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The Cauchy functional equation: $$f(x+y)=f(x)+f(y)$$ has solutions called 'additive functions'. If no conditions are imposed to $f$, there are infinitely many functions that satisfy the equation, called 'Hamel' functions. This is considered valid if and only if the Zermelo's axiom of choice is accepted as valid.

My question is: suppose we don't consider valid the axiom of choice, this means that we have a finite number of solutions? Or maybe the 'Hamel' functions are still valid?

Thanks for any hints ore answer.

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  • $\begingroup$ A housekeeping note: this question is almost identical to this one on MO, and the answer there may also be of interest. (It is along similar lines to Asaf's, but has more details in some places.) $\endgroup$ – Matt E Sep 13 '13 at 18:13
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What you wrote is not true at all. The argument is not valid "if and only if the axiom of choice holds".

  1. Note that there are always continuous functions of this form, all look like $f(x)=ax$, for some real number $a$. There are infinitely many of those.

  2. The axiom of choice implies that there are discontinuous functions like this, furthermore a very very weak form of the axiom of choice implies this. In fact there is very little "choice" which can be inferred from the existence of discontinuous functions like this, namely the existence of non-measurable sets.

  3. Even if the axiom of choice is false, it can still hold for the real numbers (i.e. the real numbers can be well-ordered even if the axiom of choice fails badly in the general universe). However even if the axiom of choice fails at the real numbers it need not imply that there are no such functions in the universe.

  4. We know that there are models in which all functions which have this property must be continuous, for example models in which all sets of real numbers have the Baire property. There are models of ZF in which all sets of reals have the Baire property, but there are non-measurable sets. So we cannot even infer the existence of discontinuous solutions from the existence of non-measurable sets.

  5. Observe that if there is one non-discontinuous then there are many different, since if $f,g$ are two additive functions then $f\circ g$ and $g\circ f$ are also additive functions. The correct question is to ask whether or not the algebra of additive functions is finitely generated over $\mathbb R$, but to this I do not know the answer (and I'm not sure if it is known at all).

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