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#19
Jul2505, 02:44 PM

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an axiom is jsut an axiom, for instance the axiom
G contains a unique element e such that e*x=x*e=x for all x is an axiom from group theory. it itself has no truth value and is only true of false when applied to some G and *. here dedekind's axiom is not true in and of itself or true for all "lines". it only makes sense to say it is true or false when applied to something. and it is true for the real line and false fro the rationals. the reals are complete (all cauchy sequences have a limit) and the rationals aren't, ie it is possible to find a sequence of rationals increasing and bounded above that do not converge to a rational. the axiom states that if we define two classes of elements of the reals, one allto the left of the other that this is the same as picking a unique point of division. thus the example i gave abuot the positive rationals whose square is bigger than 2 and its complement divide the line into two parts, but there is no rational that is the point of divisoin. another way is this: if we define two classes dividing the line up then we an take the sup of the left hand one and the inf of the right hand one and these agree, and that this element is in either the left or right hand sets. 


#20
Jul2605, 02:43 AM

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all is all, and if is if.



#21
Jul2605, 08:38 AM

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#22
Jul2605, 08:50 AM

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It's both the sup of the LH class and the inf of the RH class. I can't understand how this axiom is troubling you. For one, did you even see what matt wrote about axioms? They're axioms. It's not a statement of a law of nature. If I define a word "spen" as a pen that has a mismatched cap, will you say, "that definition makes no sense to me?" Dedekind's axiom helps to define the reals, so the reals are by definition, some set of numbers that is, put briefly, complete. So I hope you don't disagree that the Reals are complete, since that wouldn't make sense. Do you just not understand what it means to be complete? What is it that's so confusing?
Suppose you have the integers. If you cut the integer line at the point 2.5, then you'll split the integers into two classes, the class A = {..., 3, 2, 1, 0, 1, 2} and the class B = {3, 4, 5, ...}. Here, every point of class A is to the left of class B. However, if you divided the line at 2.75, you'd have the same two classes, but with a different dividing point. So the integers are not complete. In the case of the reals, is it evident to you that any splitting of the Reals into two classes such that all of one class is less than all of the other must split in one of the following two ways: (infinity, x) and [x, infinity) or (infinity, x] and (x, infinity) Is it also not obvious to you that in these cases, there is one and only one dividing point, and that point is x? 


#23
Jul2605, 08:58 AM

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bao_ho's post makes no sense other than refering to the definition of the words! 


#24
Jul2605, 01:58 PM

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one thing about AKG's post is that to "split the integers to the left and right of 2.75" assumes thart such as thing as 2.75 exists, but it may not, well it does, but we dont' know that, or more accurately the completeness axiom doesn't say what does or deosn't exist. It may be that *nothing* satisfies the completeness axiom. As we can show there is something that does satisfy the axiom.
ok to be honest i *wanted* to use this kind of example but thought of the several ontological issues. actually the integers are a bad example to use since in any reasonable sense they are complete since a cauchy sequence is eventually constant and hence converges. but the integers aren't a field. let's assume that we konw the reals exist and the rationals are inside them define a splitting of Q via L as the rationals less than pi and R as the rationals greater than pi. sup(L) and inf(L) are not in Q, there is no rational that is the cut point. the rationals are not complete. what is hard about this? 


#25
Jul2605, 02:36 PM

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Also, if it's bad to split the integers by 2.75, then it's bad to split the rationals by pi. I think if you wanted, you could introduce surreal numbers and split the reals into classes where the splitting point is not in the reals. 


#26
Jul2605, 02:49 PM

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The difference between the rationals and the integers is that the integers are complete. You need at least the rationals for this to make sense.
I can split the rationals by sqrt(2) without mentioning the 'ambient' space of reals. as i have done several times by example. Really we must only define our split by reference to the underlying space, so i can state things like the integers n such that 2n<5 but even then the sup exists over the integers and is an element of the left hadn set. The rational example I gave was the positive rationals x suich that x^2>2 and its complement in the rationals. there is no rational splitting point. if you don't know about cuachy sequences or completeness what is the point of dedekind's axiom? (this isn't rhetorical: i never learned abuot the construction of the reals until i had to teach it. if you like it was something we never mentioned as a student and by the time i realized (teaching at a different place) that it wasn't obvious it was too late....) 


#27
Jul2705, 04:31 AM

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I'm aware of what an axiom is. My query is not whether this axiom applies to reality or not, that doesn't matter. But it appears to me, even now, that it is internally inconsistent. In the example dividing the integers, 2.5 was said to be the dividing point, but 2.5 is not a member of the two classes being divided so this does not seem to be an equivalent case.
What you all seem to be saying is that the axiom does not stand alone but assumes certain other prior axioms, so is my problem that I'm reading it in isolation from these? I'm reading it naively, as a standalone statement about a line of points and the nature of the number line. Zurtex  "They're both the same unique dividing point!" This is what I thought was being said, but to me it seems an oxymoronic statement. 


#28
Jul2705, 09:01 AM

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#29
Jul2705, 10:29 AM

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Consider A the set of numbers whose squares are less than 2. And let B be the complement of A, consisting of all other numbers. Then the axiom says there is a LEAST member of B, call it c, characterized by a < c < b, for any member a in A and other b in B. This number c then has square = 2. For it is not in A so its square is not less than 2, and if its square were greater than 2, there would be some other number whose square was equal to 2, and then that number would be in B, not A, and would be less than c. But c is the least member of B, so that's a contradiction. 


#30
Jul2705, 10:35 AM

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selfAdjoint, the cut point could be a member of A. Also, the set A of numbers whose square is less than 2 is (sqrt(2), sqrt(2)). This divides the reals into 3.



#31
Jul2705, 11:38 AM

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#32
Jul2705, 01:58 PM

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You say that this axiom applies to this sort of number and not that sort of number and so on, but the axiom does not mention numbers at all, it mentions only points. You've told me that the axiom does not require any supporting axioms. In this case why are we talking about numbers and not points? Points cannot be distinguished from one another as if they were reals and rationals.
Let's say we wanted to represent time mathematically, as a series of moments or points in time. If we have to apply Dedekind's axiom in order to do this then we have to say that all moments fall into one of two classes, with every moment in the first class lying in the past relative to any point in the second class. But in which class does the present moment belong? It hardly matters whether we call these points in time real or rational numbers, we could represent them by the letters of the alphabet if we wanted. This is the issue I'm delving into. This is why I said I wasn't quite sure the question belongs here, thinking it might belong in philosophy of mathematics. I'm happy to move it there if you think that's a better place for it. 


#33
Jul2705, 02:11 PM

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As for the rest, time whatever it ought to be (continuous, discrete, whatever) has no point in this discussion. all you are asking is "is time better modelled by the real numbers or something else?" and is not a question that has anything to do with mathematics. 


#34
Jul2705, 02:54 PM

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Looking back, you seem to think the contradiction is that Dedekind's axiom says there are two classes, but then introduces a point which you believe is of neither class. But his axiom does not say that it is of neither class. The axiom, as you've stated it, is actually a little ambiguous. It refers to it as the point that "produces the division."
Anyways, if you are going to divide time then in your example, you could either divide it into one class of points that are strictly before the present, and one class that is before or during the present OR divide it into one class of points that are before and including the present, and one that is strictly after the present. Do you see how these would be complete divisions? If we took two classes, one that was strictly before and one that was strictly after, we wouldn't have completely divided time. Now, regardless of which of the above two ways you divide time, the present serves as the one and only dividing point. And depending on how you do this, the dividing point is either in the earlier class or the later class, but it is going to be in one of them, it's not in a third class. So what's the problem? 


#35
Jul2805, 06:52 AM

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Thanks to everyone for the discussion. I'll leave it there it that's ok because I think we've reached an impasse. I came across the axiom in Dantzig's book on mathematics, much praised by Einstein. He takes the view that the axiom is problematic, and I'm afraid despite what's been said here I still agree with him. But of course it's possible that I've misinterpreted him in some way. Does anyone have a copy? I borrowed it and now can't refer back to it. He specifically discusses the problem of Dedekind's cut in relation to the mathematical treatment of time, and what he says seems right to me. This is why I was suprised at the reaction to my question here. I was just checking my understanding of him and not expecting a disagreement. Probably my fault as a nonmathematician for using the wrong terminology or something.
Regards Canute 


#36
Jul2805, 11:31 AM

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why are you surprised at the response you got here? we are simply treating the axiom in its own right and not thinking of time. why wuold we think of time? we are attemptinf to make you see that the axiom makes perfect sense and is true for some objects, false for others. if you want to discuss the relevance of the real numbers as a suitalbe description of time, and in particular the fact that the reals satisfy dedekinds axiom and when we discuss time as the use of the reals we get an apparent contradiction, fine. there are many such problems with things like the real numbers or R^3 not least of which is the BanachTarski paradox. but that wasn't what you were saying (though it may have been what you meant to say) to our eyes.
there may well be problems if we apply the notion of dekekind's axiom to soemthing physical like time. this doesn't make the axiom problematic in and of itself and is "merely" a question about it's applicability to thinking about it in respect of time. ie he is attempting to describe some physical (or possibly philosophical) problem with the use of the real numbers to describe time. exactly the same could be said for attempting to descrbe lengths using real numbers. see the banach tarski paradox for a well known example. the real numbers are a mathematical invention with some very strange properties, stranger than yoe can ever think of (to paraphrase someone whose name i can't remember). so? that doesn't mean there is a *mathematical* issue with the axiom. the real numbers still satisfy dedekind's axiom, the rationals do not. there are many problems with the real numbers and their suitability to be used in the real world but they are principally of a philosphical nature. indeed there is a reasonable claim that the only numbers we ever need are (a subset of) the constructible ones, and they are countable. so how can something like the real numbers, almost all of which are things we can never know, be suitable for describing something physically meaningful like time? we could just as well be talking abuot the square root of 2 and lengths of hypoteneuses. an axiom many be problematic (a system of axioms cabn be inconsistent in that they may be mutually contradictory) in that it may be vacuous, always false or just plain silly, and it can be true or false when thought of in relation to some model. the set of dedekind cuts of rationals is a model where the axiom is true. this may make some philosophical problem occur, it may not. i don't think anyone here would care to speculate on what the thoughts of some author we may never have heard of meant in an sentence in some book about time and the relevance of the reals to describe them. 


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