The Place of Natural Numbers in Axiomatic Mathematics

  • #1
I'm trying to write down an axiomatic development of most of mathematics, and I'm wondering whether it's logically permissible to use natural numbers as subscripts before they have been defined in terms of the Peano Axioms.

For instance... the idea of function is used in the Peano axioms (successor function), so clearly function has to be introduced before the Peano axioms. But the ideas of operation and sequence are closely related to the idea of a function, yet they use natural numbers either to denote the number of sets in a Cartesian product or the order of items in a list. So should those concepts come in a section about functions before the Peano axioms or afterwards? Do those "list-helper" natural numbers need to come after the Peano Axioms? Or are they simply "dummy numbers" and can thus come beforehand?

I guess it comes down to whether we're okay with accepting the natural numbers for use as a pre-mathematical notion when they're not being used explicitly, sort of how the ideas of "implies" and "for every" are simply logical prerequisites. However, if you take this approach, you get into some murky waters, as the sequence idea can also be introduced in terms of a function which has the natural numbers as its domain. In that case, where numbers are the input of a function, it seems that we are using the actual natural numbers, not simply the list-helper natural numbers.

Thoughts?
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
You need the text: Foundations of Analysis by Edmund Landau. Trust me. Buy it.
 
  • #3
HallsofIvy
Science Advisor
Homework Helper
41,833
956
As far as "subscripts" are concerned, you don't need to use numbers- any discrete ordered set will do. But you do not need "subscripts" or sequences to use Peano's axioms.

Peano's axioms: the "natural numbers" consist of a set N and a function s from N to N such that:
1) There exist a unique member of N, 1, such that s is a function from N onto N-{1}.
2) If a set X contains 1 and, for any x in X, s(x) is also in X, then X= N.
 

Related Threads on The Place of Natural Numbers in Axiomatic Mathematics

Replies
35
Views
7K
Replies
10
Views
4K
Replies
2
Views
562
  • Last Post
3
Replies
66
Views
31K
  • Last Post
Replies
3
Views
1K
Replies
9
Views
2K
  • Last Post
Replies
2
Views
2K
  • Last Post
Replies
11
Views
2K
  • Last Post
Replies
7
Views
2K
  • Last Post
Replies
3
Views
2K
Top