Brian Tenneson wrote: > >> How do you know that there is no biggest number? Have you examined all >> the natural numbers? How do you prove that there is no biggest number? >> >> >> > In my opinion those are excellent questions. I will attempt to answer > them. The intended audience of my answer is everyone, so please forgive > me if I say something you already know. > > Firstly, no one has or can examine all the natural numbers. By that I > mean no human. Maybe there is an omniscient machine (or a "maximally > knowledgeable" in some paraconsistent way) who can examine all numbers > but that is definitely putting the cart before the horse. > > Secondly, the question boils down to a difference in philosophy: > mathematicians would say that it is not necessary to examine all natural > numbers. The mathematician would argue that it suffices to examine all > essential properties of natural numbers, rather than all natural numbers. > > There are a variety of equivalent ways to define a natural number but > the essential features of natural numbers are that > (a) there is an ordering on the set of natural numbers, a well > ordering. To say a set is well ordered entails that every =nonempty= > subset of it has a least element. > (b) the set of natural numbers has a least element (note that it is > customary to either say 0 is this least element or say 1 is this least > element--in some sense it does not matter what the starting point is) > (c) every natural number has a natural number successor. By successor > of a natural number, I mean anything for which the well ordering always > places the successor as larger than the predecessor. > > Then the set of natural numbers, N, is the set containing the least > element (0 or 1) and every successor of the least element, and only > successors of the least element. > > There is nothing wrong with a proof by contradiction but I think a > "forward" proof might just be more convincing. > > Consider the following statement: > Whenever S is a subset of N, S has a largest element if, and only if, > the complement of S has a least element. >

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Let S={even numbers} the complement of S, ~S={odd numbers} ~S has a least element, 1. Therefore there is a largest even number. Brent --~--~---------~--~----~------------~-------~--~----~ You received this message because you are subscribed to the Google Groups "Everything List" group. To post to this group, send email to everything-list@googlegroups.com To unsubscribe from this group, send email to everything-list+unsubscr...@googlegroups.com For more options, visit this group at http://groups.google.com/group/everything-list?hl=en -~----------~----~----~----~------~----~------~--~---