Burali-Forti as a Purely Logical Paradox

Journal of Philosophical Logic 48 (5):885-908 (2019)
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Abstract

Russell’s paradox is purely logical in the following sense: a contradiction can be formally deduced from the proposition that there is a set of all non-self-membered sets, in pure first-order logic—the first-order logical form of this proposition is inconsistent. This explains why Russell’s paradox is portable—why versions of the paradox arise in contexts unrelated to set theory, from propositions with the same logical form as the claim that there is a set of all non-self-membered sets. Burali-Forti’s paradox, like Russell’s paradox, is portable. I offer the following explanation for this fact: Burali-Forti’s paradox, like Russell’s, is purely logical. Concretely, I show that if we enrich the language \ of first-order logic with a well-foundedness quantifier W and adopt certain minimal inference rules for this quantifier, then a contradiction can be formally deduced from the proposition that there is a greatest ordinal. Moreover, a proposition with the same logical form as the claim that there is a greatest ordinal can be found at the heart of several other paradoxes that resemble Burali-Forti’s. The reductio of Burali-Forti can be repeated verbatim to establish the inconsistency of these other propositions. Hence, the portability of the Burali-Forti’s paradox is explained in the same way as the portability of Russell’s: both paradoxes involve an inconsistent logical form—Russell’s involves an inconsistent form expressible in \ and Burali-Forti’s involves an inconsistent form expressible in \.

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Graham Leach-Krouse
Kansas State University

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References found in this work

The logical basis of metaphysics.Michael Dummett - 1991 - Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
Natural deduction: a proof-theoretical study.Dag Prawitz - 1965 - Mineola, N.Y.: Dover Publications.
Model-Theoretic Logics.Jon Barwise & Solomon Feferman - 2017 - Cambridge University Press.
What are logical notions?Alfred Tarski - 1986 - History and Philosophy of Logic 7 (2):143-154.

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