Why Believe Infinite Sets Exist?

Axiomathes 28 (4):447-460 (2018)
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Abstract

The axiom of infinity states that infinite sets exist. I will argue that this axiom lacks justification. I start by showing that the axiom is not self-evident, so it needs separate justification. Following Maddy’s :481–511, 1988) distinction, I argue that the axiom of infinity lacks both intrinsic and extrinsic justification. Crucial to my project is Skolem’s From Frege to Gödel: a source book in mathematical logic, 1879–1931, Cambridge, Harvard University Press, pp. 290–301, 1922) distinction between a theory of real sets, and a theory of objects that theory calls “sets”. While Dedekind’s argument fails, his approach was correct: the axiom of infinity needs a justification it currently lacks. This epistemic situation is at variance with everyday mathematical practice. A dilemma ensues: should we relax epistemic standards or insist, in a skeptical vein, that a foundational problem has been ignored?

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Andrei Mărăşoiu
University of Bucharest

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References found in this work

Two Dogmas of Empiricism.W. Quine - 1951 - [Longmans, Green].
Two Dogmas of Empiricism.Willard V. O. Quine - 1951 - Philosophical Review 60 (1):20–43.
Two Dogmas of Empiricism.W. V. O. Quine - 1951 - In Robert B. Talisse & Scott F. Aikin (eds.), The Pragmatism Reader: From Peirce Through the Present. Princeton University Press. pp. 202-220.
Two Dogmas of Empiricism.W. V. Quine - 1951 - Philosophical Review 60 (1):20-43.
On What There Is.W. V. O. Quine - 1948 - In Robert B. Talisse & Scott F. Aikin (eds.), The Pragmatism Reader: From Peirce Through the Present. Princeton University Press. pp. 221-233.

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