On the iterative explanation of the paradoxes

Philosophical Studies 49 (1):37 - 61 (1986)
As the story goes, the source of the paradoxes of naive set theory lies in a conflation of two distinct conceptions of set: the so-called iterative, or mathematical, conception, and the Fregean, or logical, conception. While the latter conception is provably inconsistent, the former, as Godel notes, "has never led to any antinomy whatsoever". More important, the iterative conception explains the paradoxes by showing precisely where the Fregean conception goes wrong by enabling us to distinguish between sets and proper classes, collections that are "too big" to be sets. While I agree wholeheartedly with this distinction, in this paper I argue first that the iterative conception does not provide an explanation of all of the set theoretic paradoxes. I then argue that we need to reconsider the distinction between sets and proper classes rather more carefully. The result will be that ZFC does not capture the iterative conception in its full generality. I close by offering a more general theory that, arguably, does.
Keywords set theory  proper classes  iterative conception of set
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DOI 10.1007/BF00372882
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