After much anticipation I started reading Barwise and Moss's "Vicious Circles". Unfortunately by chapter 2 I've reached the point where the statements don't just seem incorrect, they don't even seem to be propositions. I raised my question on USENET but I may as well mention it here too.
Here's how I understand the concept of a class in ZF Set Theory: talk about classes is really just talk about predicates. We enrich the language of Set Theory with a bunch of new terms ('class', 'subclass') and overload other terms ('is an element of', 'is a subset of') to give a new language that reifies classes, but instead of adding new axioms to deal with classes we provide a translation back to ZF without these extra terms. For example if P and Q are classes then "x is in P" means "P(x)" and "P is contained in Q means" "for all x, P(x) implies Q(x)" or even "a subclass of a set is a set" which translates to the axiom of separation. (We could alternatively add new axioms, instead of the translation, and then we'd get NBG Set Theory.)
Am I right so far? (By the way, nobody ever seems to say what I've just said explicitly. In particular, it seems to me that once you add the term 'class' you need to start proving metatheorems about classes to show what kind of deductions about them are valid, but nobody ever seems to do this.)
I understand that this is a sensible thing to do because of the overloading - in the enriched language sets and classes look similar and that allows us to do category theory, for example, in a much wider context, without having to define everything twice. (And also, maybe, because talk about sets is really a substitute for talk about classes...but that's a philosophical point for another day...)
So what does "If a class is a member of a class then it is a set" mean in the context of ZF? A class is really just a predicate, so it doesn't make sense to me that there could be a predicate about predicates. So at this point the book is looking like Voodoo.
Can anyone out there clarify this for me?
(Hmmm...I wonder if the translation to ZF is an adjoint functor...ow...MUST STOP OBSESSING ABOUT ADJUNCTIONS...)
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