# Definition:Empty Set/Existence

## Definition

Some authors have problems with the existence (or not) of the empty set:

- 1951: Nathan Jacobson:
*Lectures in Abstract Algebra: I. Basic Concepts*: Introduction $\S 1$: Operations on Sets:

*One may regard [the vacuous set] as a zero element that is adjoined to the collection of "real" subsets.*

- 1965: J.A. Green:
*Sets and Groups*: $\S 1.3$:

*If $A, B$ are disjoint, then $A \cap B$ is not really defined, because it has no elements. For this reason we introduce a conventional*empty set*, denoted $\O$, to be thought of as a 'set with no elements'. Of course this is a set only by courtesy, but it is convenient to allow $\O$ the status of a set.*

- 1965: Seth Warner:
*Modern Algebra*: $\S 1$:

*One practical advantage in admitting $\O$ as a set is that we may wish to talk about a set without knowing*a priori*whether it has any members.*

- 1968: Ian D. Macdonald:
*The Theory of Groups*: Appendix:

*The best attitude towards the empty set $\O$ is, perhaps, to regard it as an interesting curiosity, a convenient fiction. To say that $x \in \O$ simply means that $x$ does not exist. Note that it is conveniently agreed that $\O$ is a subset of every set, for elements of $\O$ are supposed to possess every property.*

- 2000: James R. Munkres:
*Topology*(2nd ed.): $1$: Set Theory and Logic: $\S 1$: Fundamental Concepts

*Now some students are bothered with the notion of an "empty set". "How", they say, "can you have a set with nothing in it?" ... The empty set is only a convention, and mathematics could very well get along without it. But it is a very convenient convention, for it saves us a good deal of awkwardness in stating theorems and proving them.*

Such a philosophical position is considered by many mathematicians to be a timid attitude harking back to the mediaeval distrust of zero.

Other sources allow the definition of the empty set, but because of the way natural numbers are defined, determine that it is neither finite nor infinite.

## Sources

- 1951: Nathan Jacobson:
*Lectures in Abstract Algebra: I. Basic Concepts*... (previous) ... (next): Introduction $\S 1$: Operations on Sets - 1965: J.A. Green:
*Sets and Groups*... (previous) ... (next): $\S 1.3$. Intersection - 1965: Seth Warner:
*Modern Algebra*... (previous) ... (next): Chapter $1$: Algebraic Structures: $\S 1$: The Language of Set Theory - 1968: Ian D. Macdonald:
*The Theory of Groups*... (previous) ... (next): Appendix: Elementary set and number theory - 2000: James R. Munkres:
*Topology*(2nd ed.) ... (previous) ... (next): $1$: Set Theory and Logic: $\S 1$: Fundamental Concepts