Wittgenstein’s analysis on Cantor’s diagonal argument

Abstract

In Zettel, Wittgenstein considered a modified version of Cantor’s diagonal argument. According to Wittgenstein, Cantor’s number, different with other numbers, is defined based on a countable set. If Cantor’s number belongs to the countable set, the definition of Cantor’s number become incomplete. Therefore, Cantor’s number is not a number at all in this context. We can see some examples in the form of recursive functions. The definition "f(a)=f(a)" can not decide anything about the value of f(a). The definiton is incomplete. The definition of "f(a)=1+f(a)" can not decide anything about the value of f(a) too. The definiton is incomplete.<br><br>According to Wittgenstein, the contradiction, in Cantor's proof, originates from the hidden presumption that the definition of Cantor’s number is complete. The contradiction shows that the definition of Cantor’s number is incomplete. <br><br>According to Wittgenstein’s analysis, Cantor’s diagonal argument is invalid. But different with Intuitionistic analysis, Wittgenstein did not reject other parts of classical mathematics. Wittgenstein did not reject definitions using self-reference, but showed that this kind of definitions is incomplete.<br><br>Based on Thomson’s diagonal lemma, there is a close relation between a majority of paradoxes and Cantor’s diagonal argument. Therefore, Wittgenstein’s analysis on Cantor’s diagonal argument can be applied to provide a unified solution to paradoxes.

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Chaohui Zhuang
Xiamen University

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