical connectives, such as >,⊥,∧,→,≡and ∃, can be de-

ﬁned in the usual way. For example, →can be deﬁned as λXoλYo¬X∨Y

and ∧as λXoλYo¬(¬X∨ ¬Y).

We assume familiarity with λ-conversion (e.g. α-renaming and βη-

reduction) and βη-normal forms [3].

Avariable assignment gmaps variables Xαto elements in Dα.g[d/W ]

denotes the assignment that is identical to g, except for variable W, which is

now mapped to d.

Deﬁnition 7 (Frame for HOL) Aframe Dis a collection {Dα}α∈Tof

nonempty sets Dα, such that Do={True,False}(where, as before, True

and False denote truth and falsehood). The Dαβare collections of functions

mapping Dαinto Dβ.

Deﬁnition 8 (Model for HOL) Amodel (structure) for HOL is a tuple

M=hD, Ii, where Dis a frame, and Iis a family of typed interpretation

functions mapping constant symbols pαto appropriate elements of Dα, called

the denotation of pα(the logical connectives ¬,∨, and ∀are always given

the standard denotations, see below). Moreover, we assume that the domains

Dααocontain the respective identity relations.

Deﬁnition 9 (Evaluation Function for HOL) The value ksαkM,g of a

HOL term sαon a model M=hD, Iiunder assignment gis an element

d∈Dαdeﬁned in the following way:

1. kpαkM,g =I(pα)

2. kXαkM,g =g(Xα)

3. k(sαβtα)βkM,g =ksαβkM,g (ktαkM,g)

4. k(λXαsβ)αβkM,g =the function ffrom Dαto Dβsuch that f(d)=

ksβkM,g[d/Xα]for all d∈Dα

5. ksα=tαkM,g =True if and only if ksαkM,g =ktαkM,g

6. k(¬ooso)okM,g =True if and only if ksokM,g =False

7. k((∨oooso)to)okM,g =True if and only if ksokM,g =True or

ktokM,g =True

8. k(∀(αo)o(λXαso))okM,g =True if and only if for all d∈Dαwe

have ksokM,g[d/Xα]=True

9. k(

ι

(αo)α(λXαso))okM,g =dif there exists a unique d∈Dαsuch

that ksokM,g[d/Xα]=True, otherwise k(

ι

(αo)α(λXαso))okM,g =e

for an arbitrary element e∈Dα

Automating Free Logic in HOL 7

Deﬁnition 10 (Standard and Henkin models) A model M=hD, Iiis

called a standard model if and only if for all α, β ∈Twe have Dαβ=

{f|f:Dα−→ Dβ}. In a Henkin model function spaces are not necessarily

full. Instead it is only required that Dαβ⊆ {f|f:Dα−→ Dβ}(for all

α, β ∈T) and that the valuation function k · kM,g from above is total (i.e.,

every term denotes). Any standard model is obviously also a Henkin model.

We consider Henkin models in the remainder. For more details on Henkin

semantics, its proof theory and examples of sound and complete calculi we

refer to the literature (e.g. [6, 7]).

Deﬁnition 11 (Validity) A formula sois true in model Munder assign-

ment gif and only if ksokM,g =True; this is also denoted as M, g |=HOL so.

A formula sois called valid in M, which is denoted as M|=HOL so, if and

only if M, g |=HOL sofor all assignments g. Finally, a formula sois called

valid, which we denote by |=HOL so, if and only if sois valid for all M.

3 Shallow Semantical Embedding of FFOL in HOL

We now present a shallow embedding of FFOL in HOL by identifying the

language constructs of FFOL with corresponding terms of HOL. In this em-

bedding the raw domain Dof a FFOL model is identiﬁed with the domain of

individuals Diin a corresponding HOL model. The subdomain Eof existing

objects is characterized in the embedding by a HOL predicate Eof type io.

Hence, we assume in the remainder that a respective uninterpreted constant

symbol Eiois given in the signature of HOL. Moreover, we assume that an

uninterpreted constant symbol ?of type iis in the signature of HOL. Finally,

we assume that kE ?ikM,g =Ffor all M, g, i.e. that the element denoted

by ?iis not an element of the domain of existing objects denoted by Eio

(technically this can be achieved by postulating a respective axiom).

Deﬁnition 12 (Embedding of FFOL in HOL) Given a formula s∈

FFOL. We map sto a corresponding term bsof HOL. This mapping is de-

ﬁned as follows:

8 Christoph Benzm¨uller and Dana S. Scott

bx:= Xifor all x∈V

d

f(t1, . . . , tn):= (b

fb

t1. . . b

tn)for all n-ary f∈F(n≥0)

where b

f=fis an uninterpreted

constant symbol of type i. . . i

| {z }

n≥o

i

d

s=t:= bs=b

t

d

p(t1, . . . , tn):= (bpb

t1. . . b

tn)for all n-ary p∈P(n≥0)

where bp=pis an uninterpreted

constant symbol of type i. . . i

| {z }

n≥o

o

c¬s:= ¬bs

ds→r:= bs→br

d

∀x r := ∀XiEXi→br

d

ι

x r := IfThenElse

(∃XiEX∧br∧(∀Yi(EY∧((λXibr)Y)) →Y=X))

(

ι

Xibr)

?

where IfThenElse is an abbreviation for the term

λSoλXiλYi

ι

Zi(So∧Z=X)∨(¬So∧Z=Y)

The above mapping induces mappings from the sets b

V,b

Fand b

Pof FFOL

to corresponding variables (of type i), uninterpreted function symbols and

uninterpreted predicate symbols in HOL, respectively.

To prove soundness and completeness6for the embedding, a mapping from

FFOL models into Henkin models is employed. This mapping utilizes a map-

ping of F F OL variable assignments ginto corresponding HOL variable assign-

ments g(remember that FFOL domains Dare identiﬁed with HOL domains

Di, i.e. b

D=Di): let gbe a variable assignment for FFOL. Then bg:b

V7→ b

Dfor

HOL is deﬁned such that bg(Xi) = bg(bx) = g(x) for all Xi∈b

V. Finally, bgis ex-

tended to an assignment for arbitrary variables by choosing bg(Yα) = d∈Dα

arbitrary whenever Yα/∈b

V.

Deﬁnition 13 (Henkin model c

Mfor FFOL model M)Given a FFOL

model M=hD, E, I, ?i. The Henkin model c

M=h{Dα}α∈T, Iifor Mis

deﬁned as follows:

–Di=D

–Do={True,False}

–Dαβare chosen as (not necessarily full) collections of functions from Dα

to Dβ. Remember, however, that the choice of Dαβmust always ensure

that the evaluation function k · k

c

M,b

gbelow remains total, i.e. that all terms

denote. In particular, it is required that Diocontains the element IEio

as characterized below.

–The interpretation function Iof c

Mis chosen as follows:

6Similar soundness and completeness proofs for shallow semantical embeddings have been

presented in [4] and [5].

Automating Free Logic in HOL 9

–I?i=?∈Di

–For all d∈Diwe have: (IEio)(d) = Tif and only if d∈E. Note

that this implies (IEio)(?i) = F.

–For all f=b

f∈b

Fwe have: (If)(d1,...,dn)=(If)(d1,...,dn)for

all di∈Di(i= 1, . . . , n and n≥0).

–For all p=bp∈b

Pwe have: (Ip)(d1,...,dn) = Tif and only if

(d1,...,dn)∈(Ip)for all di∈Di(i= 1, . . . , n and n≥0).

–For all other constants cα, choose Icα∈Dαarbitrary.7

It is not hard to verify that c

Mis a Henkin model.8

Lemma 14 Let c

Mbe a Henkin model for FFOL model M. For all terms and

formulas s∈FFOL and variable assignments gwe have kskM,g =kbsk

c

M,bg.

Proof The proof is by induction on the structure of s.

For s=x∈Vthe claim follows from the deﬁnition of bg. For s=c∈F,

where cis 0-ary, we get the claim by the choice of Iin c

M, and for s=

f(t1, . . . , tn), where f∈Fis n-ary (n≥1), we additionally need to apply the

induction hypothesis. The arguments for s=q∈P, where qis 0-ary, and

for s=p(t1, . . . , tn), where p∈Pis n-ary (n≥1), are similar. The most

complicated case is when s=

ι

x r. We here consider two cases. We either have

d∈Ewith krkM,g[d/x]=True and krkM,g[d0/x]=False for all d06=d∈E (i.e.

dis the unique existing object for which rholds) or there is no such d∈E . In

the former case we have k

ι

x rkM,g =d∈E . By the deﬁnition of the embedding

b

·, deﬁnition of c

Mand bg,λ-conversion, induction hypothesis and a series of

evaluation steps in HOL we get kd

ι

x rk

c

M,bg=k

ι

xbrk

c

M,bg=d∈E (for the very

same das above). In the second case we have k

ι

x rkM,g =?. Again we apply

the deﬁnition of the embedding b

·, the deﬁnition of c

Mand bg,λ-conversion,

induction hypothesis and a series of tedious evaluation steps in HOL to verify

that kd

ι

x rk

c

M,bg=?=?. The remaining cases are similar (actually simpler)

and left to the reader. 2

Theorem 15 (Soundness and Completeness of the Embedding)

For all formulas s∈F F OL we have |=FFOL sif and only if |=HOL bs.

Proof (Soundness, ←) The proof is by contraposition. Assume 6|=FFOL s, i.e,

there is a FFOL model Mand an assignment gsuch that kskM,g =False. By

Lemma 14 we have kbsk

c

M,bg=False. Hence, we get 6|=HOL bs.

(Completeness, →) Analogous to above by contraposition and Lemma 14.

7In fact, it may be safely assumed that there are no other constant symbols given in a

HOL signature, except for the symbols in

b

Fand

b

P, the symbols Eioand ?iand the logical

connectives.

8The ﬁxings introduced in

c

Mare not in conﬂict with any of the requirements regarding

frames and interpretations. The existence of a valuation function Vfor an HOL inter-

pretation crucially depends on how sparse the function spaces have been chosen in frame

{Dα}α∈T. Andrews [1] discusses criteria that are suﬃcient to ensure the existence of a

valuation function; in

c

Mthese requirements are met.

10 Christoph Benzm¨uller and Dana S. Scott

The above results enable the employment of any theorem prover that sup-

ports HOL with deﬁnite description to reason with FFOL, including TPTP

THF [34] compliant systems such as Satallax, Nitpick, LEO-II and Leo-III.

Alternatively, this theory can be encoded in interactive proof assistants such

as Isabelle/HOL, which is the option we have chosen here. We thereby sig-

niﬁcantly beneﬁt from the powerful proof automation means as provided in

Isabelle/HOL, in particular, from the integrated model ﬁnder Nitpick, the

SMT solvers CVC4 [20] and Z3 [28], and the ﬁrst-order theorem provers E [31]

and Spass [17].

The diﬀerent properties of FFOL could now be experimentally explored

with automated reasoning tools for HOL. We have conducted such experiments

in an earlier paper [9]. These experiments conﬁrm the illustrative examples

discussed in Scott’s paper [32].

4 Exploring Axioms Systems for Category Theory

In an experimental theory-exploration study, utilizing the free logic reasoning

framework from above, we have shown how Scott’s [33] axiom system for cat-

egory theory can be derived from a notion of partial monoids. These axioms

systems are presented in Table 1.

The stepwise evolution has been described in detail in [10]. Below we sum-

marize these experiments. However, ﬁrst we describe some basic modeling

decisions for the technical encoding in Isabelle/HOL.

The sources of our experiments as conducted here are avail-

able at http://christoph-benzmueller.de/papers/2018-JAR-sources.

zip. These sources contain an embedding of full free logic in Isabelle/HOL,

that is, with ?and deﬁnite description (cf. Fig. 2). In [10], ?and deﬁnite

description were still avoided; they are in fact not really relevant for the con-

ducted experiments.

Figure 2 displays (parts of) the embedding of FFOL in HOL, encoded in

Isabelle/HOL, that we have employed in our experiments.9An excerpt of these

experiments is shown in Fig. 3.

4.1 Modeling of basic concepts

Morphisms in the category are modeled as objects in D(respectively, Di). We

introduce three partial functions, dom (domain), cod (codomain), and ·(mor-

phism composition). Partiality of composition is handled exactly as expected:

we generally may have non-existing compositions x·y(i.e. ¬(E(x·y))) for

some existing morphisms xand y(i.e. Exand Ey).

9In the remainder of this article, and inline with our text so far, we present the formulas

of FFOL in non-boldface font. These formulas have been encoded in Isabelle/HOL using the

abbreviations as introduced in Fig. 2. In the actual source encoding, however, the usage of

boldface and non-boldface is (for technical reasons) reversed.

Automating Free Logic in HOL 11

Axioms Set I

SiE(x·y)−→ (Ex∧Ey)

EiE(x·y)←− (Ex∧Ey∧(∃z z ·z∼

=z∧x·z∼

=x∧z·y∼

=y))

Aix·(y·z)∼

=(x·y)·z

Ci∀y∃iIi∧i·y∼

=y

Di∀x∃jIj∧x·j∼

=x

Axioms Set II

Sii E(x·y)−→ (Ex∧Ey)∧(E(dom x)−→ Ex)∧(E(cod y)−→ Ey)

Eii E(x·y)←− (Ex∧Ey∧(∃z z ·z∼

=z∧x·z∼

=x∧z·y∼

=y))

Aii x·(y·z)∼

=(x·y)·z

Cii Ey−→ (I(cod y)∧(cod y)·y∼

=y)

Dii Ex−→ (I(dom x)∧x·(dom x)∼

=x)

Axioms Set III

Siii E(x·y)−→ (Ex∧Ey)∧(E(dom x)−→ Ex)∧(E(cod y)−→ Ey)

Eiii E(x·y)←− (dom x∼

=cod y∧E(cod y)))

Aiii x·(y·z)∼

=(x·y)·z

Ciii Ey−→ (I(cod y)∧(cod y)·y∼

=y)

Diii Ex−→ (I(dom x)∧x·(dom x)∼

=x)

Axioms Set IV

Siv E(x·y)−→ (Ex∧Ey)∧(E(dom x)−→ Ex)∧(E(cod y)−→ Ey)

Eiv E(x·y)←→ (dom x∼

=cod y∧E(cod y)))

Aiv x·(y·z)∼

=(x·y)·z

Civ (cod y)·y∼

=y

Div x·(dom x)∼

=x

Axioms Set V (Scott 79, [33])

S1E(dom x)−→ Ex

S2E(cod y)−→ Ey

S3E(x·y)←→ dom x'cod y

S4x·(y·z)∼

=(x·y)·z

S5 (cod y)·y∼

=y

S6x·(dom x)∼

=x

Table 1 Stepwise evolution of Scott’s [33] axiom system for category theory from partial

monoids. The axiom names are motivated as follows: Sstands for strictness, Efor existence,

Afor associativity, Cfor codomain, Dfor Domain. The free variables x,y,zrange over the

raw domain D. The quantiﬁers in Axioms Sets I and II are free logic quantiﬁers, that is,

they range over the domain Eof existing objects.

12 Christoph Benzm¨uller and Dana S. Scott

Fig. 2 Isabelle/HOL encoding of FFOL (with ?and deﬁnite description).

For composition ·we assume set-theoretical composition here (i.e., func-

tional composition from right to left). This means that

(cod x)·(x·(dom x)) ∼

=x

and that

(x·y)a∼

=x(ya) when dom x'cod y

The equality symbol ∼

=denotes Kleene equality and it is deﬁned as follows

(where = is identity on all objects, existing or non-existing, of type i):

x∼

=y:= (Ex∨Ey)−→ x=y

Existing identity 'is deﬁned as:

x'y:= Ex∧Ey∧x=y

Automating Free Logic in HOL 13

Fig. 3 Encoding of Axioms Set V in Isabelle/HOL utilizing the embedded logic FFOL;

Axioms Set V is proven equivalent to Axioms Set IV.

∼

=is an equivalence relation. ', in contrast, is only symmetric and transi-

tive, and lacks reﬂexivity. These observations are quickly conﬁrmed by Sledge-

hammer in Isabelle.

Next, we deﬁne the identity morphism predicate Ias follows:

Ii:= (∀xE(i·x)−→ i·x∼

=x)∧(∀xE(x·i)−→ x·i∼

=x)

This deﬁnition was suggested by an exercise in the textbook by Freyd and

Scedrov [22] on p. 4. In earlier experiments we used a longer deﬁnition which

can be proved equivalent on the basis of the other axioms. For monoids, where

composition is total, Iimeans iis a two-sided identity — and such are unique.

For categories the property is much weaker.

14 Christoph Benzm¨uller and Dana S. Scott

4.2 Consistency

The model ﬁnder Nitpick conﬁrms consistency for all of the axioms sets from

Table 1. For example, when asked to consider at least one deﬁned and one un-

deﬁned object, then Nitpick generates for all cases the following model (called

M1in the remainder): D={ii, i2}and E={i1};i1·i1is i1, and i2in all other

cases; cod and dom are identity on D. Without constraining the request, Nit-

pick generates an even simpler model (called M0in the remainder): D={ii}

and E=∅;i1·i1is i1;cod and dom are identity on D. It is trivial to check that

these models indeed conﬁrm the consistency of all axioms sets from Table 1.

4.3 Axioms Sets I and II

Axioms Set I is our most basic set of axioms for category theory generalizing

the axioms for a monoid to a partial composition operation. Remember that

a monoid is an algebraic structure (S, ◦), where ◦is a binary operator on set

S, satisfying the following properties:

Closure: ∀a, b ∈S a ◦b∈S

Associativity: ∀a, b, c ∈S a ◦(b◦c)=(a◦b)◦c

Identity: ∃idS∈S∀a∈S idS◦a=a=a◦idS

That is, a monoid is a semigroup with a two-sided identity element.

Axioms Set I generalizes the notion of a monoid by introducing a partial,

strict binary composition operation ·. The existence of left and right identity

elements is addressed in the last two axioms. The notions of dom (domain)

and cod (codomain) abstract from their common meaning in the context of

sets. In category theory we work with just a single type of objects (the type

iin our setting) and therefore identity morphisms are employed to suitably

characterize their meanings.

We can prove that the iin axiom Ciand the jin axiom Diare unique. The

proofs and the dependencies can be found automatically by Sledgehammer.

∀y∃iIi∧i·y∼

=y∧(∀j(Ij∧j·y∼

=y)−→ i∼

=j) (by Ai, Ci, Si)

∀x∃jIj∧x·j∼

=x∧(∀i(Ii∧x·i∼

=x)−→ j∼

=i) (by Ai, Di, Si)

However, the iand jneed not be equal. Using existential variables Cand

D, this can be encoded in our formalization as follows:

∃C∃D(∀yI(Cy)∧(Cy)·y∼

=y)∧(∀xI(Dx)∧x·(Dx)∼

=x)∧D6=C

The model ﬁnder Nitpick conﬁrms that this formula is satisﬁable: e.g.

choose domain D={i1, i2}and E={i2};i2·i2returns i2, and i1in all

other cases; variable Dis identity on domain D, but Cmaps both i1and i2

to i2.

Axioms Set II is developed from Axioms Set I by Skolemization of the

existentially quantiﬁed variables iand jin axioms Ciand Di. We can argue

Automating Free Logic in HOL 15

semantically that every model of Axioms Set I has such functions. Hence, we

get a conservative extension of Axioms Set I. This could be done for any theory

with an “∀x∃i”-axiom. The strictness axiom Sis extended, so that strictness

is now also postulated for the new Skolem functions dom and cod. Note that

the values of Skolem functions outside Ecan just be given by the identity

function.

The left-to-right direction of existence axiom Eii is implied.

E(x·y)−→ (E x ∧Ey ∧(∃z z ·z∼

=z∧x·z∼

=x∧z·y∼

=y)) (by Aii, Cii, Sii )

Axioms Cii and Dii, together with Sii , show that dom and cod are total

functions, as intended:

Ex −→ E(dom x) (by Dii, Sii)

Ex −→ E(cod x) (by Cii, Sii )

The proofs are found by the Sledgehammer tool and automatically re-

constructed in Isabelle/HOL. Further information on these experiments are

provided in §4.4 below. Using Sledgehammer we have also shown that Axioms

Set II implies Axioms Set I. Vice versa, Axioms Set I also implies Axioms Set

II. This can easily be shown by semantical means on the meta-level.

4.4 Remark on the Experiments

All proofs above and all proofs in the rest of this paper (unless stated other-

wise) have been obtained fully automatically in very reasonable time (typically

just a few seconds) with the Sledgehammer tool in Isabelle/HOL (version Is-

abelle2017). This tool interfaces to prominent ﬁrst-order automated theorem

provers such as CVC4 [20], Z3 [28], E [31] and Spass [17]. Remotely, also

provers such as Vampire [23], or the higher-order provers Satallax [18] and

LEO-II [13] can be reached. For example, to prove axiom Eiii from Axioms

Set II, we have called Sledgehammer on all axioms of Axioms Set II. The

provers then, via Sledgehammer, suggested to call trusted/veriﬁed tools in Is-

abelle/HOL with the exactly required dependencies they detected, in this case

Cii,Dii ,Eii and Sii. With the provided dependency information the trusted

tools in Isabelle/HOL were then able to reconstruct the external proofs on

their own. This way we obtain a veriﬁcation of our claims in Isabelle/HOL, in

which all the proofs have nevertheless been contributed by automated theorem

provers. For further information on the use and functioning of Sledgehammer

we refer to the literature [14,15].

In our experiments we have also made use of the Isabelle/HOL’s smt

method, which “translates the conjecture and any user-supplied facts to the

SMT solvers’ many-sorted ﬁrst-order logic, invokes a solver, and (depending

on the solver) either trusts the result or attempts to reconstruct the proof in

16 Christoph Benzm¨uller and Dana S. Scott

Isabelle.” [15, p. 5].10 For quite some time the use of the smt method has been

controversially discussed in the Isabelle/HOL community, and there is in fact

a signiﬁcant diﬀerence between using the smt method in combination with Z3

or with CVC4, as we prefer. When setting the solver to CVC4, the contributed

proofs are accepted and being trusted without replaying them in the Isabelle

kernel. Proofs contributed by Z3, in contrast, are never trusted and always

replayed in Isabelle’s kernel. For the work presented here this community in-

ternal discussion is of minor relevance, so that we decided to continue working

with CVC4 in order to keep our formalisation concise and also because CVC4

performed surprisingly well in our experiments.11

4.5 Axioms Sets III, IV and V

In Axioms Set III the existence axiom Eii from Axioms Set II is simpliﬁed by

taking advantage of the two new Skolem functions dom and cod.

The left-to-right direction of existence axiom Eiii is implied.

E(x·y)−→ (dom x∼

=cod y∧E(cod y)) (by Aiii, Ciii , Diii, Siii)

Axioms Set IV simpliﬁes the axioms Ciii and Diii. However, as it turned

out, these simpliﬁcations also require the existence axiom Eiii to be strength-

ened into an equivalence.

Axioms Set V has been proposed by Scott [33] in the 1970s. This set of

axioms is equivalent to the axioms set presented by Freyd and Scedrov in

their textbook “Categories, Allegories” [22], when encoded in free logic, cor-

rected/adapted and further simpliﬁed. Their axioms set is technically ﬂawed

when encoded in our given context. This issue has been detected by automated

theorem provers with the same technical infrastructure as employed so far. See

§5 for more details.

Axioms Sets II, III, IV and V are equivalent; this has been automatically

conﬁrmed by the automated theorem provers and veriﬁed in Isabelle/HOL.

5 Assessment of the Axiom System by Freyd and Scedrov

In this section we study the axioms set of Freyd and Scedrov from their text-

book “Categories, Allegories” [22]. In §5.1 we show that their axioms set,

replicated in Table 2 as Axioms Set FS-I, becomes inconsistent in our free

logic setting if we assume non-existing objects in D, respectively, if we assume

that the operations are non-total.

10 Technical remark: We have selected CVC4 in our experiments as the default SMT solver,

since we did run into errors when working with Z3. These errors can easily be reconstructed

in the provided source ﬁles when switching back to Z3 as default.

11 An expert reviewer of this article, to whom we are very grateful, provided alternative

proofs which can be fully replayed in the kernel of Isabelle.

Automating Free Logic in HOL 17

Axioms Set FS-I: Freyd and Scedrov in original notation (with issues)

A1E(x◦y)←→ (x2∼

=2y)

A2a((2x)2)∼

=2x

A2b2(x2)∼

=2x

A3a(2x)◦x∼

=x

A3b x ◦(x2)∼

=x

A4a2(x◦y)∼

=2(x◦(2y))

A4b(x◦y)2∼

=((x2)◦y)2

A5x◦(y◦z)∼

=(x◦y)◦z

Axioms Set FS-II: Freyd and Scedrov in our notation (with issues)

A1E(x·y)←→ dom x∼

=cod y

A2acod (dom x)∼

=dom x

A2bdom (cod y)∼

=cod y

A3a x ·(dom x)∼

=x

A3b(cod y)·y∼

=y

A4adom (x·y)∼

=dom ((dom x)·y)

A4bcod (x·y)∼

=cod (x·(cod y))

A5x·(y·z)∼

=(x·y)·z

Axioms Set VI: Freyd and Scedrov in our notation (corrected)

A10E(x·y)←→ dom x'cod y

A2acod (dom x)∼

=dom x

A2bdom (cod y)∼

=cod y

A3a x ·(dom x)∼

=x

A3b(cod y)·y∼

=y

A4adom (x·y)∼

=dom ((dom x)·y)

A4bcod (x·y)∼

=cod (x·(cod y))

A5x·(y·z)∼

=(x·y)·z

Table 2 The axioms set of Freyd and Scedrov in their and our notation, together with a

proposed correction.

Note, however, that the free variables in this ﬁrst study range over the

existing and non-existing objects in D. One may argue, that this is not the

intention of Freyd and Scedrov. Therefore, we add a second study in §5.2,

in which we restrict the variables to range only over existing objects in E.

However, also in this case the axiom system of Freyd and Scedrov remains

18 Christoph Benzm¨uller and Dana S. Scott

unsatisfactory. Now it turns out incomplete, since strictness conditions/axioms

are required which are not mentioned in the textbook.

Freyd and Scedrov employ a diﬀerent notation for dom xand cod x. They

denote these operations by 2xand x2. Moreover, they employ diagrammatic

composition (f◦g)x∼

=g(fx) (functional composition from left to right) instead

of the set-theoretic deﬁnition (f·g)x∼

=f(gx) (functional composition from

right to left) used so far. We leave it to the reader to verify that their Axioms

Set FS-I corresponds to Axioms Set FS-II modulo an appropriate conversion

of notation.12

5.1 Constricted Inconsistency in Free Logic Setting

A main diﬀerence in the system by Freyd and Scedrov to our Axioms Set V

from Table 1 concerns axiom S3, respectively A1. Namely, instead of the non-

reﬂexive existing identity ', they use Kleene equality ∼

=, cf. deﬁnition 1.11 on

page 3 of their textbook [22].13 The diﬀerence seems minor, but in our free

logic setting it has the eﬀect to cause the mentioned constricted inconsistency

issue.14

The (constricted) inconsistency of Axioms Set FS-I, respectively Axioms

Set FS-II, from Table 2 has been detected ﬁrst by the model ﬁnder Nitpick.

When we asked Nitpick to generate a model with at least one non-existing

object, it claimed that there is no such model. However, a model can still be

constructed if we do not make any assumptions about non-existing objects.15

In fact, the model presented by Nitpick for this case consists of a single, existing

morphism.

However, one can see directly that Axiom A1 is problematic as written: If

xand yare undeﬁned, then (presumably) dom xand cod yare undeﬁned as

well, and by the deﬁnition of Kleene equality, dom x∼

=cod y.A1 stipulates

that x·yshould be deﬁned in this case, which appears unintended.

As we will demonstrate now, the consequences of this version of the axiom

are even stronger. It implies that all objects are deﬁned, that is, composition

(as well as dom and cod) become total operations. The theory described by

these axioms “collapses” to the theory of monoids: If all objects are deﬁned,

then one can conclude from A1 that dom x∼

=dom y(resp. dom x∼

=cod y

12 A recipe for this translation is as follows: (i) replace all x◦yby y·x, (ii) rename the

variables to get them again in alphabetical order, (iii) replace ϕ2by cod ϕand 2ϕby

dom ϕ, and ﬁnally (iv) replace cod y∼

=dom x(resp. cod y'dom x) by dom x∼

=cod y

(resp. dom x'cod y).

13 Def. 1.11 in Freyd Scedrov: “The ordinary equality sign = [i.e., our ∼

=] will be used in

the symmetric sense, to wit: if either side is deﬁned then so is the other and they are equal.

...”

14 This could perhaps be an oversight, or it could indicate that Freyd and Scedrov actually

mean the Axioms Set discussed in §5.2 below.

15 For this we have to inactivate the axiom that postulates that ?is an undeﬁned/non-

existing object.

Automating Free Logic in HOL 19

and cod x∼

=cod y), and according to 1.14 of [22], the category reduces to a

monoid provided that it is not empty.

In fact, the automated theorem provers, via Sledgehammer, quickly prove

falsity from Axioms Sets FS-II and FS-I when assuming a non-existing object

of type i:

(∃x¬Ex)−→ F alse

The provers identify the axioms A1, A2aand A3ato cause the problem

under this assumption. A corresponding human-intuitive proof argument is as

follows:

Let a∈Dbe an undeﬁned object, that is, assume ¬Ea. By instantiating

axiom A3awith awe have a·(dom a)∼

=a. From this and deﬁnition of ∼

=we

know that a·(dom a) is not deﬁned. This is easy to see, since if a·(dom a) were

deﬁned, we also had that ais deﬁned, which is not the case by assumption.

Hence, ¬E(a·(dom a)). Next, we instantiate A1 with aand dom ato obtain

E(a·(dom a)) ←→ dom a∼

=cod (dom a). Moreover, by instantiating A2a

with awe obtain cod (dom a)∼

=dom a, which we use (modulo symmetry and

transitivity of ∼

=) to rewrite the former result into E(a·(dom a)) ←→ dom a∼

=

dom a. By reﬂexivity of ∼

=we thus get E(a·(dom a)), i.e. that a·(dom a) is

deﬁned, which contradicts ¬E(a·(dom a)). 2

As a corollary from the above constricted inconsistency result we get that

all morphisms (objects in D) must be deﬁned: ∀x Ex.

Obviously Axioms Sets FS-I and FS-II are also redundant, and we have

previously reported on respective redundancies [9].16 For the corrected Axioms

Set VI we still get redundancies. The diﬀerent options to reduce this system

are reported in Table 3.

Attempts to remove axioms A1’, A3a, A3b, and A5 from Axiom Set VI

failed. Nitpick shows that they are independent.

However, when assuming strictness of dom and cod , the axioms A2a, A2b,

A4a and A4b are all implied. Hence, under this assumptions, the reasoning

tools quickly identify (A1’ A3a A3b A5) as a minimal axiom set, which then

exactly matches the Axioms Set V of Scott from Table 1.17

5.2 Missing Strictness Axioms in Alternative Setting

We study the axiom system by Freyd and Scedrov once again. However, this

time we restrict the free variables in their system to range over existing objects

only. In the context of algebraic theories, it could be argued that this is the

16 The discussion in our releated conference paper [9] was before the discovery of the above

constricted inconsistency issue, which tells us that the system (in our setting) can even be

reduced to axioms A1, A2a, and A3a (when we assume undeﬁned objects).

17 This minimal set of axioms has also been mentioned by Freyd in a note [21] and at-

tributed to Martin Knopman. However, the proof sketch presented there seems to fail when

the adapted version of A1 (with ') is employed.

20 Christoph Benzm¨uller and Dana S. Scott

Freyd and Scedrov in our notation (corrected and reduced I)

A10E(x·y)←→ dom x'cod y

A3a x ·(dom x)∼

=x

A3b(cod y)·y∼

=y

A4adom (x·y)∼

=dom ((dom x)·y)

A4bcod (x·y)∼

=cod (x·(cod y))

A5x·(y·z)∼

=(x·y)·z

Freyd and Scedrov in our notation (corrected and reduced II)

A10E(x·y)←→ dom x'cod y

A2acod (dom x)∼

=dom x

A2bdom (cod y)∼

=cod y

A3a x ·(dom x)∼

=x

A3b(cod y)·y∼

=y

A5x·(y·z)∼

=(x·y)·z

Freyd and Scedrov in our notation (corrected and reduced III)

S1

vE(dom x)−→ Ex

S2

vE(cod y)−→ Ey

A10E(x·y)←→ dom x'cod y

A3a x ·(dom x)∼

=x

A3b(cod y)·y∼

=y

A5x·(y·z)∼

=(x·y)·z

Table 3 Reduced variants of Axioms Set VI.

preferred reading of free variables. By employing the free logic universal quan-

tiﬁer ∀, which realizes such a restriction, we thus modify Axioms Set FS-II

into Axioms-Set FS-III as displayed in Table 4.

For Axioms Set FS-III the consistency checks with Nitpick succeed, even

if we assume undeﬁned objects. However, this axioms set is obviously weaker

than Axioms Set V from Table 1. In fact, as has been shown by Nitpick, none

of the axioms of this set are implied. The situation changes when we explicitly

postulate strictness of dom,cod and ·. Doing so we obtain Axioms Set FS-

IV from Table 4, which, as Nitpick conﬁrms, is consistent even if we assume

undeﬁned objects. And the automated theorem provers via Sledgehammer

conﬁrm that Axioms Set FS-IV is equivalent to Axioms Set V, as intended.

Automating Free Logic in HOL 21

Axioms Set FS-III: Freyd and Scedrov in our notation (with issues)

B1∀x∀yE(x·y)←→ dom x∼

=cod y

B2a∀xcod (dom x)∼

=dom x

B2b∀ydom (cod y)∼

=cod y

B3a∀x x ·(dom x)∼

=x

B3b∀y(cod y)·y∼

=y

B4a∀x∀ydom (x·y)∼

=dom ((dom x)·y)

B4b∀x∀ycod (x·y)∼

=cod (x·(cod y))

B5∀x∀y∀z x ·(y·z)∼

=(x·y)·z

Axioms Set FS-IV: Freyd and Scedrov in our notation (without issues)

B0aE(x·y)−→ (Ex∧Ey)

B0bE(dom x)−→ Ex

B0bE(cod x)−→ Ex

B1∀x∀yE(x·y)←→ dom x∼

=cod y

B2a∀xcod (dom x)∼

=dom x

B2b∀ydom (cod y)∼

=cod y

B3a∀x x ·(dom x)∼

=x

B3b∀y(cod y)·y∼

=y

B4a∀x∀ydom (x·y)∼

=dom ((dom x)·y)

B4b∀x∀ycod (x·y)∼

=cod (x·(cod y))

B5∀x∀y∀z x ·(y·z)∼

=(x·y)·z

Table 4 The axioms set of Freyd and Scedrov in our notation and with variable restriction

to existing objects only.

Unfortunately, however, respective strictness conditions are not mentioned in

the textbook by Freyd and Scedrov.

6 Summary and Further Work

We have developed a new reasoning framework for free logic, and we have

experimentally applied it for some ﬁrst experiments in category theory. We

have demonstrated how modern proof assistants and theorem provers for clas-

sical higher-order logic may well support the reasoning in free logic. More

concretely, we have applied our new free logic reasoning framework for the

systematic exploration of axiom systems for category theory. Without tools,

support of such experiments would be extremely tedious and error prone. In

the course of our experiments, automated theorem provers have revealed some

(minor) issue in the textbook of Freyd and Scedrov [22], which we were able to

22 Christoph Benzm¨uller and Dana S. Scott

correct. The correction essentially corresponds to the axiom system by Scott

proposed earlier [32]. All our ﬁndings were achieved directly by or in close

interaction with automated reasoning tools. Perhaps the lesson to be learned

here is that, when working with partial functions, it is natural — out of caution

— to assume too much, and the automated reasoning tools, as we have shown

here, can help ﬁnd in what ways the axioms might be reduced or simpliﬁed.

Comparisons with other theorem provers for free logic are not possible at

this stage, since we are not aware of any other existing systems.

Further work includes the extension of our work towards an embedding of

free higher-order logic, the continuation of our formalization studies in cate-

gory theory (especially extensions of the theory involving functors) and the

application of free logic to various other mathematical domains, including, for

example, projective geometry. Regarding extensions towards free higher-order

logic some ﬁrst steps have already been taken [27,35], and a recent continua-

tion of our formalisation studies [11] now also includes an early axiom system

for category theory by Saunders MacLane [26].

Moreover, as an alternative to always unfolding the mapping from FFOL

to HOL, abstract level proof tactics could be provided e.g. in Isabelle/HOL

to support intuitive interaction (and even automation) in FFOL on top the

semantical embedding.

Acknowledgements We thank G¨unter Rote, Lutz Schr¨oder and and Emil Weydert for

their comments to [10], which together with [9] forms the basis for this article.

We also want to express our gratitude to the reviewers of this article. Their fruitful

feedback deﬁnitely helped to improve the ﬁnal version.

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