A proof of nominalism: An exercise in successful reduction in logic
Graduate studies at Western
|Abstract||Symbolic logic is a marvelous thing. It allows for an explicit expression of existence, viz. by means of the existential quantifier, and by it only. This is the true gist in Quine’s slogan “to be is to be a value of a bound variable.” Accordingly, one can also formulate explicitly the thesis of nominalism in terms of such logic. What this thesis says is that all the values of existential quantifiers we need in our language are particular objects, not higher-order objects such as properties, relations, functions and sets. This requirement is satisfied by the first-order languages using the received first-order logic. The commonly used basic logic is therefore nominalistic. But this result does not tell anything, for the received first-order logic is far too weak to capture all we need in mathematics or science. According to conventional wisdom, we need for this purpose either higher-order logic or set theory. Now both of them deal with higher-order entities and hence violate the canons of nominalism. This does not refute nominalism, however. For I will show that both set theory and higher-order logic can be made dispensable by developing a more powerful first-order logic that can do the same job as they do. Moreover, there are very serious problems connected with both of them. This constitutes an additional reason for dispensing with them in the foundations of mathematics. I will show how we can do just that. But we obviously need a better first-order logic for the purpose. Hence my first task is to develop one. But is this a viable construal of the problem of nominalism? The very distinction between particular and higher-order entities might perhaps seem to be hard to capture in logical terms — harder than has been indicated so far. Logicians like Jouko Väänänen (2001) have emphasized the complexities involved in trying to distinguish first-order logic from higher-order logic..|
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