Asymptotic Quasi-completeness and ZFC

  • Mirna Džamonja
  • Marco PanzaEmail author
Part of the Trends in Logic book series (TREN, volume 47)


The axioms ZFC of first order set theory are one of the best and most widely accepted, if not perfect, foundations used in mathematics. Just as the axioms of first order Peano Arithmetic, ZFC axioms form a recursively enumerable list of axioms, and are, then, subject to Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorems. Hence, if they are assumed to be consistent, they are necessarily incomplete. This can be witnessed by various concrete statements, including the celebrated Continuum Hypothesis CH. The independence results about the infinite cardinals are so abundant that it often appears that ZFC can basically prove very little about such cardinals. However, we put forward a thesis that ZFC is actually very powerful at some infinite cardinals, but not at all of them. We have to move away from the first few and to look at limits of uncountable cardinals, such as \( \aleph _\omega \). Specifically, we work with singular cardinals (which are necessarily limits) and we illustrate that at such cardinals there is a very serious limit to independence and that many statements which are known to be independent on regular cardinals become provable or refutable by ZFC at singulars. In a certain sense, which we explain, the behavior of the set-theoretic universe is asymptotically determined at singular cardinals by the behavior that the universe assumes at the smaller regular cardinals. Foundationally, ZFC provides an asymptotically univocal image of the universe of sets around the singular cardinals. We also give a philosophical view accounting for the relevance of these claims in a platonistic perspective which is different from traditional mathematical platonism.



The first author gratefully acknowledges the help of EPSRC through the grant EP/I00498, Leverhulme Trust through research Fellowship 2014–2015 and l’Institut d’Histoire et de Philosophie des Sciences et des Techniques, Université Paris 1, where she is an Associate Member. The second acknowledges the support of ANR through the project ObMathRe. The authors are grateful to Walter Carnielli for his instructive comments on a preliminary version of the manuscript, and to Marianna Antonutti-Marfori, Drew Moshier and Rachael Schiel for valuable suggestions.


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Copyright information

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of MathematicsUniversity of East AngliaNorwichUK
  2. 2.CNRS, IHPST (CNRS and Université Paris 1, Panthéon-Sorbonne)ParisFrance
  3. 3.Chapman UniversityOrangeUSA

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