Does there exist a function $f$ that satisfies all of the following three properties?

  1. The function converts an arbitrarily large (empty, finite, countably/uncountably infinite) set of ordinals to a single ordinal;
  2. If two sets $S$ and $T$ of ordinals are not equal, then two ordinals $f(S)$ and $f(T)$ are not equal; if two ordinals $\alpha$ and $\beta$ are not equal, then two sets $f^{-1}(\alpha)$ and $f^{-1}(\beta)$ are not equal;
  3. The function and its inverse are computable by Ordinal Turing Machines, i.e. there exists an Ordinal Turing Machine $m$ that (i) given an arbitrary set $T$ of ordinals as the input, outputs a single ordinal $f(T)$; (ii) given a single ordinal $\alpha$ as the input, outputs a set $f^{-1}(\alpha)$ of ordinals.
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ This is kind of self-evident in the case of $V=L$ (unless I am misreading the question), because it would follow from equivalence of SO (sets of ordinals) in $L$ and those that are ordinal computable by (some suitable) ordinal parameters . But for the general scenario, it is unclear to me. $\endgroup$
    – SSequence
    Jun 28, 2022 at 9:44

1 Answer 1


The existence of a function $f$ as specified in the question cannot be proved in ZFC. This follows from the following theorem and the well-known independence of $\mathrm{V = OD}$ (equivalently: $\mathrm{V = HOD}$) from $\mathrm{ZFC}$. Recall that $\mathrm{OD}$ is the class of ordinal-definable sets.

Theorem. (ZFC) There is a (parameter-free) definable injective function $f$ from the class of subsets of ordinals to the class of ordinals (i.e., a definable function $f$ satisfying properties (1) and (2) of the question) if and only if $\mathrm{V = OD}$.

Proof. The right-to-left direction readily follows from the well-known fact that there is a (parameter-free) global well-ordering of the class of all sets $\mathrm{V}$ of order-type $\mathrm{Ord}$ (class of ordinals) in the presence of $\mathrm{ZF + V = OD}$.

For the other direction, recall that it is a theorem of $\mathrm{ZFC}$ that every set can be canonically coded by a subset of ordinals (more precisely, for every set $x$ there is a subset $y$ of ordinals such that $x \in \mathrm{L}(y)$). This makes it clear that if there is a definable injection $f$ of the class of subsets of ordinal into the class $\mathrm{Ord}$ of ordinals, then there is an injection $F$ of the class of all sets $\mathrm{V}$ to $\mathrm{Ord}$. More specifically, given a set $x$, let $F(x)$ be $f(y_0)$, where $f(y_0)$ is the minimum element of the set of all ordinals of the form $f(y)$, where $y$ canonically codes $x$. Since $\mathrm{V=OD}$ is equivalent to the existence of a parameter-free definable injection of $\mathrm{V}$ into $\mathrm{Ord}$, this completes the proof.


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