# The axiom of infinity

## 1. The natural numbers and induction

The axiom of foundation, combined with extensionality, pair set and sum set, tells us there is a definable operation of sets, $s ( x ) = x ∪ x$, called the successor operation which is 1-1 and does not contain $0$ (i.e. $∅$) in its range.

Definition.

A set $x$ is inductive if $0 ∈ x$ and $∀ y ∈ x s ( y ) ∈ x$.

An inductive set is therefore infinite.

Axiom of infinity: there is an inductive set, $∃ x ( 0 ∈ x ∧ ∀ y ∈ x s ( y ) ∈ x )$.

The axiom says there is one such inductive set, but in fact we can find a very special one, the least such.

Proposition.

If $x , y$ are inductive then so is $x ∩ y = u ∈ x u ∈ y$.

Proof.

Easy exercise.

Definition.

If $x$ is a non-empty set, $⋂ x$ denotes $u ∀ y ∈ x ( u ∈ y )$. This is easily seen to be a set by separation as for any $z ∈ x$ we have $⋂ x = u ∈ z ∀ y ∈ x ( u ∈ y )$.

Definition.

Let $x$ be inductive. The set $ω$ is the set . This is a set by power set and separation, and is independent of the choice of $x$ by the previous proposition. We also see that $ω$ is definable by a formula of $L ∈$, $u = ω$ holds if and only if .

Proposition.

$ω$ is inductive.

Proof.

Easy exercise.

The simplicity of the results her bely their power. What we have done is to define a set $ω = 0 s ( 0 ) s ( 1 ) …$ and prove it is the least inductive set. (Be careful, as the $…$ is not precise and sets cannot be defined in this way except through special means such as those above.) What this is is in fact an induction principle, and $ω$ is a copy of the natural numbers. To ephasise this we shall write $1$ for $s ( 0 )$, $2$ for $s ( 1 )$, $3$ for $s ( 2 )$, and so on.

Principle of induction on $ω$: If $ϕ ( x )$ is a first order $L ∈$ formula, possibly with parameters, and suppose $ϕ ( 0 )$ holds and also $∀ x ( ϕ ( x ) → ϕ ( s ( x ) ) )$. Then $∀ x ∈ ω ϕ ( x )$.

Proof.

The set $x ∈ ω ϕ ( x )$ exists by separation and is inductive by hypothesis. Hence it equals $ω$.

## 2. Examples of induction on the natural numbers

Proposition.

Every nonempty set $x ∈ ω$ contains $0$.

Proof.

Induction on $x$.

Definition.

A set $t$ is transitive if for all sets $x , y$ we have $x ∈ y ∈ t$ implies $x ∈ t$.

Proposition.

Every set $x ∈ ω$ is transitive.

Proof.

Induction on $x$.

## 3. Recusion on the natural numbers

Going hand-in-hand with induction is recursion, also sometimes called inductive definitions. We need to explain and justify these.

Set theory has many notions of function. One is function as a definable first order formula. A formula $ϕ ( x _ , y )$ behaves like a function if $∀ x _ ∃ y ( ϕ ( x _ , y ) ∧ ∀ z ( ϕ ( x _ , z ) → y = z ) )$. (This is usually abbreviated to $∀ x _ ∃! y ϕ ( x _ , y )$.) Sometimes this is true when restricted to $x _$ from a particular set or satisfying a partucular formula. Functions defined by formulas are called class functions.

The other kind of function is a function as a set.

Definition.

$⟨ x , y ⟩$ is the set $x x y$.

This exists by the pair set axiom.

Proposition.

If $⟨ x , y ⟩ = ⟨ x ′ , y ′ ⟩$ then $x = x ′$ and $y = y ′$.

Proof.

Easy case-by-case argument.

Definition.

A set function is a set $f$ such that every element of $f$ is $⟨ x , y ⟩$ for some sets $x , y$ and $∀ x , y , z ( ⟨ x , y ⟩ ∈ f ∧ ⟨ x , z ⟩ ∈ f → x = z )$. For such an $f$ we write $dom ( f )$ for $u ∃ v ⟨ u , v ⟩ ∈ f$ and $f ( u )$ for the unique $v$ such that $⟨ u , v ⟩ ∈ f$ when $u ∈ dom ( f )$.

Theorem.

Suppose $ϕ ( x , a _ )$ and $ψ ( x , y , z , a _ )$ are first order formulas such that $∃! x ϕ ( x , a _ )$ and $∀ x ∀ y ∃! z ψ ( x , y , z , a _ )$. Then there is a formula $θ ( x , y , a _ )$ such that $∀ x ∈ ω ∃! y θ ( x , y , a _ )$ and

• $θ ( 0 , y , a _ ) ↔ ϕ ( y , a _ )$
• $θ ( x , y , a _ ) ∧ ψ ( x , y , z , a _ ) → θ ( s ( x ) , z , a _ )$

This shows that we can define a function $f ( x , a _ )$ by $f ( 0 , a _ ) = g ( a _ )$ and $f ( x + 1 , a _ ) = h ( x , f ( x , a _ ) , a _ )$. In the statement of this theorem we have used class functions, but set functions take part in the proof.

Proof.

We say a set-function $f$ is an attempt if $dom ( f )$ is $x ∪ x$ for some $x ∈ ω$ such that

• $ϕ ( y , a _ ) → f ( 0 ) = y$
• $∀ u ∈ dom ( f ) ∀ y ∀ z ( u ≠ x ∧ f ( u ) = y ∧ ψ ( u , y , z , a _ ) → f ( s ( x ) ) = z )$

Our formula $θ ( x , y , a _ )$ is the formula stating there is an attempt $f$ with $x ∈ dom ( f )$ and $y = f ( x )$.

The rest is an exercise. You need to prove by induction on $ω$ that for all $x ∈ ω$ attempts exist with $x ∈ dom ( f )$ and that any two attempts $f , g$ agree on the values they give for $f ( x ) , g ( x )$.