Axiomathes 28 (2):125-154 (2018)

Francesco Maria Ferrari
University of Campinas
The main aim of this work is to evaluate whether Boolos’ semantics for second-order languages is model-theoretically equivalent to standard model-theoretic semantics. Such an equivalence result is, actually, directly proved in the “Appendix”. I argue that Boolos’ intent in developing such a semantics is not to avoid set-theoretic notions in favor of pluralities. It is, rather, to prevent that predicates, in the sense of functions, refer to classes of classes. Boolos’ formal semantics differs from a semantics of pluralities for Boolos’ plural reading of second-order quantifiers, for the notion of plurality is much more general, not only of that set, but also of class. In fact, by showing that a plurality is equivalent to sub-sets of a power set, the notion of plurality comes to suffer a loss of generality. Despite of this equivalence result, I maintain that Boolos’ formal semantics does not committ second-order languages to second-order entities, contrary to standard semantics. Further, such an equivalence result provides a rationale for many criticisms to Boolos’ formal semantics, in particular those by Resnik and Parsons against its alleged ontological innocence and on its Platonistic presupposition. The key set-theoretic notion involved in the equivalence proof is that of many-valued function. But, first, I will provide a clarification of the philosophical context and theoretical grounds of the genesis of Boolos’ formal semantics.
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DOI 10.1007/s10516-017-9360-4
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Methods of Logic.W. V. O. Quine - 1950 - Harvard University Press.
Philosophy of Mathematics: Structure and Ontology.Stewart Shapiro - 1997 - Oxford, England: Oxford University Press USA.

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