For questions on axioms, mathematical statements that are accepted as being true, usually without controversy.

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67
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8answers
20k views

Can you explain the “Axiom of choice” in simple terms?

As I'm sure many of you do, I read the XKCD webcomic regularly. The most recent one involves a joke about the Axiom of Choice, which I didn't get. I went to Wikipedia to see what the Axiom of ...
64
votes
10answers
15k views

How is a system of axioms different from a system of beliefs?

Other ways to put it: Is there any faith required in the adoption of a system of axioms? How is a given system of axioms accepted or rejected if not based on blind faith?
59
votes
9answers
6k views

Does mathematics require axioms?

I just read this whole article: http://web.maths.unsw.edu.au/~norman/papers/SetTheory.pdf which is also discussed over here: Infinite sets don't exist!? However, the paragraph which I found most ...
59
votes
6answers
8k views

In what sense are math axioms true?

Say I am explaining to a kid, $A +B$ is the same as $B+A$ for natural numbers. The kid asks: why? Well, it's an axiom. It's called commutativity (which is not even true for most groups). How do I "...
53
votes
7answers
3k views

Where are the axioms?

It is said that our current basis for mathematics are the ZFC-axioms. Question: Where are these axioms in our mathematics? When do we use them? I have now studied math for a year, and have yet to ...
51
votes
10answers
13k views

Has there ever been an application of dividing by zero?

Regarding the expression $a/0$, according to Wikipedia: In ordinary arithmetic, the expression has no meaning, as there is no number which, multiplied by $0$, gives $a$ (assuming $a\not= 0$), and ...
38
votes
3answers
4k views

Can proof by contradiction 'fail'?

I am familiar with the mechanism of proof by contradiction: we want to prove $P$, so we assume $¬P$ and prove that this is false; hence $P$ must be true. I have the following devil's advocate ...
35
votes
11answers
3k views

What is exactly the difference between a definition and an axiom?

I am wondering what the difference between a definition and an axiom. Isn't an axiom something what we define to be true? For example, one of the axioms of Peano Arithmetic states that $\forall n:0\...
31
votes
4answers
2k views

Axiomatic definition of sin and cos?

I look for possiblity to define sin/cos through algebraic relations without involving power series, integrals, differential equation and geometric intuition. Is it possible to define sin and cos ...
28
votes
7answers
2k views

Is $\{0\}$ a field?

Consider the set $F$ consisting of the single element $I$. Define addition and multiplication such that $I+I=I$ and $I \times I=I$ . This ring satisfies the field axioms: Closure under addition. ...
27
votes
7answers
2k views

Are there infinite sets of axioms?

I'm reading Behnke's Fundamentals of mathematics: If the number of axioms is finite, we can reduce the concept of a consequence to that of a tautology. I got curious on this: Are there infinite ...
27
votes
6answers
2k views

What are natural numbers?

What are the natural numbers? Is it a valid question at all? My understanding is that a set satisfying Peano axioms is called "the natural numbers" and from that one builds integers, rational numbers,...
26
votes
3answers
629 views

Is every axiom in the definition of a vector space necessary?

Definition: A vector space over a field $K$ consists of a set $V$ and two binary operations $+: V \times V \to V$ and $\cdot: K \times V \to V$ satisfying the following axioms: Commutativity ...
25
votes
6answers
2k views

Axiomatic characterization of the rational numbers

We have the well-known Peano axioms for the natural numbers and the real numbers can be characterized by demanding them to be a Dedekind-complete, totally ordered field (or some variation of this). ...
22
votes
6answers
1k views

When does the set enter set theory?

I wonder about the foundations of set theory and my question can be stated in some related forms: If we base Zermelo–Fraenkel set theory on first order logic, does that mean first order logic is not ...
20
votes
6answers
2k views

What is the modern axiomatization of (Euclidean) plane geometry?

I have heard anecdotally that Euclid's Elements was an unsatisfactory development of geometry, because it was not rigorous, and that this spurred other people (including Hilbert) to create their own ...
20
votes
6answers
1k views

Meaning of the word “axiom”

One usually describes an axiom to be a proposition regarded as self-evidently true without proof. Thus, axioms are propositions we assume to be true and we use them in an axiomatic theory as premises ...
19
votes
5answers
825 views

Why hasn't GCH become a standard axiom of ZFC?

I've never seen a text that includes GCH in the ZFC axioms. I presume this means that GCH has not achieved widespread acceptance. This seems surprising to me, given that: The cardinal numbers ...
17
votes
3answers
1k views

Why does what I've written fail to define truth?

I stumbled across a set of axioms for first order logic a bit ago. Intrigued, I decided to try to write it all down and organise what I read. After I did that, it seemed to me as though one could ...
16
votes
11answers
3k views

What is an axiom in layman's terms? [closed]

I tried to explain to my kids what is an axiom in very nontechnical terminology (also known as layman's term) but I could not find anything that they could relate to easily. Do anyone have a good ...
16
votes
2answers
1k views

Where is axiom of regularity actually used?

Where is axiom of regularity actually used? Why is it important? Are there some proofs, which are substantially simpler thanks to this axiom? This question was to some extent provoked by Dan ...
16
votes
2answers
1k views

Proofs given in undergrad degree that need Continuum hypothesis?

Or alternative you need to assume CH is false. I know several proofs that use axiom of choice. Heine Borel theorem is the best example I can think off. Zorns lemma is heavily used in the non ...
16
votes
1answer
501 views

Is there an axiomatic approach to ordinal arithmetic?

I've always wondered, is there an axiomatic approach to the arithmetic of ordinal numbers? If so, I imagine it would be on par with set theory in terms of its proof-theoretic strength.
15
votes
4answers
1k views

Vector Spaces: Redundant Axiom?

Question Why are the axioms for vector space independent? More precisely $1x=x$ seems redundant... (I take the axioms from: Wikipedia) Explanation One has for zero vector: $$\lambda0+\lambda0=\...
15
votes
2answers
3k views

What happens if we remove the requirement that $\langle R, + \rangle$ is abelian from the definition of a ring?

Ever since I learned the definition of a ring, I've wondered why the additive group is required to be abelian. What happens if we allow $\langle R, + \rangle$ to be nonabelian as well as $\langle R, \...
15
votes
1answer
799 views

Can we prove the existence of $A\cup B$ without the union axiom?

If $A$ and $B$ are sets, then $A\cup B$ is defined as follows: $$A\cup B:=\{x: x\in A \, \, \,\text{ or } \, \, \, x\in B\}.$$ In ZFC, $A\cup B$ exists because $\bigcup\{A,B\}$ exists by union axiom, ...
15
votes
2answers
313 views

How much math do we need to prove all simple numeric identities?

Consider real numeric expressions build only from integers, operators $+,-,\times,/$ and taking a positive expression to a power (no variables involved), e.g. $$\frac{2}{7},\ 2^{1/2},\ \sqrt[5]{2+\...
14
votes
8answers
1k views

Zero vector of a vector space

I know that every vector space needs to contain a zero vector. But all the vector spaces I've seen have the zero vector actually being zero (e.g. $\mathbf{0}=\langle0,0,\ldots,0\rangle$). Can't the "...
14
votes
2answers
2k views

Axiom of Regularity

I am having difficulty understanding Axiom of Regularity : Every non-empty set $\rm A$ contains an element $\rm B$ which is disjoint from $\rm A.$ So from my understanding if I have a set like: ...
14
votes
2answers
375 views

Non-constructive axiom of infinity

Looking at the ZFC axioms (in the Wikipedia version), the axiom of infinity stands out because it contains an extremely specific construction. This seems rather unelegant to me, therefore I've thought ...
14
votes
2answers
254 views

How far is it true that statements dependent on Axiom of Choice are not constructive.

Axiom of Choice is often used in mathematics to construct various objects, such as basis of $\mathbb{R}$ as a vector space over $\mathbb{Q}$, unmeasurable subset of $\mathbb{R}$, or a non-principal ...
14
votes
3answers
1k views

In axiomatization of propositional logic, why can uniform substitution be applied only to axioms?

I'm reading an introductory book about mathematical logic for Computation (just for reference, the book is "Lógica para Computação", by Corrêa da Silva, Finger & Melo), and would like to ask a ...
13
votes
2answers
859 views

Which axioms of ZFC or PA are known to not be derivable from the others?

Which, if any, axioms of ZFC are known to not be derivable from the other axioms? Which, if any, axioms of PA are known to not be derivable from the other axioms?
12
votes
3answers
1k views

What's so special about the group axioms?

I've only just begun studying group theory (up to Lagrange) following on from vector spaces and I am still finding them almost frustratingly arbitrary. I'm not sure what exactly it is about the ...
12
votes
3answers
1k views

Proof that every circle has the ratio of $\pi$

We know that the ratio between the circumference's length and diameter is equal to $\pi$, but can this be proved for every circle? Or is this an axiom?
12
votes
1answer
172 views

Axiomatizing topology through continuous maps

Suppose we have some topological space $X$ and we somehow forgot about the topology. A friend of ours knows the topology and offers to tell us for any map $X\to Y$ into any topological space $Y$ ...
11
votes
6answers
3k views

How to demystify the axioms of propositional logic?

How might I go about getting some intuition on the typical axiom schemes given for propositional logic? They seem rather mysterious at first glance. For example, these are taken from: http://en....
11
votes
4answers
1k views

How does the axiom of regularity forbid self containing sets?

The axiom of regularity basically says that a set must be disjoint from at least one element. I have heard this disproves self containing sets. I see how it could prevent $A=\{A\}$, but it would seem ...
11
votes
3answers
2k views

The existence of the empty set is an axiom of ZFC or not?

I found in the Wolfram MathWorld page of the Axiom of the Empty Set that this is one of the Zermelo-Fraenkel Axioms, however on the page about these ZFC Axioms I read that it is an axiom that can be ...
11
votes
6answers
421 views

Axiomatic Foundations

I am trying to deduce how mathematicians decide on what axioms to use and why not other axioms, I mean surely there is an infinite amount of available axioms. What I am trying to get at is surely if ...
11
votes
4answers
552 views

Kolmogorov's probability axioms

Why Kolmogorov's axioms are considered such a breakthrough in probability theory? They are just 3 simple statements everyone can agree with. When creating a system of axioms like this it's necessary ...
11
votes
3answers
6k views

Euclid / Hilbert: “Two lines parallel to a third line are parallel to each other.”

Background Many geometry books used to teach high-schoolers these days try to transfer Hilbert's reworking of Euclid's axioms into a (somewhat) palatable form for students. They don't usually seem to ...
11
votes
1answer
239 views

What is the smallest fragment of ZFC that has the same consistency strength as ZFC?

The question in the title is undoubtedly nonsensical, but I am not sure how to state this question properly. Perhaps some examples will help me explain it. Thanks to Godel and Cohen, we know that ${\...
10
votes
5answers
627 views

Foundation of ordering of real numbers

This might be a silly question, but what is the mathematical foundation for the ordering of the real numbers? How do we know that $1<2$ or $300<1000$... Are the real numbers simply defined as ...
10
votes
5answers
712 views

What are the postulates that can be used to derive geometry?

What are the various sets of postulates that can used to derive Euclidean geometry? It might be nice to have several different approaches together for comparison purposes and for ready reference. It ...
10
votes
5answers
704 views

Axiomatic approach to polynomials?

I only know the "constructive" definition of $\mathbb K [x]$, via the space of finite sequences in $\mathbb K$. It essentially tells a polynomial is its coefficients. Is there a way to define ...
10
votes
3answers
882 views

Which statements are equivalent to the parallel postulate?

I would like to have a long-ish list of statements that are equivalent to the parallel postulate. If a line segment intersects two straight lines forming two interior angles on the same side that ...
10
votes
4answers
2k views

Why do we take the axiom of induction for natural numbers (Peano arithmetic)?

More precisely, when we define the set of natural numbers $\mathbb{N}$ using the Peano axioms, we assume the following: $0\in\mathbb{N}$ $\forall n\in\mathbb{N} (S(n)\in\mathbb{N})$ $\forall n\in\...
10
votes
2answers
308 views

When the mathematical community consider the inclusion of a new axiom?.

At first I was thinking about the axiom of choice, but let's keep it general. What motivates the inclusion of new axioms (or change the ones we already have in an already defined axiomatic theory?. It ...
10
votes
1answer
247 views

The theory in probability

Consider a real-life experiment (perhaps written as a problem in a textbook): A coin is continually tossed until two consecutive heads are observed. Assume that the results of the tosses are mutually ...