The entanglement of logic and set theory, constructively

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Colleges, School and Institutes


Theories of sets such as Zermelo Fraenkel set theory are usually presented as the combination of two distinct kinds of principles: logical and set-theoretic principles. The set-theoretic principles are imposed ‘on top’ of first-order logic. This is in agreement with a traditional view of logic as universally applicable and topic neutral. Such a view of logic has been rejected by the intuitionists, on the ground that quantification over infinite domains requires the use of intuitionistic rather than classical logic. In the following, I consider constructive set theories, which use intuitionistic rather than classical logic, and argue that they manifest a distinctive interdependence or an entanglement between sets and logic. In fact, Martin-Löf type theory identifies fundamental logical and set-theoretic notions. Remarkably, one of the motivations for this identification is the thought that classical quantification over infinite domains is problematic, while intuitionistic quantification is not. The approach to quantification adopted in Martin-Löf’s type theory is subtly interconnected with its predicativity. I conclude by recalling key aspects of an approach to predicativity inspired by Poincaré, which focuses on the issue of correct quantification over infinite domains and relate it back to Martin-Löf type theory.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-22
Number of pages22
Early online date5 Aug 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 5 Aug 2019


  • intuitionistic logic, set theory, Martin-Löf type theory, predicativity, infinity, quantification