Deflating Skolem

Synthese 143 (3):223 - 253 (2005)
Abstract
Remarkably, despite the tremendous success of axiomatic set-theory in mathematics, logic and meta-mathematics, e.g., model-theory, two philosophical worries about axiomatic set-theory as the adequate catch of the set-concept keep haunting it. Having dealt with one worry in a previous paper in this journal, we now fulfil a promise made there, namely to deal with the second worry. The second worry is the Skolem Paradox and its ensuing 'Skolemite skepticism'. We present a comparatively novel and simple analysis of the argument of the Skolemite skeptic, which will reveal a general assumption concerning the meaning of the set-concept (we call it 'Connexion M'). We argue that the Skolemite skeptic's argument is a petitio principii and that consequently we find ourselves in a dialectical situation of stalemate. Few (if any) working set-theoreticians feel a tension -- let alone see a paradox -- between, on the one hand, what the Löwenheim-Skolem theorems and related results seem to be telling us about the set-concept, and, on the other hand, their uncompromising and successful use of the set-concept and their continuing enthusiasm about it, in other words: their lack of skepticism about the set-concept. Further, most (if not all) working set-theoreticians have a relaxed attitude towards the ubiquitous undecidability phenomenon in set-theory, rather than a worrying one. We argue these are genuine philosophical problems about the practice of set-theory. We propound solutions, which crucially involve a renunciation of Connexion M. This breaks the dialectical situation of stalemate against the Skolemite skeptic
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