Monotone inductive definitions occur frequently throughout mathematical logic. The set of formulas in a given language and the set of consequences of a given axiom system are examples of (monotone) inductively defined sets. The class of Borel subsets of the continuum can be given by a monotone inductive definition. Kleene's inductive definition of recursion in a higher type functional (see [6]) is fundamental to modern recursion theory; we make use of it in §2.
Inductive definitions over the natural numbers have been studied extensively, beginning with Spector [11]. We list some of the results of that study in §1 for comparison with our new results on inductive definitions over the continuum. Note that for our purposes the continuum is identified with the Baire space ωω.
It is possible to obtain simple inductive definitions over the continuum by introducing real parameters into inductive definitions over N—as in the definition of recursion in [5]. This is itself an interesting concept and is discussed further in [4]. These parametric inductive definitions, however, are in general weaker than the unrestricted set of inductive definitions, as is indicated below.
In this paper we outline, for several classes of monotone inductive definitions over the continuum, solutions to the following characterization problems:
(1) What is the class of sets which may be given by such inductive definitions ?
(2) What is the class of ordinals which are the lengths of such inductive definitions ?
These questions are made more precise below. Most of the results of this paper were announced in [2].