## Ontology and the foundations of mathematics

##### Author(s)

Uzquiano, Gabriel, 1968-
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##### Other Contributors

Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dept. of Linguistics and Philosophy.

##### Advisor

Vann McGee.

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"Ontology and the Foundations of Mathematics" consists of three papers concerned with ontological issues in the foundations of mathematics. Chapter 1, "Numbers and Persons," confronts the problem of the inscrutability of numerical reference and argues that, even if inscrutable, the reference of the numerals, as we ordinarily use them, is determined much more, precisely than up to isomorphism. We argue that the truth conditions of a variety of numerical modal and counterfactual sentences (whose acceptance plays a crucial role in applications) place serious constraints on the sorts of items to which numerals, as we ordinarily use them, can be taken to refer: Numerals cannot be taken to refer to objects that exist contingently such as people, mountains, or rivers, but rather must be taken to refer to objects that exist necessarily such as abstracta. Chapter 2, "Modern Set Theory and Replacement," takes up a challenge to explain the reasons one should accept the axiom of replacement of Zermelo-Fraenkel set theory, when its applications within ordinary mathematics and the rest of science are often described as rare and recondite. We argue that this is not a question one should be interested in; replacement is required to ensure that the element-set relation is well-founded as well as to ensure that the cumulation of sets described by set theory reaches and proceeds beyond the level w of the cumulative hierarchy. A more interesting question is whether we should accept instances of replacement on uncountable sets, for these are indeed rarely used outside higher set theory. We argue that the best case for (uncountable) replacement comes not from direct, intuitive considerations, but from the role replacement plays in the formulation of transfinite recursion and the theory of ordinals, and from the fact that it permits us to express and assert the (first-order) content of the modern cumulative view of the set theoretic universe as arrayed in a cumulative hierarchy of levels. Chapter 3, "A No-Class Theory of Classes," makes use of the apparatus of plural quantification to construe talk of classes as plural talk about sets, and thus provide an interpretation of both one- and two-sorted versions of first-order Morse-Kelley set theory, an impredicative theory of classes. We argue that the plural interpretation of impredicative theories of classes has a number of advantages over more traditional interpretations of the language of classes as involving singular reference to gigantic set-like entities, only too encompassing to be sets, the most important of these being perhaps that it makes the machinery of classes available for the formalization of much recent and very interesting work in set theory without threatening the universality of the theory as the most comprehensive theory of collections, when these are understood as objects.

##### Description

Thesis (Ph.D.)--Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dept. of Linguistics and Philosophy, 1999. Includes bibliographical references.

##### Date issued

1999##### Department

Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dept. of Linguistics and Philosophy.##### Publisher

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

##### Keywords

Linguistics and Philosophy.