This will be a talk in the CUNY set theory seminar. You can find the slides here.

Abstract: Large cardinals are seen as some of the most natural and well-motivated axioms of set theory. Often *maximality* considerations are mobilised in favour of consistent large cardinals: Since (it is argued) the axioms assert that the stages go as far as a certain ordinal, and it is part of the iterative conception that the construction be iterated as far as possible, if it is *consistent* to form a particular large cardinal then we should do so. This paper puts pressure on this line of thinking. We argue that since the iterative conception legislates in favour of forming all possible subsets at each additional stage and *then* iterating this as far as possible, what is regarded as ‘consistently formable’ will depend upon the nature of the subset operation in play. We present a few cases (some involving forcing) where the *consistency* of a large cardinal axiom comes apart from its *truth* on the basis of *maximality* criteria. Thus there are interpretations of maximality on which large cardinals are consistent but not true, and so maximality of the iterative conception does not clearly legislate in favour of large cardinals. We will even argue that there may be a natural, maximal, and strong version of set theory on which every set is countable!

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