Logic of paradoxes in classical set theories

Synthese 190 (3):525-547 (2013)
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According to Cantor (Mathematische Annalen 21:545–586, 1883 ; Cantor’s letter to Dedekind, 1899 ) a set is any multitude which can be thought of as one (“jedes Viele, welches sich als Eines denken läßt”) without contradiction—a consistent multitude. Other multitudes are inconsistent or paradoxical. Set theoretical paradoxes have common root—lack of understanding why some multitudes are not sets. Why some multitudes of objects of thought cannot themselves be objects of thought? Moreover, it is a logical truth that such multitudes do exist. However we do not understand this logical truth so well as we understand, for example, the logical truth $${\forall x \, x = x}$$ . In this paper we formulate a logical truth which we call the productivity principle. Rusell (Proc Lond Math Soc 4(2):29–53, 1906 ) was the first one to formulate this principle, but in a restricted form and with a different purpose. The principle explicates a logical mechanism that lies behind paradoxical multitudes, and is understandable as well as any simple logical truth. However, it does not explain the concept of set. It only sets logical bounds of the concept within the framework of the classical two valued $${\in}$$ -language. The principle behaves as a logical regulator of any theory we formulate to explain and describe sets. It provides tools to identify paradoxical classes inside the theory. We show how the known paradoxical classes follow from the productivity principle and how the principle gives us a uniform way to generate new paradoxical classes. In the case of ZFC set theory the productivity principle shows that the limitation of size principles are of a restrictive nature and that they do not explain which classes are sets. The productivity principle, as a logical regulator, can have a definite heuristic role in the development of a consistent set theory. We sketch such a theory—the cumulative cardinal theory of sets. The theory is based on the idea of cardinality of collecting objects into sets. Its development is guided by means of the productivity principle in such a way that its consistency seems plausible. Moreover, the theory inherits good properties from cardinal conception and from cumulative conception of sets. Because of the cardinality principle it can easily justify the replacement axiom, and because of the cumulative property it can easily justify the power set axiom and the union axiom. It would be possible to prove that the cumulative cardinal theory of sets is equivalent to the Morse–Kelley set theory. In this way we provide a natural and plausibly consistent axiomatization for the Morse–Kelley set theory.
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