1.4. Structures of mathematical systems

The structures, designated in each interpretation by the structure symbols forming a given language, form a described system by relating the objects of the diverse types, giving their roles to the objects of each type with respect to those of other types. Depending on details, the roles so given to objects of some types may be understood as those of complex objects, though all this can work with bare objects like urelements.

First-order structures

The kinds of structures (and thus the kinds of structure symbols) allowed in first-order theories, thus called first-order structures, are split into operators and predicates as described below. More powerful structures called second-order structures will be introduced in 5.1, coming from set theoretical tools or as packs of an additional type with first-order structures.
An operator is an operation between interpreted types. On the side of the theory before interpretation, each operator symbol comes with its symbol type made of In a theory with only one type, this data is reduced to the arity.
The constant symbols (or constants) of a theory are its nullary operator symbols (having no argument).
Unary operators (that are functions) will be called here functors (*).

The list of types is completed by the Boolean type, interpreted as the pair of elements (the set of two elements) we shall denote 1 for «true» and 0 for «false». A variable of this type (outside the theory) is called a Boolean variable.

A para-operator is an operator in the generalized sense allowing the Boolean type among its types of arguments and results.
A (logical) connective is a para-operator with only Boolean arguments and values.
A predicate is a para-operator with Boolean values, and at least one argument but no Boolean argument.

Structures of set theory

Formalizing set theory, means describing it as a theory with its notions, structures and axioms. We shall do this in a dedicated logical framework, different from but convertible into first-order logic by a procedure described in 2.1.
This relates the terminologies of set theory and one-model theory in a different way than when a theory is interpreted in set theory. To keep the natural names of set theoretical notions (sets, functions...) when defined by this formalization, it would become incorrect to still use them in the sense of the previous link (where notions were "sets" and operators were "operations"). To avoid confusion, let us here only use the model theoretical notions as our conceptual framework, ignoring their set theoretical interpretations. Ways to put both links together, and to reconcile both conceptions of the same theories (descriptions by model theory and interpretations in set theory) will be described in 1.7 and 1.D.

Let us admit 3 primitive notions : elements (all objects), sets and functions. Here are their main primitive structures.
One aspect of the role of sets is given by the binary predicate ∈ of belonging or membership : for any element x and any set E, we say that x is in E (or x belongs to E, or x is an element of E, or E contains x) and write xE, to mean that x is a possible value of the variables with range E.
Functions f play their role by two operators: the domain functor Dom, and the function evaluator, binary operator that is implicit in the notation f(x), with arguments f and x, giving the value of any function f at any element x of Dom f.

More primitive symbols will be presented in 1.7 and 1.8, then most other primitive symbols and axioms will be introduced in 1.A, 2.1, 2.2 and 2.7.

About ZFC set theory

The Zermelo-Fraenkel set theory (ZF, or ZFC with the axiom of choice) is a generic theory with only one type «set», one structure symbol ∈ , and axioms. It implicitly assumes that every object is a set, and thus a set of sets and so on, built over the empty set.
As a rather simply expressible but very powerful set theory for an enlarged founding cycle, it can be a good choice indeed for specialists of mathematical logic to conveniently prove diverse difficult foundational theorems, such as the unprovability of some statements, while giving them a scope that is arguably among the best conceivable ones.
But despite the habit of authors of basic math courses to conceive their presentation of set theory as a popularized or implicit version of ZF(C), it is actually not an ideal reference for a start of mathematics for beginners:

Formalizing types and structures as objects of one-model theory

To formalize one-model theory through the use of the meta- prefix, both meta-notions of "types" and "structures" are given their roles by meta-structures as follows.

Since one-model theory assumes a fixed model, it only needs one meta-type of "types" to play both roles of abstracts types (in the theory) and interpreted types (components of the model), respectively given by two meta-functors: one from variables to types, and one from objects to types. Indeed the more general notion of «set of objects» is not used and can be ignored.

But the meta-notion of structure will have to remain distinct from the language, because more structures beyond those named in the language will be involved (1.5). Structures will get their roles as operations, from meta-structures similar to the function evaluator (see 3.2-3.3 for clues), while the language (set of structure symbols) will be interpreted there by a meta-functor from structure symbols to structures.
However, this mere formalization would leave undetermined the range of this notion of structure. Trying to conceive this range as that of «all operations between interpreted types» would leave unknown the source of knowledge of such a totality. This idea of totality will be formalized in set theory as the powerset (2.7), but its meaning will still depend on the universe where it is interpreted, far from our present concern for one-model theory.

Set theory and Foundations of mathematics
1. First foundations of mathematics
1.1. Introduction to the foundations of mathematics
1.2. Variables, sets, functions and operations
1.3. Form of theories: notions,..., meta-objects
1.4. Structures of mathematical systems
1.5. Expressions and definable structures
1.6. Logical connectives
1.7. Classes in set theory
1.8. Binders in set theory
1.9. Axioms and proofs
1.10. Quantifiers
1.11. Second-order quantifiers
Time in model theory
Truth undefinability
Introduction to incompleteness
Set theory as unified framework
2. Set theory - 3. Algebra - 4. Arithmetic - 5. Second-order foundations
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FR : 1.4. Structures des systèmes mathématiques