Past, present and future of set theory

Abstract
What one can say about the past, present and future of set theory depends on what one expects or at least hopes set theory will accomplish. In order to gauge the early expectations, I begin with a quote from the inaugural lecture in 1903 of my mathematical grandfather, the internationally known Finnish mathematician Ernst Lindelöf. The subject of his lecture was – guess what – Cantor’s set theory. In his conclusion, Lindelöf says of Cantor’s results: For mathematics they have lent new tools and opened up new fields of research, they have thrown entirely new light on the foundations of analysis and brought clarity and order where there was only disorder and contradictions. Thus they have greatly contributed to the harmony that is the essence of mathematics, a harmony a grasp of which is the reward of mathematical research. (Quoted in Olli Lehto, Tieteen aatelia, Otava, Helsinki, 2008, p. 263) We can all agree with the compliments Lindelöf pays to set theory as an impressive specimen of mathematical research, including the theory of infinite cardinals and ordinals. But as far as the foundational role of set theory is concerned, in the perspective of the subsequent century his words read as an example of supreme historical irony. Far from bringing harmony into the foundations of mathematics, problems arising from set theory led to a schism between different schools of thought. Few mathematicians think of set theory as a tool for reaching new results outside set theory.. On the contrary, an interesting rich tradition called reverse mathematics takes significant mathematical results and asks what set-theoretical assumptions are needed to prove them. Set-theoretical paradoxes have greatly increased mathematicians’ concerns about contradictions instead of assuaging them. Many foundationalists would blandly deny that we have even now, more than a hundred years later, reached “clarity and order” about the foundations of analysis. What Lindelöf took to be the results of set theory thus were in reality so many hopes that set theory was expected to fulfill..
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
Options
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history Request removal from index Translate to english
 
Download options
PhilPapers Archive


Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy on self-archival     Papers currently archived: 11,005
External links
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Similar books and articles
Analytics

Monthly downloads

Added to index

2009-09-11

Total downloads

18 ( #92,698 of 1,101,139 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

0

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature


Discussion
Start a new thread
Order:
There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.