I am to use Agda to prove some intuitionistic tautologies. One of them is the so called Weak Peirce's Law $$ ((((A \rightarrow B) \rightarrow A) \rightarrow A) \rightarrow B) \rightarrow B $$

I understand that there is an "equivalence" between intuitionistic tautologies and programs and their types, that is if I manage to write a function of this type, it works like a proof of this tautology.

The type of the function is wp : {A B : Set} ((((A -> B) -> A) -> A) -> B) -> B.

My question is - how do I even approach this thing? I managed to prove some other laws of intuitionistic logic, but with this one I'm kind of stuck. I imagine that somehow I'd like to get the first A -> B function and apply A to it, but how can I do that if all I get is the whole function f of type ((((A -> B) -> A) -> A) -> B)? Should I use $\lambda$'s for this?

Additional question: What does this Law even mean? There are so many implications that I can't even parse it...


1 Answer 1


For examples like this, they can often by easily written interactively just looking for the only thing possible to do at each stage. So for instance, you start with:

wp e = ?

and the only option is to apply e, at which point Agda will tell you you need to provide $((A → B) → A) → A$, so you introduce a lambda:

wp e = e (λ k -> ?)

Now you need to give an A, which is the result type of k, so you apply k and abstract again:

wp e = e (λ k -> k (λ x -> ?))

Now you need to give a B. The only thing that results in a B is e, so you apply it again. However, now your situation is different, because x is in scope. And presumably you don't want to follow the same pattern as you did before, so you can write:

wp e = e λ k → k (λ x → e (λ _ -> x))

In this case, the process is constrained enough that the auto-solver comes up with this solution.

As for what the type means, Peirce's law is similar to double-negation elimination with the $⊥$ replaced with $B$: $$((A → B) → B) → A$$ Peirce's law follows from the above type, because you can massage an $(A → B) → A$ into an $(A → B) → B$ by duplicating the function argument.

So, your overall type can be read as similar to:

$$¬¬(¬¬A → A)$$

Which fits the theme of double-negated classical (propositional) theorems being intuitionistic theorems.

  • $\begingroup$ OK - I just didn't think of passing lambdas to the "top" function. Now that you showed the solution it does seem quite obvious :D Thanks a lot! $\endgroup$ May 19, 2021 at 21:02
  • $\begingroup$ I also have a followup - how could I approach proving something called "irrefutability" that is irrefutability : {A : Set} → ¬ ¬ (A ∨ ¬ A)? Following your answer I could do something like irrefutability f = f (λ (left a) -> ? ; (right ¬a) -> ?) but having only f and a or ¬a I don't know how I can get bottom from that... $\endgroup$ May 19, 2021 at 21:44
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    $\begingroup$ Are you using the interactive programming mode? f needs to be applied to an A ∨ ¬ A, not a function. So Agda will complain about type mismatches as soon as you try to do the λ expression. If you aren't, I'd recommend trying to get it set up, because immediate computer feedback is extremely helpful for this sort of thing. $\endgroup$
    – Dan Doel
    May 19, 2021 at 22:28
  • $\begingroup$ I'm using nextjournal, so it's not really interactive - I will try to set up some interactive environment, then :3 $\endgroup$ May 20, 2021 at 6:31

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