On the significance of the Burali-Forti paradox

Analysis 71 (4):631-637 (2011)
After briefly reviewing the standard set-theoretic resolutions of the Burali-Forti paradox, we examine how the paradox arises in set theory formalized with plural quantifiers. A significant choice emerges between the desirable unrestricted availability of ordinals to represent well-orderings and the sensibility of attempting to refer to ‘absolutely all ordinals’ or ‘absolutely all well-orderings’. This choice is obscured by standard set theories, which rely on type distinctions which are obliterated in the setting with plurals. Zermelo's attempt ( 1930 ) to secure ordinal representability of arbitrary well-orderings through relativization of quantification to set-theoretic models is reviewed and found wanting. The natural modal-structural recasting provides, it is claimed, a good repair
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DOI 10.1093/analys/anr091
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Irving M. Copi (1958). The Burali-Forti Paradox. Philosophy of Science 25 (4):281-286.
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